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The Engine Funding Program

The “Commercialization Engine" is a milestone-driven process that provides University inventors with business guidance (a business "Champion") and incremental funding to move their discoveries to commercialization. It has three stages and a flexible framework built to develop and execute a commercialization plan (you can read more about the Engine process by clicking here).

Opportunities to make an Engine funding request occur approximately every eight weeks. At these Engine Funding Meetings, milestones and business cases are presented with an “ask” for funds to complete the next, most critical milestone in the commercialization process.

The Engine Funding Meeting is attended by university representatives and members of the community. These community members are asked to give perspective and feedback on both the presentations as well as the milestones discussed in the presentations. The community members are made up of three types of people:

  1. Investors -- An active investor or money manager with the ability to sponsor or invest in one or more of the commercialization opportunities coming out of the U
  2. Entrepreneurs -- Either an individual looking for an opportunity to take the lead in necessary business development activities or a potential startup manager
  3. Subject Matter Experts -- There are different types of subject matter experts: scientific or technical experts, funding experts, product development experts, market/industry experts, and university faculty members

The Engine Committee meets to hear funding requests, recommend allocation of funds, review current commercialization projects, and provide guidance towards the progression of these projects. The schedule for these meetings and application deadlines can be found HERE.

The Engine Committee is focused on:

  • Clearly defined milestones
  • Scientific and technical review and feedback
  • Market feedback and validation
  • Strong business model justification

The Engine Committee is split into two industry categories: Health Sciences and Engineering/Software/Other. Qualified committee members are chosen by TVC and the VP for Research Office. If you are interested in participating or suggesting an individual for participation in the Engine Committee, please fill out the following form.

Milestones might include, but are not limited to:

  • Prototype development -- materials and labor costs
  • Market research/market validation -- specific reports, intern time, etc.
  • Regulatory path discovery
  • Consultants -- hourly rate and number of hours needed
  • Pilot programs
  • Lab techs -- hourly rate and number of hours needed
  • Data generation/gathering
  • Interim management -- time needed, hourly rate
  • Software development -- specific scope of project required
  • R&D -- equipment, materials, lab time, personnel, etc. (all must be specific and required for commercialization milestone accomplishment)
  • Travel for meetings with targeted partners or stakeholders -- flights, car rentals, room and board, etc.
  • Web development required for commercialization -- hourly rate, number of hours needed
  • Other specific costs associated with the milestones laid out in the funding request

Funding request funds may not be used for faculty salaries (neither summer nor academic year); travel that is not directly related to the milestones in the funding request; or office equipment, including computers (unless specifically justified).

The committee can make recommendations for changes to the budget and uses of funds that are required for the acceptance and funding of the request.

Preference will be given to funding requests that have support from a committee member or business partner willing to help (with time or funding) in the commercialization efforts.

The Engine Committee will assist in vetting and validating the funding needs of each technology in consideration. TVC and the VP for Research Office will use Engine Committee input to make final funding decisions. A technology can be awarded multiple Engine funding rounds, but all previously funded milestones must be accomplished or accounted for before a subsequent award can be considered.

Program details

The Business and Technology Development Manager (BTDM) at TVC will work with the principal investigator (PI) to prepare the funding request, identify the appropriate funding amount, and refine the PI’s slide presentation for the Engine Committee meeting. The BTDM will lead the funding request presentation with the support of the PIs and others involved in the commercialization of the technology. Once funded, TVC or the VP for Research's Office will notify the PI of the award and the PI, BTDM and any engaged business champion will begin execution of the milestones laid out in the funding request.

To apply for Engine funding the following steps must be completed:

  1. An Invention Disclosure Form (IDF) for the technology must be on file at TVC (click here to disclose your invention or check on the status of an already disclosed invention).
  2. A 2-Stroke IP and market analysis must be completed by TVC (click here to learn more about 2-strokes and market analyses).
  3. The PI should contact the BTDM assigned to their invention at TVC to discuss commercialization milestones that may need funding.
  4. The technology must demonstrate Problem Solution Fit (PSF) (see next section).
  5. The PI will should complete and submit the Engine Funding Application form, found here on or before the deadline [click here for a schedule of deadlines]
  6. The PI’s application will be screened by TVC within five days of submission and a decision to move forward with the funding request presentation will be made.
  7. If the application passes the screening, the PI and the BTDM will refine the presentation as necessary.
  8. Presentations to the Engine Committee will be made according to the following calendar. The BTDM will make the presentation at the Engine Committee meeting, although the BTDM may request the PI be present and help with the funding request presentation.
  9. Once the technology has passed through the pre-screening process, an appropriate budget will be decided upon by the BTDM and the PI with the understanding that these funds are to be small, light and fast resources geared toward the completion of the next, most critical milestone in the technology commercialization path.

Demonstration of Problem Solution Fit (PSF)

Problem Solution Fit documentation is required for funding application submittal.

To apply for TVC Engine Funds it is required that applicants have reached a certain level of customer validation. We call this validation Problem Solution Fit (PSF). PSF is reached after interviewing and speaking with customers and influencers in the specific market of the technology that will be applying for funding. Achieving PSF typically requires specific types of interviews with end users, economic buyers, and other influencers that may touch the product/technology in question.

PSF validation is required because it ensures that any allocated funding is spent only on those activities the market or customer require. It is, however, difficult to reach true PSF as unbiased results from interviews with potential customers are uncommon. As such, we highly suggest that you speak with your BTDM at TVC to verify that true PSF has been achieved. Otherwise, TVC is happy to help you reach PSF by allocating resources from our office to help you get the required customer validation. Running PSF activities with TVC typically takes between six and eight weeks to complete and should be finished before the Engine Application is completed.

Eligibility to Apply for Engine Funding

  • Any person who has assigned his or her intellectual property to the University of Utah Research Foundation (UURF) or whose intellectual property is automatically assigned to the UURF according to university policy is eligible to apply for Engine funding. Decisions regarding the allocation of funds are made strictly on the basis of the commercial opportunity and the business case developed around each technology.
  • Funding requests must be submitted via the Engine Funding Application form, found here.
  • Funding Request amounts are determined by the commercialization milestones and have no upper or lower limits. The focus of the funding request should be to accomplish the next, most critical milestone in the commercialization plan in the shortest amount of time. The Engine Funding will only be for the next milestone and not multiple milestones at one time.
Funding request application must include the following:

Funding Allocation

Funds will be allocated through one of two partnership models:

  1. Technologies not yet licensed to a company
  2. Technologies licensed to a university startup

If partnership model #1:

To receive funds PI must do the following:

  1. Execute the Inventor Agreement [click here] and return it to BTDM
  2. Receive award letter after Engine Committee presentation
  3. Fill out the Document Summary Sheet (DSS) in their University CIS account with budget and milestones
  4. Get all appropriate and required approvals on DSS

After the DSS is submitted and approved, the VP for Research’s Office will approve the funding and direct the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) to create a project number to which the PI can bill expenses.

If partnership model #2:

To receive funds PI and CEO must do the following:

  1. The CEO of company and BTDM will ensure required language is in the license agreement
  2. Company agrees to give UURF equity in the company for the funds from the Engine at a $250K pre-money valuation OR give the UURF a convertible note with a 25% discount and at the same terms as the next round's investors with a $2 Million cap, within 2 years
  3. Send BTDM stock purchase agreement for shares or executed convertible note
  4. Send TVC invoice for Engine funding amount

Engine Committee meeting schedule

Click here to view the Engine Committee meeting schedule