Pioneer for E-Teams

Application Guidelines

Pioneer for E-Teams is the first stage in the E-Team Program, part of the VentureWell Accelerator. Pioneer for E-Teams is designed for student teams developing a novel science/engineering-based innovation. Teams selected for Pioneer for E-Teams receive a $5,000 grant and entry into the accompanying Pioneer entrepreneurship training workshop. Teams who complete the Pioneer for E-Teams workshop are eligible to apply to Propel for E-Teams, the next stage in the Accelerator.


Working With Your Institution Before You Apply
How To Apply
Required Application Components



Thank you for your interest in the Pioneer for E-Teams, the first stage of the E-Team Program and part of the VentureWell Accelerator! In this guide, you’ll find all the information you need in order to create and submit your Pioneer for E-Teams application. We encourage you to read the guide in its entirety to determine whether your team and technology are a fit for the program. Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to view the answers to common questions that arise during the application process.

Eligibility Requirements

To be considered for a Pioneer for E-Team grant of $5,000, applicants MUST:

  • Be US-based. This program is open to student-led teams from US-based colleges or universities, not for individual inventors. Grant funds are awarded ​to the institution, not directly to teams or ventures​. We do not accept applications from international universities at this time.
  • Be from a VentureWell Member institution. Your university must be a VentureWell member at the time you submit your Pioneer for E-Teams application. Membership is currently free. If members of your team come from different universities, at least one of these schools must be a VentureWell member and administer the grant. See the Pioneer for E-Teams Application Components section below for more details.
  • Be a team of two or more. Teams must include at least two active students (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, or a student in some fellowship programs). Students should serve as the entrepreneurial leader(s) of a team, and should have a role in decision-making and leading venture development, regardless of the origin of the idea or invention.Other team members should include advisors from within and outside of the institution who have experience, knowledge, and network connections that will contribute to the team’s success. We strongly recommend that both technical and business expertise is represented on the team.We recognize that teams come in all shapes and sizes; however, we want to know about the 2-3 student team members who are driving the project forward and will be participating in the E-Team program. First and foremost, we prioritize our investments in individuals and the relationships we build with them, and secondarily we invest in the ventures they create.
  • Demonstrate institutional support. All teams are required to obtain verification of support ​from a Principal Investigator (PI), Administrative Contact (AC), and Department Chair (DC). See “Required Verifications of Support” section for details.
  • Be committed. Your team has a strong commitment to exploring the commercialization of your innovation.
  • Demonstrate your innovation is a fit. VentureWell supports the development of science/engineering-based innovations that are scalable, commercially promising, and have a positive impact on the world.

Your product is ​a fit​ for the E-Team Program if:

  • It is a science/engineering-based invention that is different from other competing technologies
  • It can potentially scale to leverage a large commercial opportunity
  • It addresses a critical social, environmental, or economic problem
  • There is a plausible path to commercialization

Many E-Team inventions and innovations fall into one of the following categories:

  • Biomedical devices, health care diagnostics, and/or global health technologies
  • Clean technologies related to renewable energy, energy storage, agriculture, or water
  • Green chemistry and sustainable materials
  • Technologies for low-resource settings (US and/or internationally) that address poverty and basic human needs such as affordable energy, clean water, sanitation, health and medical devices, agriculture, and other income-generating tools
  • Other compelling technologies beyond those listed above that meet the program criteria will also be considered if there is a strong and logical description of the product’s social or environmental impact.

Examples of projects that are ​not​ a fit for the E-Team Grant Program:

  • Web-based or mobile apps that are not significantly innovative or impactful
  • Projects without any student involvement
  • Faculty-driven projects in which participating students have no influence on resulting intellectual property (IP) or low decision-making power to apply learning from the E-team workshops
  • Pure research projects without any defined commercial applications or potential
  • Therapeutics and drugs (due to their long technical development timeline and time to market)
  • Projects without a clear technology invention or innovation
  • Projects that don’t address a path to commercialization
  • One-time projects that are not scalable
  • Projects without a clearly articulated social and/or environmental impact
  • Projects that do not involve an emphasis on entrepreneurship and/or that begin and end in the classroom. The student team leaders should show intention to move the technology beyond the classroom.

VentureWell’s Organizational Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

VentureWell is on a mission to cultivate a pipeline of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and to create lasting impact. In the United States, the majority groups in the science & technology (S&T) innovation & entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystem are white, cis-gender men from economically privileged backgrounds. While this constituency includes plentiful talent and ideas, the systems that both historically and currently lift these voices to the top also silence others. We are collectively missing out on ideas and contributions from people marginalized due to racism and/or sexism as well as those identifying as coming from low-income backgrounds. We believe that removing barriers for those systematically shut out of the opportunity to cultivate their ideas and innovations will support us in solving the world’s greatest problems.

We encourage applicants from underrepresented groups (URGs), especially those who identify as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous; women of all backgrounds; and individuals from low-income backgrounds.

VentureWell does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, religion (creed), gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, or military status.

Pioneer for E-Teams Application Process

Working with Your Institution Before You Apply

Applicants will need to confirm multiple items with your institution PRIOR to applying. We recommend you begin these steps up to eight weeks before the application deadline and no later than two weeks before the deadline. Be sure to identify and connect with the relevant administrative contacts at your institution at the start of the application process, as it often takes time to compile the required materials and necessary administrative approvals.

IMPORTANT: Because VentureWell grant funding is awarded to your university, not your team or venture, most university Offices of Sponsored Research/Programs require that you submit to them a completed proposal for administrative review and approval before it can be submitted to VentureWell. Please review your university’s requirements and timeline with your designated Administrative Contact well in advance of the deadline.

In addition to the above eligibility requirements, you will need to:

  • Be from a VentureWell member institution. Your institution must be a VentureWell member at the time you submit your Pioneer for E-Teams application. Right now, membership is free. To check the member status of your institution, click here: If your university is not a current member, you can read more about the benefits of membership, as well as how to apply or renew, here. If you have questions or need
    assistance, please contact
  • Demonstrate institutional support. All teams are required to obtain verification of support ​from a Principal Investigator (PI), Administrative Contact (AC), and Department Chair (DC). See “Required Verifications of Support” section for details.

Required Verifications of Support

VentureWell requires certain institutional representatives verify their support of your application by responding to an automated email request from our application system. E-Team grant funds are awarded to your college or university, not to you, your PI, or venture, for use on your project. We recommend that you contact these individuals well in advance of the deadline so they are aware of this requirement. The system will not allow you to submit your application until support has been verified from each representative.

You will need to obtain verifications of support from the following individuals:

  • Principal Investigator (PI). The Principal Investigator is an academic advisor who is a faculty member or a center/administrative director who is willing to support your team during the grant and help you navigate university processes. The PI is responsible for tracking, overseeing, and reporting on the disbursement of grant funds. Students cannot serve as the PI.
  • Administrative Contact (AC). Contact your Office of Sponsored Research/Programs for assistance in determining who should be designated as your AC. Your PI should be able to help you with this. The AC must be a grants administrator or fiscal officer of your university who is authorized to sign the award letter and commit the institution to the terms of the grant if your project is funded. This person should be someone from your institution’s Office of Sponsored Research/Programs. Please note: Neither the PI nor students may serve as the AC.
  • Department Chair (DC). The Department Chair oversees the lead project department (usually the PI’s department). This person may be the Chair or your institution’s equivalent (provost, etc.). Verification of support from this person demonstrates a level of institutional commitment to the proposed project, though the DC does not have ongoing responsibilities related to the grant or the project.

Intellectual Property Policies

You are advised to take appropriate steps to protect your team’s intellectual property before submitting your application. You should read and understand your institution’s intellectual property policy. If your institution does not have an intellectual property policy, we strongly suggest that your team works with the institution to establish an understanding regarding the resulting ownership of ideas funded through the E-Team work.

VentureWell supports teams as they work toward the commercialization of their inventions and takes no financial or ownership interest in the projects funded by its grants. Ownership of discoveries or inventions resulting from activities financed by a VentureWell grant and/or competition prize funds will be governed by grantee institutions’ intellectual property policies.

How To Apply

All proposals must be submitted via our online platform. All deadlines end at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the deadline date unless otherwise indicated. Anyone on your team may serve as the applicant on a submission. Click here to create your free VentureWell account, VentureWell account, which you can create in a few simple steps. To access an existing account or to create a new one, click here. Then sign in, find the E-Team application and begin your proposal.

You may start, save, stop and return to your online grant proposal at any time before submitting. We recommend that you start your proposal 4-8 weeks before the deadline to leave ample time to edit and proofread, gather letters of support and resumes, and verify institutional support.

Required Application Components

Your application must have the following components combined together into a single PDF:

  • Title page
  • Five-page proposal narrative: See below for details. An additional 1-2 pages of references are allowed; these do not count towards the five-page application maximum.
  • Letter(s) of support: Minimum of one is required, maximum of three is permitted.
  • Team member resumes

Title Page

Use the following naming convention for this PDF: “TeamName_University_ETeamapplication” (be sure to use YOUR OWN information for the fields in blue).

Your title page should include the following information:

  • Name of your team or venture
  • University name
  • List of team members.
    • For each team member, include: name, degree sought, month and year of expected graduation, and email address

Proposal Narrative (Required)

Your overall proposal narrative (excluding title page and references) may not exceed five pages in length using 12-point Times font and one-inch margins.

Technology and value proposition (1 to 2 pages): Describe your technology and its value proposition. Address the following questions in this section:

  • What problem are you solving for what customers?
  • What is your invention or technology innovation and how is it technically feasible?
  • In what way is it better than other solutions on the market?
  • Have you developed a physical prototype or proof of concept? What is the next development step, or what are the key technical risks? Have you demonstrated proof of the key principle(s)? Does it work? Consider adding documentation of the development of your prototype, digital documentation, or data demonstrating its effectiveness in the appendix.
  • Have you done a prior art search? We suggest that the students consult with their university’s technology transfer office or seek legal advice (pro bono where available) to confirm this. Please explain and include details in your appendix.
  • Do you have rights to any key intellectual property, whether ownership, a license, or an option to license? If so, who specifically owns it (the university or names of specific individuals) and who are the named inventors? If not, how do you expect to obtain those rights?

Market potential (1 to 2 pages): Describe the commercial potential of your technology. We are aware that early-stage teams are in development and, therefore, we recognize that you may have work to do in this area. Address the following in your application narrative with an understanding that strategies may change:

  • Describe the market, market size, customers that you intend to reach and through what distribution channels.
  • Who are your target customers, and have you talked to any? (Note: your customers may be different from the end-users of your product or service. Interviews are an important part of the learning process.)
  • How does your solution compare to the competition? What makes it different? In what ways does your solution carry advantages over existing solutions? What about your positioning in the market makes your business strategically competitive?
  • What is your commercialization plan? How do you envision your product reaching the market (i.e. direct sales by your own company, licensing, etc).
  • What large-scale impact would successful adoption of your innovation create (e.g., number of lives saved, amount of CO2 reduction, increased income to customers, etc.)?
  • How do you intend to make this economically sustainable? Describe the costs to produce your product and articulate and rationalize any hypotheses you have on your pricing strategy.

You and Your Team (half page): Please identify the 2-3 specific key team members who will see this project through to market and describe why they are a fit for their roles.

  • Who are the 2-3 key team members and what roles will they play (1-2 sentences on each)? Note: there must be at least TWO active, enrolled students on the team for the duration of the Pioneer for E-Teams grant period.
  • How do the backgrounds, lived experiences, and/or identities of the team members contribute to the success of the team? Who will lead the technical development and business model development?
  • Point to evidence of the team members’ intentions to commercialize the technology.
  • What is the structure you envision for your venture? Do you expect to form (or have you already formed) a for-profit, non-profit, or joint venture?
  • Who are your outside mentors, advisors, and/or partners? Note: If you do not have mentors, advisors, partners, or other innovation & entrepreneurship resources, please describe any challenges you face in accessing these resources or opportunities within or outside of your institution, and how the VentureWell program may help to fill that gap.
  • If your team is working on a technology for low-resource settings in the US or abroad, please also address the following:
    • Identify any partners (individuals, community leaders, nonprofits or NGOs, etc.) outside of your institution who will provide connections and access to the field and end-users. Identify any partners who can help the team commercialize any resulting technologies.
    • Explain how the team will address possible language, cultural, and social barriers. Has the team traveled to the community in which you propose to work?
    • Articulate how the regulatory and political environment of the proposed site is conducive to accelerating the development of your solution.

Work plan and outcomes (one page): Summarize a realistic and specific plan for moving forward towards commercialization.

  • In a table format, list the 10 to 15 high-level steps, describing each briefly, and include a timeline for the next 6-12 months.
  • What does success look like and how will you measure it?
  • What internal (university-based) or external resources do you have available to support your project? Have there been any barriers to access internal or external resources? Please explain.

Letter(s) of Support

Letters of support demonstrate to reviewers that there is institutional support for your project and/or to verify partnerships discussed in your narrative. At least one letter is required as part of your application. You may include up to three total, and we strongly encourage you to do so.

More weight will be given to letters of support from potential customers, partners, industry experts, and mentors that verify the key elements of your technical or market potential. General letters of character support from friends, family, or supportive faculty may be appropriate but are given less weight. We strongly recommend that you have at least one letter of support from someone internal at your university who can vouch for the team, and one letter of support from a representative customer or industry expert outside of your university.


Resumes should be no more than two pages each. Please only include resumes for the 2-3 key team members who are applying for the program. We do not need resumes for the Administrative Contact or other non-key team members or collaborators.

Optional Application Components

Additional Appendices: You may include appendices to your application. You may add up to five additional documents, no more than 10 MB in total. Appendices may include but are not limited to:

  • Images demonstrating design and/or technical feasibility (drawings, photographs, etc.)
  • Any data collected as part of testing your technology
  • A summary of prior art
  • A visual tool to illustrate the competitive landscape and/or your competitive advantage
  • A pitch deck that succinctly summarizes your plans in no more than 10 slides
  • Narrative(s) demonstrating interactions and learnings you’ve had with potential customers
  • A literature review summary
  • Any other relevant supporting materials

Note: Sheer volume of material is not an asset. Any documents included in the appendix should be referenced in the narrative. Reviewers are directed to use supporting materials only as a supplement. All key information should be included in the main proposal narrative.

Weblinks and/or Videos: In addition to the appendices mentioned above, teams may upload up to three additional links, which may include online articles, videos and/or other relevant data. If you choose to include a video as part of your application, a link to the video should be uploaded as an appendix item and referenced in the narrative. Keep videos under two minutes. A video pitch, if included, should state the problem, describe your innovation, and the impact of the team’s solution. Clear, non-technical language is acceptable and may be preferable.

Application Selection and Notification

Selection: In general, eligible applications will be evaluated on the following five elements:

  1. Technology innovation and feasibility
  2. Market, commercial potential, and proposed business model
  3. Team composition, skills, commitment, and institutional support
  4. Positive social and/or environmental impact
  5. Realistic work plan

Eligible applications are reviewed by an external panel of reviewers comprised of individuals from academia, industry, nonprofits or NGOs, and venture capital who have experience in science and technology and/or in the commercialization of early-stage innovations.

Notification: We strive to notify applicants of the status of their application via email within 60 days from the submission deadline. We anticipate that 20-30% of applications received will be approved for Pioneer for E-Teams grants.

  • In most cases, applications are either funded or rejected.
  • Occasionally, reviewers invite a team to resubmit their application for reconsideration in a future cycle, and address certain concerns or questions before doing so. If you are invited to resubmit, contact us to discuss the reviewer feedback in detail and make sure you understand the questions and concerns raised by the reviewers. Your resubmitted application must specify how you have addressed the previous concerns.
  • Whether your application is accepted or rejected, you are welcome to schedule a call to receive reviewer feedback in order to improve your project.

If Your Application Is Approved

We will send via email a formal notification letter and approved budget to the PI, the AC, and the Applicant.

We also will send an Award Letter agreement for signature to the AC identified by you in your application. Funds can be disbursed once this award letter is signed and returned to VentureWell. Grant reporting requirements will be outlined in this award letter.

Pioneer for E-Teams includes a $5,000 grant, awarded to the team’s college or university for use by the team. Grant funds may be used for expenses related to the technical and commercial development of this project, including but not limited to: prototyping materials and supplies; customer discovery-related activities, travel to the Pioneer workshop and other meetings; student stipends, consulting and technical services; and business expenses.

*Note: VentureWell does not allow any grant funds to be used for overhead/Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs.

Pioneer for E-Teams selected teams must commit to sending two key team members to the Pioneer workshop (you may use your grant funds to cover these expenses). Accepted teams will receive a link for registration. See the E-Team Program webpage for the workshop dates.

For additional information or questions about the funding, please contact the VentureWell Grants Team at

Accessing The Funds: Your Administrative Contact or PI can outline for you your university’s specific process for accessing grant funds. Please be sure you understand the steps necessary to access the funds well before the funds are disbursed. The following are often part of this process:

  • A post-award individual is assigned to oversee the grant.
  • A financial account is created. In this case, you’ll be given an accounting code and will submit invoices or reimbursement requests against this code, often to your post-award contact or finance office.

Your PI is ultimately responsible for tracking, overseeing, and reporting on the disbursement of grant funds.

Click Apply Now to start your application!

If you have any questions about the E-Team Program, please email Sarah Wharmby. For questions about the grant or application process please email or call or (413) 587-2172.

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