What We Do
Funding your commercialization efforts
The Innovation Investments team within CoMotion can assist innovators to identify funding for commercialization of their UW research. The experienced staff can connect innovators to significant resources to increase your chances of success. Contact us for more information.
Many grants, awards, and competitions are available to researchers and students. While CoMotion can assist in various aspects of these grants, the programs are all highly competitive. UW innovators should expect to dedicate significant time to applying for these opportunities.
Your role as a UW Innovator: Ownership of application, timely response to communication, attending working meetings and presentations where applicable, and providing progress reports where applicable.
Our role at CoMotion: Provide guidance and advice on commercialization grant applications (note that the more lead time that is provided, the more aid CoMotion can provide). Provide CoMotion resources, including experienced business mentors who can help develop a defensible business model.
Amazon Catalyst is an award program that helps UW students, staff, and faculty launch their big ideas. Offered through a collaboration between Amazon and UW CoMotion, initial awards are $25,000, given to individuals or teams that want to pursue solutions to real-world problems and make a positive impact. Awardees – Amazon Catalyst Fellows – don’t just get money; they receive mentorship and connections with like-minded innovators. Once Fellows complete the first phase of their project, they can apply for additional funding of up to $75,000. Awards are not limited to science and engineering projects. Applications based in virtually any discipline, including the humanities, social sciences, and the arts are encouraged. Past winners include self-driving bikes, sustainable charcoal, a biosensor for pancreatic cancer, and a social program that dissolves stereotypes (KUOW’s popular “Ask a _” series). The application is straightforward and simple – just 20 questions. Got a big idea that could change the world? Got a small idea that could have a huge impact? Apply for an Amazon Catalyst award.
The CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund is a partnership between CoMotion and the Washington Research Foundation to provide up to $1 million per year for applied research. Our mission is to fund and support projects that have a high chance to have impact but are unlikely to get there without gap funding. The Innovation Gap Fund program is intended to help technologies get across the "valley of death" between the conclusion of academic research grants and the level of development at which they can attract seed stage investment.
Seed stage investment could come from commercial investors, but also from investors looking for social rather than commercial impact.
The Business Plan Competition (BPC) is a platform for student-led ventures. The competition provides student teams with mentoring from entrepreneurs and investors, the opportunity to tell their stories to the Seattle startup community, and the visibility they need to get going. More than 3,730 students have participated in this annual new venture competition since its inception in 1998, and the Buerk Center has awarded 139 teams with over $1.2 million in seed funding.
The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School produces the annual Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge in partnership with the College of Engineering and the College of the Environment, sponsored in part by CoMotion. Interdisciplinary teams of business and engineering students are challenged to develop products that address up-and-coming market conditions and show potential to generate revenue while enhancing environmental sustainability. In 2014, CoMotion-sponsored Korvata won the $10,000 grand prize for their cutting edge alternative energy product that allows companies to mitigate their environmental impact by replacing the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant. Learn more at the Buerk Center website.
New in 2016, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship launched the Health Innovation Challenge, providing an exciting opportunity for student teams from across the Pacific Northwest to develop good ideas that will improve treatments and systems in the healthcare space. New medical devices, global health solutions, fitness apps, informatics, business models and more are topics the interdisciplinary teams bring forward. They produce a simulation or prototype, along with a business summary, and have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a room full of expert judges from the community. This challenge is in partnership with the College of Engineering and supported in part by CoMotion.
The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) is a federally funded program to accelerate academic research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. As the collaborative innovation hub of the UW, CoMotion® has secured an NSF grant to establish an I-Corps Site on campus. The CoMotion I-Corps Site issues approximately 30 awards per year. Grantees learn to identify valuable commercial opportunities that can emerge from academic research, gain skills in entrepreneurship through training, develop a mentor network of seasoned entrepreneurs, and receive $2,500 to fund their customer discovery process.
Have an idea that you think has commercial potential? Dream of starting a company in the future? Then the UW NSF I-Corps Site program may be right for you. Learn more...
Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) promotes university-industry partnerships by making project funds or fellowships/traineeships available to support an eclectic mix of industry-university linkages. Special interest is focused on affording the opportunity for:
Solicitation for these grants tends to emphasize high-risk/high-reward research, with a focus on fundamental research, new approaches to solving generic problems, development of innovative collaborative industry-university educational programs, and direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry. GOALI seeks to fund transformative research that lies beyond that which industry would normally fund. Learn more.
The overall objective of the Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovations Research-Technology Transfer (PFI:AIR-TT) program is to provide funding that will enable research discoveries to be translated onto a path toward commercial reality while engaging faculty and students in entrepreneurial and market-oriented thinking. The PFI:AIR-TT solicitation supports research to overcome technology barriers/knowledge gaps in the translation of NSF-funded fundamental science and engineering discoveries toward market-valued solutions. It provides an opportunity for investigators to conduct the necessary research to develop a proof-of-concept, prototype, or scale-up of the prototype that addresses real-world constraints and provides a competitive value in a potential application space. Learn more.
CoMotion provides assistance and, in some cases takes the lead, in writing applications for these federal programs as part of the commercialization strategy for UW researchers. SBIR and STTR grants are particularly valuable for UW start-ups in supporting product development, translational research, and applied projects. SBIR Phase I awards start at $150,000 and Phase II awards start at $1M and can increase to as much as $2M.
Through these two competitive programs, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) ensures that the nation’s small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the federal government’s research and development efforts. SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $2.5 billion in grants and contracts each year to small businesses and start-up companies to develop new products and services based on advanced technologies. Some participating agencies have a hard ceiling for their awards. Learn more here.
Contact us for more information on applying for SBIR/STTR grants.
The mission of the WRF is “to increase the value of intellectual property arising from research institutions across the state.” WRF makes strategic gifts to research projects, and its associated venture capital arm invests in university start-ups.
WRF gifts have supported the creation of more than 100 endowments for chairs, professorships, research fellowships and graduate stipends in science, medicine and engineering. Educational programs created and supported by WRF include the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UW Foster School of Business) and the Program for Technology Commercialization (UW Bioengineering). WRF was a founding supporter of CoMotion’s Innovation Gap Fund program and gap funding programs at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Washington State University. The gifts to Washington State research institutions are targeted to projects with commercial potential. Learn more.
Jeanette Ennis supports UW researchers pursuing grant money to commercialize their innovations, and helps CoMotion secure economic development grant opportunities. Ennis joined CoMotion in 2009 after more than 15 years of broad research experience as a scientist, entrepreneur, and manager. Her areas of expertise include pharmacology, biochemistry, molecular biology, tissue engineering, and medical devices. She has worked with a variety of start-up companies as project manager, grant writer, and intellectual property manager, and held senior research positions at Cornell University and the UW Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. She earned a doctorate in medical and molecular pharmacology from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she trained with Louis Ignarro, Nobel Laureate in Physiology. She also holds a certificate in technical writing and editing from the UW Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering.