Washington University’s Bear Cub grant program helps researchers make the leap from bench scientists to budding entrepreneurs. The program funds promising translational research – not normally backed by federal grants – that is critical to demonstrating a technology’s commercial potential.
In past years, Bear Cub grants have funded a wide swath of projects, including the development of a new treatment for pancreatic cancer, a diagnostic test for acute kidney damage and a photonic switch to help make ultra-high speed Internet access a reality.
The grants are distributed annually by the university’s Office of Technology Management (OTM) through a competitive application process. Faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are eligible to apply but must file with the OTM invention disclosures about their technologies. Such disclosures detail technologies and provide supporting evidence that could be used as a basis for the university to file patent applications.
The OTM will award individual grants of up to $75,000, and research selected for funding must be completed within a year.
The application process involves two stages, and this year, for the first time, investigators can designate team members to attend Bear Cub workshops and provide assistance throughout the competition.
The first stage involves completing a short application, due Nov. 30, and giving a two-minute oral pitch about the technology at a forum planned for Jan. 21, 2015. OTM, along with the university’s Center for Research Innovation in Business and the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, are conducting workshops and training sessions to help investigators or their designees put together successful pitches and develop the concepts for their technologies.
After the pitch competition, up to eight winners each will receive $1,000 to go toward a full Bear Cub proposal, due Feb. 20, 2015. The final decision about funding will be based on 10-minute oral presentations that outline the basis for each proposed technology, the market for that technology and an explanation of how the Bear Cub funds will be used, followed by a brief Q&A.
In drafting the full proposals, each applicant will work with a business mentor provided by St. Louis-area organizations that foster entrepreneurship such as BioSTL, BioGenerator and Gateway Venture Mentoring Service.
“We want to give applicants every opportunity to succeed,” said Bradley Castanho, PhD, director of OTM. “There’s no shortage of innovative technologies at the university that have the potential to be commercialized. We will walk investigators through the process so they know what it takes to put together successful proposals. Commercializing new technologies has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond the university to improve the lives of people worldwide.”