faculty grants guidelines

Introduction

VentureWell is on a mission to cultivate a diverse and inclusive pipeline of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and create lasting impact. We have pursued this work at the intersection of science and technology (S&T) and innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E)for twenty-five years. We strive to do so in a way that advances equity and consistently upholds our organizational values: to collaborate for impact, to live innovation, to bring integrity always, to interact with consideration and candor, and to deliver excellence. 

VentureWell awards up to $30,000 grants (with a duration of three years) to colleges and universities for the purpose of strengthening existing curricular programs and/or building new courses and programs that engage student teams in developing and pursuing scalable solutions to real world needs through I&E. More specifically, Faculty Grants support faculty and staff who are committed to inclusive support of students who are creating innovations for positive social and environmental impact (see Appendix for definitions). We seek proposals with innovative ideas related to the development of new courses and programs or to strengthen existing courses and programs, with the end goal of developing novel inventions and technologies. We hope that support from these grant funds will lead to effective courses and programs that are sustained by the institution; lead to the creation and support of student teams; and propagate curricular innovations to expand opportunities for learning, inventing, and fostering I&E.

To advance our organizational commitment to equity, we are actively working to expand the participation of historically underrepresented, underestimated, and under-resourced faculty and students in S&T I&E (referenced throughout this document as URGs; see definitions in Appendix)— specifically those who identify as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous; women of all backgrounds; and individuals from low-income backgrounds. We especially encourage faculty and staff applicants from URGs and proposals from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Tribal Colleges, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, etc., and other institutions that demonstrate clear support for students from URGs in S&T I&E.

Learn more about why racial equity is core to the mission of VentureWell by reading this message from VentureWell’s CEO & President.

Proposals may include plans for creating or improving an individual course, course sequence, minor, major, certificate program or other co- and extracurricular programs that support I&E focused course and program efforts. Focus areas include but are not limited to:

  • General (science- and technology-based) entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable technology (new materials, clean tech, green energy and chemistry innovation)
  • Climate change solutions (technology to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change), especially technologies that support communities most impacted by climate change
  • Biomedical and healthcare innovation
  • Information technology innovation
  • Technology that addresses poverty alleviation and basic human needs

Note: If you would like to discuss your idea, or if you have questions about fit, requirements, process, or anything else, please contact Patricia Boynton, Grants Manager, at 413-587-2172 x115 or grants@venturewell.org. Also, VentureWell will host free webinars to walk through the application process on both September 15 (1pm ET) and October 14 (3pm ET), 2020 . Please register here to join one of the webinars and/or to receive a webinar recording after the event. 

Eligibility Requirements

Faculty Grants are awarded to colleges and universities that are:

  • US-based. We do not accept proposals from international universities at this time, but international partners are allowed. Note: If the program focus is outside the campus community or outside the US, a local partner must be identified. 
  • VentureWell members. While an institutional membership is required to apply, we are currently offering a no-cost membership to colleges and universities that sign up between September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021. VentureWell is committed to broadening participation and advancing equitable opportunities for applicants. We believe that seeking support for your valuable and critical work should not be a hurdle during this challenging time when many colleges and universities, particularly under-resourced institutions, are facing budget constraints. Click here to learn more about the benefits of membership and to join or renew today: https://venturewell.org/membership/. Not sure if your college or university is already a VentureWell member? Check your status here. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact membership@venturewell.org.

VentureWell grants are competitive. Successful proposals will:

  • Align with the aims of the grant to create or strengthen curricular programs or courses that engage student teams in developing and pursuing scalable solutions to real world needs through I&E:  
    • Proposals should include a description of how your course or program will broaden participation in S&T I&E, specifically by engaging students from URGs, through creative pedagogical approaches to achieve proposed outcomes. 
    • Please include a description of how your course or program seeks to support sustainability-focused solutions (see definitions in Appendix), especially in markets that serve people from URGs.
  • Provide students with a meaningful experience, including opportunities for: 
    • Experiential learning-by-doing and opportunities to solve real world problems. 
    • Forming student-led teams focused on technology invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship with a positive environmental and social impact. 
    • Applying to VentureWell’s E-Team program. Learn more here.
  • Set the stage for sustained institutional change. A recent retrospective study highlighted the importance of the following factors in sustaining work started under VentureWell’s Faculty Grant program: 
    • A multidisciplinary, collaborative team approach
    • Well-defined connections to a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem beyond the proposed course or program. (Schools that are just beginning to grow their I&E ecosystems are encouraged to apply—please describe how this course or program is part of a larger plan for entrepreneurial ecosystem development. A letter of support from an administrator acknowledging this effort is highly recommended)  
    • Campus-based champions and plans for continuation and financial sustainability of the course or program after VentureWell funding, as demonstrated in letters of support 
  • Support an equity focus. Course/program should include faculty and mentors with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise to support students, especially students from URGs.  

Examples of projects that are NOT strong candidates for Faculty Grant funding include: 

  • Pure research or single project courses (i.e. where there is no student team ownership or commercialization plan for the innovation/venture).
  • Courses or programs that are unlikely to continue beyond the grant period. 
  • Existing courses or programs where there is little change or improvement proposed (i.e., ongoing support requests). 
  • Courses or programs that are disconnected from other campus and community-based resources (i.e., without a description of how the course/program is part of a larger plan for entrepreneurial ecosystem development). 
  • Courses or programs that do not lead to the creation of student teams. 
  • Proposals that do not demonstrate support for the most promising technologies and teams to move beyond the classroom, lab, or club.
  • Proposals that focus solely on extracurricular activities (e.g. hack-a-thons, business plan competitions, etc.) without a connection to other entrepreneurial resources.
  • Proposals that do not include as part of their plan both advancing equity and inclusion, and environmental sustainability in STEM I&E.

Key Dates

  • November 4, 2020 – submission deadline
  • Early January 2021 – final decisions and notifications
  • Late January-early February 2021- funds disbursed and grant start date
  • Spring 2021 – launch of a Community of Practice (CoP; more detail below) for I&E faculty from MSIs and/or who are from URGs; details TBA. 

How To Apply

VentureWell is here to help you with your application and answer your questions! We will be hosting a free webinar to walk through the application process on September 15 (1pm ET) and October 14 (3pm ET), 2020. Please register here to join the webinar and/or to receive the webinar recording after the event. Additionally, our grants team is available to field your questions; please contact us at: grants@venturewell.org.

All proposals must be submitted online by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on the deadline date: Wednesday, November 4, 2020. Anyone on the team may serve as the applicant. 

We accept no more than two proposals per institution per cycle. If more than two are received, only the two submitted first will be reviewed. 

Proposals from past grant cycles may be resubmitted only once. Proposals may also include non-member partners from education, nonprofits, industry, non-governmental organizations, governments, and/or the investment community, etc.

You’ll need to have a VentureWell account to start your application. Creating an account is easy, no-cost, and open to all applicants! To access your existing account or to create a new one, go here. You may start, save, stop, and return to your online proposal at any time before submitting. 

Institutional Support

VentureWell requires proof of institutional support for your proposal. Because many campus administrative offices have moved to a remote model of work, the timeline for obtaining institutional support may be longer than usual. We strongly recommend that you reach out to your Office of Sponsored Programs/Research to inform them of your intention to submit a proposal, and to your institutional supporters (see below) well before the deadline date in order to obtain the verifications of support in time. 

Most universities require a full proposal for administrative review and approval ten days to two weeks in advance before it can be submitted.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at grants@venturewell.org if you are challenged in obtaining approval so that we can discuss your specific circumstance and support you as best we can in submitting a complete proposal (however, please note that verification of institutional support is a requirement—you will not be able to submit without it).

VentureWell requires that certain institutional representatives verify their support for your proposal by responding to an automated email request from our proposal system and entering their initials online. (This process is triggered within the online proposal process). The system will not allow you to submit your proposal until support has been verified from each of the following individuals:

  • Principal Investigator (PI) The Principal Investigator takes primary responsibility for the proposal and will have overall responsibility for the grant and reporting. Ideally, a tenured or tenure-track faculty and/or staff member serves as the PI. Co-PIs are allowed, but one lead PI must be identified. Students may not serve as PIs. Note: submissions from faculty PIs from URGs within invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship are highly encouraged; please share in your narrative how the PI’s background, experiences and identify might support the equity goals of this grant.  
  • Administrative Contact (AC) VentureWell defines the Administrative Contact as a grants administrator or fiscal officer authorized to sign the award letter and commit the institution to the terms of the grant. The AC should be someone in your institution’s Office of Sponsored Programs/Research. Principal Investigators, other faculty, or students may not serve as the AC.  
  • Department Chair (DC) The Department Chair (or equivalent) will need to affirm his/her awareness of and support for your proposal as a demonstration of institutional commitment to the proposal. S/he has no other direct grant responsibilities beyond this support. 
  • Dean of Faculty (DF) The Dean of Faculty (or equivalent) will need to affirm his/her awareness of and support for your proposal as a demonstration of institutional commitment to the proposal. S/he has no other direct grant responsibilities beyond this support.

Proposal Components

Proposals should be specific, clear, and compelling. The following components are required and should be combined into a single PDF file:

  1. Project narrative, including a simple work plan or table that outlines major milestones during the grant period, no more than five pages
  2. Proposed budget
  3. Resumes of PI and key collaborators (up to four resumes total, no more than 3 pages each)
  4. Letter(s) of support, at least one is required and up to a total of three will be accepted

You may include other supporting documents in an Appendix (optional, details below).

1) Proposal Narrative (required) 

Your proposal narrative may not exceed five pages in length using 12-point Times font and 1-inch margins. Title page and references are not counted as part of your page limit.

The more specific, clear, and compelling your narrative is, the more competitive your proposal will be. Tell the reviewers a story: what efforts and opportunities currently exist at your institution, where are the gaps, what are you proposing to create, and what are the intended student and institutional outcomes? In other words, why this idea, and why now?

Your narrative should include the following:

Context – Limit this to one or two paragraphs:

    • What are you proposing? Is it a course or a program? Is it a new offering or an expansion of existing courses/programs? 
    • What are the goals and objectives of this proposal? List 2-3 specific objectives.
    • What gap(s) are you addressing on your campus? What do you feel is missing to support I&E?
    • What have you accomplished so far, if anything? Have you received other support for this work (e.g. financial, stakeholder, etc.)? 

Proposed Initiative

    • Differentiate between what already exists vs. what you are asking for funding to support. Emphasis should be placed on what you are proposing, however, it is important to briefly share what already exists to support I&E on your campus (e.g. institutional resources, personnel support, makerspaces, competitions, etc.).
    • Who are your target audience(s)?  How will your work support student innovators from URGs in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship —including Black, Latinx, Indigenous people, women of all backgrounds, and individuals coming from low-income backgrounds? How will you market to and recruit these students to participate in the proposed course/program? How will you recruit mentors that will reflect the URGs student participants? How will you create an inclusive curriculum? 
    • Describe the project’s potential for positive educational, environmental, and social impact.
    • Explain the process: how will the proposed course or program lead to the creation of student teams? How will teams be formed? Where will the ideas come from?
    • Describe the experiential learning opportunity for students.
    • How will your entrepreneurship ecosystem support the most promising teams and technologies towards commercialization?

Team and Partners

Describe the role of each key individual involved with delivering and supporting the proposed course or program. Keep each description to 1-2 short sentences. Multidisciplinary faculty teams are highly encouraged. In addition, you should:

    • Identify partners on campus or beyond who will help to broaden participation among students from URGs (e.g. for improved student recruitment and retention).
    • Describe the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” on your campus and in the community, and how your students will access these resources (other faculty, mentors, departments). Your proposal should go beyond a listing of entrepreneurial support resources to explain how the program participants will engage those resources. 
    • Describe how students who wish to continue on the commercialization path to market will be able to leverage other entrepreneurial resources.

As noted previously: Schools that are just beginning to grow their I&E ecosystems are encouraged to apply—please describe how this course/program is part of a larger plan for entrepreneurial ecosystem development. A letter of support from an administrator acknowledging this effort is highly recommended.  

Work Plan

Create a simple table in the narrative that includes:

    • A list of the milestones and a timeline for accomplishing each during the grant period.
    • The number of estimated student teams formed/supported each year and the number of participating students.

Outcomes

    • What personal, student, and institutional outcomes do you aspire to achieve?
    • What does success look like? 
        • Complete this sentence: We will be successful if/when…
        • How will you measure success? What quantitative and qualitative metrics will be used to measure progress of individual students, the student team and their innovations?
    • What is an example of a tangible work product that you envision sharing publicly for the benefit of other educators?
    • How will the course or program be sustained beyond the end of the grant period?

2. Proposed Budget (required) 

Your budget and justifications should demonstrate to reviewers how you intend to achieve the objectives proposed in your narrative. Funds may be proposed for expenses related to curricular development and course or program realization. Equipment and other resources purchased with grant funds become the property of the institution. Instructions and specific expense definitions can be found in the budget section of the online application, and are also summarized below. 

Examples of eligible expenses:

    • Equipment expenses: Equipment not normally available to students—to facilitate the creation of prototypes, or required because of the technical or scientific focus of the work—are eligible for funding. However, VentureWell will not typically fund the purchase of equipment that is considered part of college or university infrastructure (e.g., computers, tablets, 3D printers, or furniture for makerspaces or labs). Equipment expenses should be no more than 10% of the total proposed budget and relate directly to the proposal.
    • Personnel costs: Up to $5,000 total for US-based proposals and up to $10,000 total for global proposals (may be divided or proposed for one person, and can include the cost of any applicable fringe benefits). A clear rationale should be included that explains what the funds are specifically for and how they will contribute to the success of the proposed work.
    • Materials and supplies: 
        • Expenses related to the technical development of student team innovations, including (but not limited to) materials & supplies, prototyping, technical services, and testing.
        • Expenses related to students performing patent searches, creating marketing analyses, business model development, and customer discovery.
    • Travel expenses may include expenses related to:
      • Up to two key participants to attend OPEN, VentureWell’s annual conference, for one year only. Note: OPEN 2021 will be virtual.
      • Other relevant travel (e.g. for customer discovery).

Please note: due to current restrictions, travel expenses may be reallocated to other categories if needed.

Examples of ineligible expenses:

    • Overhead – VentureWell funding may not be used to cover institutional overhead/Facilities & Administration (F&A) 
    • Expenses that are unlikely to be sustained beyond the proposed grant period, such as competition prize money; event expenses like food, space rentals or AV; and lengthy student internships.
    • Personnel costs over the maximums mentioned above.
    • Equipment expenses totaling more than 10% of the total proposed budget.
    • Speaker honoraria over $200.
    • Wages for students during the academic year.
    • Legal and other expenses of business formation or operation.
    • Publicity expenses.

Budget Justifications

Justifying your proposed budget is a critical piece in helping reviewers understand how you intend to spend grant funds to achieve the objectives of your proposal. Budgeted items should align with the story you are telling in your narrative, and should be as specific and detailed as possible.

3. Resumes of Key Individuals (required) 

Include resumes for the Principal Investigator and any other key collaborators. We do not need resumes for the Administrative Contact or non-key team members/collaborators. Up to four resumes are allowed and they should be no more than three pages each.

4. Letter(s) of Support (required) 

At least one letter is required, and up to three may be submitted. Letters should demonstrate to reviewers that there is ongoing institutional support for your project and technical competence and market opportunity in the area of your proposed work. In addition, letter(s) of support should:  

    • Verify any partnerships discussed in your proposal narrative
    • Verify any additional funding to complement the proposed budget
    • Describe how the proposed course or program fits into or will enhance the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
    • Describe how support for the proposed program will be sustained beyond the grant period.
    • Outline what actions are being taken to broaden participation in S&T I&E for this course/program in particular and at the institution in general to demonstrate commitment to advancing equity

More weight will be given to letters of support from key administrators (Dean, President, etc.) and/or community partners. Note that if the proposal focus is outside the campus community or outside the US, at least one off-campus local partner is required, and a letter of support from this partner should be provided.

Appendix (optional)

You may include appendices in your proposal, up to a maximum of ten pages combined into a single PDF file.  Any appendix materials should be referenced in the narrative. Please note: Sheer volume of material is not an asset. Reviewers are directed to use appendix materials only to supplement the five-page narrative. Key information should be included in the narrative.

Proposal Selection and Notification

Proposals are reviewed against structured criteria by a group of external reviewers (Note: We are committed to creating a more representative and diverse reviewer pool. It is our goal that at least 50% of grant reviewers per cycle are URG faculty in I&E and/or MSI representatives.) 

For this cycle we will award grants up to a maximum of $30,000 each (dollar amounts vary), for a total of $300,000 in funding to be disbursed. A typical cohort size is 12-15 grantees which varies based on funding amounts awarded. The funded percentage fluctuates depending on the total number of proposals received. 

We commit to continuing our path of excellence in I&E in higher ed and, responsive to diversity and equity gaps in our past grant cycles, will strive to achieve the following improved equity metrics for the fall 2020 grant cycle and future anticipated grant cycles: 

  • Award grants to at least 50% MSIs (including Tribal Colleges, HBCUs, Predominantly Black Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, etc.),  
  • Award at least 50% of grants to PIs who self-identify as members of one or more URGs in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous people, women of all backgrounds, and people from low-income backgrounds.
  • Award up to 1/3 of the total awards to universities or colleges that have never previously received a VentureWell Faculty Grant. 

All PIs will be notified via email in early 2021 as to whether or not their proposal has been selected for funding. For funded proposals we will send an approved budget and award letter agreement for signature to the Administrative Contact identified in the proposal. Grants are awarded up to $30,000 with a duration of three years (although you may spend the funds in one or two). Funds will be disbursed once this award letter is signed and returned to VentureWell.

Grantees will also receive additional details about the following activities, in which you and your fellow cohort of grantees will participate to help further your work to advance I&E into your course or program. We expect you will set aside time and grant funding to participate in these opportunities as relevant:

  • Disseminate your learnings and outcomes at VentureWell’s annual OPEN conference or other conferences focused on education, innovation and/or entrepreneurship.
  • Communities of Practice (CoP) meetings: Beginning in spring 2021, to support the  launch and development of a MSIs and I&E Community of Practice (CoP), grantees from MSIs as well as PIs who self-identify as faculty members from URGs in I&E will be invited to attend and actively participate in monthly video conference calls to discuss 1) progress to date, 2) plans going forward, and 3) challenges to troubleshoot (estimated up to two hours per month time commitment). Ideally two, but at least one Faculty Grantee per project, will be invited to regularly attend these monthly CoP meetings (remote video conference meetings organized and facilitated by VentureWell staff). These peer-to-peer meetings will support grantee efforts to integrate I&E practices and methodologies into their proposed course or program curriculum. A commitment to monthly attendance and active participation in CoP meetings is requested for invited grant awardees to foster group cohesion and a supportive, collaborative CoP.

Reporting

If you receive a grant, reporting requirements and deadlines will be specified in your award letter. Faculty Grant PIs will be prompted via email to complete required reports online (once each year throughout the grant period). Failure to submit reports may jeopardize both pending payments and your institution’s eligibility for future grants. 

VentureWell expects to learn from grantee experiences. VentureWell requires timely submission of grant reports, and may require participation in surveys and interviews after the grant period for impact assessment studies and reports.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss your idea, or if you have questions about fit, requirements, process or anything else, feel free to contact Patricia Boynton, Grants Manager, at 413-587-2172 x115 or grants@venturewell.org.

 


APPENDIX: Definitions

At VentureWell, we use the following definitions to guide our work: 

URG: groups who are or have been traditionally underrepresented, underestimated, and/or under-resourced.

Underrepresented Groups in Science & Engineering (S&E): women, people with disabilities, and people identifying as Black, Latinx, or Indigenous. The representation of these groups in S&E education and S&E employment is smaller than their overall representation in the U.S. population. National Science Foundation “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering”

Under-resourced Groups in I&E: people who face systemic barriers to accessing leadership, physical assets, money, power, political will, institutions, community cohesion, and/or services.

Environmental and social sustainability: Sustainable practices, innovations, and ventures that mitigate negative impacts, and/or enable increased positive and regenerative impacts on environmental and social systems.

Climate Change Solutions: Innovations and inventions that address the global environmental and social challenges presented by climate change.

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