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START Preliminary Proof of Concept Fund


*Note: The START program held its final competition in May 2021.  No additional application cycles are anticipated*

Through a generous grant provided by the CT Next Higher Education Fund, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is administering a new early stage translational research funding program called the START Preliminary Proof-Of-Concept (PPOC) Fund. Under the grant, funding will be made available to investigators at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), University of Bridgeport (UB) and UConn.

The program aims to support the preliminary validation of innovative early stage technologies that have possible commercial potential and is designed to bring those technologies to a stage that may be more attractive for additional later stage translational funding support. We invite proposals for the START PPOC Fund from across all disciplines for early stage projects that may one day result in inventions and technologies that address unmet needs and have potential for commercial application.

The START PPOC Fund competition will accept written proposals on a quarterly basis and selections for funding will be made solely on a review of the written proposals by a selection committee composed of representatives from CCSU, SCSU, UB and UConn.

Important Dates (note: all deadlines are at 12PM (noon) on the date indicated.

All applications should be uploaded to the UConn Quest Portal by the given deadlines.  Applications from CCSU, SCSU, and UB may be submitted through the START program point-of-contact for your university (CCSU - Rod Waterman; SCSU - Amy Taylor; UB - Sherri Dente).  Please allow adequate time for applications to be processed and uploaded by your point of contact before the deadline.


Cycle Submission Date Award Notice Project Start Date
Q1 Cancelled in FY21 --- ---
Q2 November 1 November 30 December 1
Q3 February 15 March 15 March 15
Q4 May 1 May 30  June 1

Award Details

  • The CT Next Higher Education Fund has committed funding for START PPOC Fund for up to three years, contingent upon continued success in achieving program milestones and objectives.
  • START project awards will be up to $10K.
  • Awards are intended to be for scopes-of-work that can be completed in one year or less.
  • No cost extensions are possible for START awards, but are typically only approved when extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the PI exist.


    The START program is available to faculty members with a primary, full-time appointment to CCSU, SCSU, UB UConn/UConn Health, within the following parameters:

    • Projects should be translational in nature (i.e., cannot be basic research). Very early stage projects are eligible, but should nevertheless have an obvious downstream commercial application.
    • The project need not have a related issued or pending patent or a submitted invention disclosure at the time of proposal submission.
    • Each START project will be governed by the IP policies of the PI’s home university.  START funding may be contingent on applicants reaching an agreement with their university regarding IP rights and/or other investment terms prior to awards being finalized.
    • Generally speaking, UConn-based START projects should have University-owned IP (or the potential to develop IP that will be University-owned) at their core.  If a UConn-based project is based on IP not assignable to the University, it can be eligible for START funding only if it has not already received funding from any source for commercialization activities.
    • Projects that have been previously funded by START may be eligible for one additional award. To be eligible:
      • PIs must submit a final report on the first START award before applying for a new award. This report will be reviewed by the selection committee before considering any new application.
      • The new START application must propose a new scope of work. The same set of activities will not be funded twice
      • PIs must submit a new, full application and compete for additional funding alongside new applicants. START awards will not be automatically renewed.
    • Faculty members that wish to apply for START funding will need to secure all necessary approvals for commitment of effort, use of recombinant DNA, use of animals, use of human subjects, etc., as required by their respective institutional policies and guidelines and any relevant local, state or federal regulations. All necessary protocols will need to be in place before funds are released.

    Budget Guidelines

    START Budget Guidelines

    • Allowable costs: graduate student stipends/summer support, postdoc salaries, other research assistant salaries, associated fringe costs, instrument use fees, materials and supplies, contractual services (external consultants or fee-for-service providers). Other commercialization-related costs not specified here or in the not-allowed list below should be listed in the budget and justified.
    • Not-allowable costs: faculty salary, large equipment acquisition costs, travel for the purpose of presenting research results, costs related to basic research aims, graduate tuition, any overhead or F&A.
    • Any changes to the budget of an awarded project must be approved in advance by the START program director. Requests for re-budgeting can be made to research@uconn.edu.
      Note: All contractual services and materials and supplies must be procured following the awardee’s respective university purchasing policies.

    Proposal Details

    Elements to include in the START proposal are included below. Applications exceeding the total page limit of 6 pages (1" margins, 11-12 pt font) will be returned without review. Proposals documents should be uploaded to the UConn Quest Portal in PDF format.

    • Applicant Information Form (basic information about the PI) - Available on Quest
      • Information needed: Name, Department, School/College, email, phone, academic rank, primary employer, grant funding status
    • START Application Form (information about the project and team, including a 1 page abstract/summary of the project) - Available on Quest
      • Information needed: Title, amount requested, Abstract/Lay Summary, Key words, Team Members and roles
    • Project Plan (Single PDF)
      • Proposal Narrative (2 pages)
        • Description and background of the potential innovation:
        • What problem or unmet need does the potential innovation target?
        • Are there any currently available products/technologies that target the same problem or unmet need?
        • If so, why is the proposed innovation is different from or better than those that are already available?
        • What is the current market size for the potential innovation?
        • What Technology Readiness Level (TRL) most closely describes the current stage of your innovation?
          • TRL2 Concept defined and/or application formulated, analytical tools developed (applied research)
          • TRL3 Experimental data demonstrates critical function (proof of concept)
          • TRL4 Invention validated in laboratory environment (feasibility)
          • TRL5 Invention validated in relevant environment (development)
          • TRL6 Pilot-scale prototypical system validated in relevant environment (tech demonstration)
          • TRL7 Full-scale system demonstrated in relevant environment (system demonstration)
        • Preliminary evidence: Summarize any preliminary data available.
        • Proposed experiments with project goals:
          • What are your project goals and your experimental approaches to achieve those goals?
          • How will achievement of your project goals help make the potential innovation more attractive for additional funding?
          • Could the experiments, if successful, yield patentable intellectual property?
      • Intellectual property (IP): Describe your IP position, realized or planned, and the competitive IP landscape. (1 page)
      • Collaborators: Provide the names of other investigators with whom you plan to collaborate, if any. Identify any industry partners you have already approached and their response to your outreach. (1/2 page)
      • Relevant publications: List up to six key publications written by you or others about the proposed product/technology. (1/2 page)
    • Budget: Provide a preliminary budget estimate and proposed use of funds using the Start_Budget_Template on the START website. To give reviewers a complete picture of project feasibility, we also ask that any other sources of funding that may be used to further the aims of your START project be identified and the uses of these funds described. (single PDF)
    • Appendices: Optional upload of other supporting documents (previous reviews, references, letters of support etc)

    Review Criteria

    Proposals will be scored based on the following criteria:Market Need Addressed

    • Would the potential innovation satisfy an unmet consumer, industrial or medical need?
    • Is there a clear market need identified in the proposal?
    • How much additional research and funding would be necessary to bring the potential innovation to the market?

    Innovation and Novelty

    • Is the potential innovation novel?
    • Would the potential innovation solve the unmet need differently (e.g., better, faster, cheaper) than the current state-of-the art?
    • Would the potential innovation be a disruptive technology or an incremental improvement over the current state-of-the art?

    Funding and Commercialization Potential

    • Will the proposed experiments help make the potential innovation more attractive for follow-on translational research funding?
    • Will the proposed experiments provide enough data/results to move the potential innovation toward patentability and/or commercial opportunities?
    • While still early stage, are there any obvious potential licensees?

    Scientific Merit and Feasibility

    • Is the experimental design technically sound?
    • Does the investigator/team have appropriate expertise and facilities?
    • Can the proposed experiments be completed in one year?

    Postaward Reporting

    Reporting requirements

    • Final Reports: START awardees agree to provide a final report detailing project results, progress toward the project goals, any resulting manuscripts or publications and whether any intellectual property was generated, including whether an invention disclosure was filed with awardee’s university. Final reports are due within 30 days after the award period ends.
    • Follow-up Reports: Recognizing that projects funded by START are early stage and will likely take some time to realize their commercial potential, we will be contacting recipients of START funding at the start of the fiscal year following the completion of each recipient’s award period to learn about the continued results of your project, the significance of those results, and to gather statistics about students supported, publications, additional grants received, intellectual property generated, other projects launched, commercialization activities, etc. This will allow us to better understand the impact of START PPOC funding and make the case for its continued funding beyond the initial three year period granted by CT Next.

    Program Contacts

    START PPOC Fund Contacts

    The START PPOC Fund is jointly administered by UConn OVPR Technology Commercialization Services and UConn Internal Funding Program.

    Program point of contact
    Dr. Matt Mroz
    Internal Funding Coordinator

    Program Director
    Dr. Greg Gallo
    Director, Technology Transfer
    OVPR Technology Commercialization Services