BMEStart competition guidelines

applicants are strongly encouraged to read the entire guidelines prior to submitting

General information

Since 2010, the BMEStart competition has recognized the finest in undergraduate biomedical engineering innovation. Strong BMEStart submissions define a problem to be solved and demonstrate the development of a device, product, or technology designed to solve it. Examples include but are not limited to: surgical devices, home health care devices, diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative applications, rehabilitative and assistive technologies, or other innovations that will have a substantial impact on clinical care and patient outcomes.

The BMEStart competition is open to undergraduate students only (for teams with graduate students on them, see the BMEidea competition). Students enrolled in senior biomedical engineering capstone design courses are especially encouraged to apply to BMEStart. Multidisciplinary teams are also encouraged to apply and may include undergraduate students from diverse fields such as business, nursing, physical therapy, life sciences, physical sciences, or other related disciplines. Inter-institutional collaborations are also encouraged; in these cases we require a faculty advisor from each institution. Each team must include at least one engineering student.



The deadline for submission each year is your applying team’s senior capstone design course final exam date. If you are not enrolled in a senior design course, use your institution’s final day of exams as your deadline.

BMEStart awards are presented at the BMES meeting each year. Competition winners will receive cash awards ($10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place), as well as access to resources to be used for further development and commercialization of their products. They will also have the opportunity to present their designs and business plans to representatives of investor organizations. Cash prizes will be disbursed to each of the winning team’s departments to be allocated at the discretion of the faculty advisor.

Team members have rights to all intellectual property, subject to the rules of their home institutions, unless assigned to others in exchange for support, sponsorship, or funding. Teams will be encouraged to retain a significant and motivating interest in their project results.

Competition entry takes place online via VentureWell’s applicant portal. There is a limit of three entries per academic institution; it is up to each department to coordinate which entries are submitted. If more than three entries are received, VentureWell will accept the first three submitted.

The BMEStart competition is sponsored by VentureWell with support from The Lemelson Foundation, in partnership with IEEE EMBS, the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering Programs.

PLEASE NOTE: A faculty advisor must verify his/her support of this competition entry. Applicants will be prompted to verify the support of a faculty advisor in Step 3 of this online competition application tool. Please allow several days for the faculty advisor to respond. The application CANNOT be submitted without his/her support.

Rules for participation

  1. The BMEStart competition is open to all undergraduate student teams at colleges and universities. Teams that include graduate students are not eligible for the BMEStart competition, but should consider applying for the BMEidea competition.
  2. Eligible teams must include at least one engineering student.
  3. Submissions should solve a clinical problem; feature a novel and practical solution; include a description of potential intellectual property and how it could be protected; and show market potential.
  4. The narrative may not exceed ten pages (double-spaced, 12 point font) in total. See the “how to apply” section below for details on the narrative and other required application components.
  5. No more than five optional appendices may be submitted.
  6. VentureWell declares no rights to intellectual property. Team members will have the rights to all intellectual property, subject to the rules of their home institutions, unless assigned to others in exchange for support, sponsorship, or funding. Participants will be expected to have taken appropriate steps to protect the intellectual property disclosed in submissions.

How are entries evaluated?

Strong BMEStart submissions will demonstrate a mastery of analytical and design skills and capabilities; the ability to manage the product development process; the ability to work effectively in teams; and written technical communication skills. Submissions will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Originality and patentability
  2. Technical feasibility
  3. Clinical utility
  4. Endorsement from advisors and/or industry collaborators
  5. Economic feasibility
  6. Market potential

Intellectual Property policies

VentureWell supports teams as they work toward commercialization of their inventions. Ownership of discoveries or inventions resulting from activities financed by VentureWell grant and/or competition prize funds will be governed by grantee institutions’ intellectual property policies. If a school does not have an intellectual property policy, then the institution must develop an agreement that establishes ownership of ideas resulting from student teamwork. VentureWell takes no financial or ownership interest in the projects recognized by these competitions.

Please read and understand your institution’s Intellectual Property policy before submitting an application.

Submitting an entry to this competition for recognition of innovative design will necessitate public announcement of project summary, photos and/or videos for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, as well as any honorable mentions. Teams are advised to address intellectual property filings prior to submission and will be given one week from notification of award before the public announcement will be made.

Required advisors

Your Department Chair and Faculty Advisor must verify their support of your competition application (verification for Faculty Advisor is waived if she or he is also the applicant).

Faculty Advisor (FA)
The Faculty advisor is the faculty/staff member taking primary responsibility for the project at the institution. Students cannot serve as Faculty Advisors. Should your competition entry be selected as a winner, cash prizes will be disbursed to your team’s department to be allocated at the discretion of your faculty advisor.

Department Chair (DC)

The Department Chair oversees the lead project department (usually the Faculty Advisor’s department). This person may be Chair or your institution’s equivalent (provost, etc.). Verification of support from this person demonstrates a level of institutional commitment for your project.

To ensure timely approval of your application by your institution, VentureWell recommends notifying your advisors of your intention to submit a competition entry 3-4 weeks in advance of the deadline, and share your application with them prior to submission.

How to apply

All applications must be submitted online. Anyone on the team may serve as the applicant on a submission. ALL deadlines end at 11:59pm eastern time unless otherwise indicated.

To start, you’ll need to have a VentureWell account. Creating an account is easy, and anyone can do it. To access an existing account or to create a new one, click here. You may start, save, stop and return to your online proposal at any time before submitting.

Preparing your application: required and optional components

As part of the online application process, you will be prompted to upload the following components into your submission:

  • Required application components combined together in a single PDF (title page, narrative, letter of support, and key team member resumes). We strongly encourage the following naming convention for this PDF: “TeamName_University_BMEStart” (be sure to use YOUR OWN information for the fields in blue)
  • Optional additional supporting documents combined together in a single PDF (up to five total). We strongly encourage the following naming convention for this PDF: “TeamName_University_BMEStartAppendices” (be sure to use YOUR OWN information for the fields in blue)
  • Optional videos and/or weblinks up to four links can be included (websites, video links, articles, etc.). A video is strongly encouraged (see below for details)

Details on each component are provided below in these guidelines.

Required components

The following documents are required as part of your BMEStart application and must be included in the following order, combined together in a single PDF:

  1. Title page
  2. Narrative (no more than ten pages)
  3. Letter of support
  4. Key team member resumes (limit of three pages per resume)

Required title page and narrative description guidelines

Please create a title page with the following information. Your title page is NOT included in the ten-page limit for your narrative.

  • Name of team/name of venture
  • University
  • Listing of student team members including name, degree sought, and year of expected graduation for each person

The narrative may not exceed ten pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point font). Please include any images referenced in your narrative in the body of the narrative, NOT as appendices. Please prepare a narrative description that includes the following:

  • Executive summary (2 pages). An outline of the strategy for commercialization and opportunity statement. See below for additional details.
  • Description of the problem to be solved (no more than 1/2 page). What is the problem you have solved? What is the market and/or industry need that you intend to address?
  • Project objective statement (no more than 1/2 page). How does your team intend to address the problem? How does your final design solve the problem?
  • Documentation of the final design (1 page). Be sure to include applicable standards and a risk analysis.
  • Prototype of the final design (1 page). Paste graphical representations and photographs in the document and, if available, provide a link to a video. Note: If the current team was not involved from the beginning, please specify what your team has worked on vs. what progress had been made by others (other students, or others) prior to your involvement.
  • Proof that the design is functional and will solve the problem (1 page). Include evidence such as test data, market research or pre-clinical/clinical trials.
  • Results of a patent search and/or search for prior art, assessment and patentability (1 page). Two excellent resources for this search are www.uspto.gov, and your institution’s technology transfer office. Regarding marketplace competition, what is currently being used to solve the problem and/or what are the anticipated alternate methods that could be in competition with you in the future?
  • Anticipated regulatory pathway (510(k) vs. PMA, etc.) (1/2 page). Consider researching how the FDA has treated analogous devices.
  • Reimbursement (1/2 page). Do you expect your device to be reimbursable by Medicare/Medicaid? Why or why not?
  • Estimated manufacturing costs (1 page). Provide detailed per unit cost breakdown, including volume discount, for components, final assembly, quality assurance, etc.
  • Potential market and impact (1 page). Define the potential market size, selling price, and distribution channels. Who would your customers be (i.e., who will be purchasing the product) and who would the end users be (i.e., who would be using the product). If possible, quantify the number of potential users and the potential impact the product could have (# of people who would benefit from use, etc.)

**What’s in an Executive Summary?
An executive summary summarizes all of the above and serves as a stand-alone justification for why this idea should be pursued. Be sure to address the essentials, including:

  • Problem: What is the problem you aim to solve?
  • Solution: How do you solve it?
  • Competition: What are alternate methods of solving the problem or anticipated methods that could be in competition with you in the future?
  • Differentiation: Why will people choose your solution over others?
  • Technical Feasibility: Have you done it and can it be done?
  • Regulatory and Reimbursement: What FDA approvals will be required? What Medicare/Medicaid strategy is needed?
  • Sales and Marketing: What is the estimated size of the market (with rationale)? Who is the buyer/customer/user? From whom will they buy it? At what pricing?

Required letter of support
A letter of support demonstrating that your project is undergraduate student-led is required. If your project or venture is a continuation of work started by other students and/or faculty before you, the letter should describe the proportion of the design in which your current team has been involved. The letter can be from a faculty advisor, mentor, or industry partner.

Required key team member resumes
Resumes should be no more than three pages each, and are only required for key team members.

Optional components

Optional additional supporting documents (appendices)
Up to five additional appendices may be included in your proposal and must be uploaded as one merged PDF. Appendices may include but are not limited to:

  1. Additional letter(s) of support: one letter of support is required (see above), but additional letter(s) of support are also welcome. Effective letters of support will demonstrate the strength of the team and/or the quality of the work accomplished. They can be from industry mentors and/or faculty advisors or others who have worked with the team as applicable.
  2. Images demonstrating design and/or technical feasibility (drawings, photographs, etc.)
  3. A summary of prior art
  4. Literature review
  5. Any data collected as part of testing your technology
  6. Any other relevant supporting materials

Note: Sheer volume of material is not an asset. Reviewers are directed to use supporting materials only to supplement the 10-page narrative. Therefore, key information should be included in the narrative.

Optional videos and/or links

Recommended video
Teams are encouraged to submit a brief video (up to two minutes) about your innovation. We recommend that the video focus on the technical feasibility of your device. Demonstrate that the prototype works or otherwise describe the function of the device and make a compelling case that it’s innovative and will have a significant impact.

Videos (via YouTube or a similar web-accessible site) should be uploaded into the proposal. VentureWell reserves the right to use submitted videos for public promotional purposes (on its website, in promotions for future BMEidea competitions). Videos should not contain proprietary information about the innovation. It is the team’s responsibility to ensure the video is appropriate for public use.

Optional links
Teams may upload up to four links, which may include online articles, videos and/or other relevant online data.

Proposal review process and notification

  • Submitted applications are reviewed by external panels of reviewers made up of individuals from academia, industry, nonprofits & NGOs, and venture capital with experience in the technology areas and in the commercialization of early stage innovations.
  • VentureWell notifies applicants of the status of their submissions via email within 90 days of the submission deadline.

Congratulations, you read the guidelines!

If you have any questions, please contact us at grants@venturewell.org or call at 413-587-2172.