Fall 2021 MSU "CATalyst" Gap Fund Opportunity Announcement
Invitation to Submit Proposals for Fall 2021 MSU Technology Commercialization “CATalyst” Gap Funds (Due date: October 15, 2021)
Call for Proposals
The MSU Technology Transfer Office announces the availability of technology commercialization “gap funds,” to support the pre-commercialization activities around faculty inventions exhibiting strong market potential. These gap funds are being made possible by an award from the US Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge program. Therefore, these CATalyst grants are not intended to support basic research or answer fundamental scientific questions. The purpose is to provide market-relevant development and/or validation for MSU technologies that are beyond the point where traditional research funding is available or appropriate. Examples of supported activities include:
- performing additional testing to demonstrate and document a technology that has already shown feasibility (e.g. to support a pre-clinical regulatory submission)
- proving utility in an industry relevant application
- developing a more manufacturable or economic version of a product
- developing a commercial grade prototype
- some limited economic modeling, market research, and customer discovery activities
The intent is to both technically and commercially “de-risk” an invention such that the company can either achieve commercialization of the technology without further investment or attract further development funding (e.g. venture capital, angel investment, SBIR/STTR awards) in order to achieve commercialization. All MSU colleges and departments are eligible, and previous gap fund awardees span various disciplines.
Available funding level is up to $80,000 in direct costs. Smaller proposals (e.g. ≤$20k in direct costs) are permitted, and in fact encouraged where appropriate for the technology. Funding is limited, so only a subset of proposals will be funded.
Update: The award period is expected to begin in January 2022 and conclude December 2022.
Eligibility: The PI must meet the requirements as described in the MSU PI Guide.
- The technology IP must be owned by MSU. An invention disclosure form, upon which the project is based, must be on file with the TTO and the associated invention assignment to MSU must be completed. Eligible technologies may include patentable inventions and/or those covered by copyright (such as computer software).
- Larger proposals (>$20k in direct costs) should be made in collaboration with an existing or anticipated partner company (newly formed or previously existing). The partner company will be expected to engage in a sponsored research agreement to provide at least a 50% funding match to supplement the CATalyst gap funds (details below). At the end of the gap funding award period, technologies are expected to be transferred to a company for commercialization, licensed through MSU’s Technology Transfer Office.
- Investigators may only submit one project for CATalyst gap funding in each calendar year.
- Proposals are due October 15, 2021. Proposals must be submitted electronically to the Office of Sponsored Programs via the ePCF (electronic proposal clearance form). Choose full proposal and “MSU Vice President for Research (MONVIC001)” as the agency to which you are submitting. Please use program ID “VPREDGE TECH GAP FUNDS FALL 2021”. Form and instructions can be found at MSU OSP.
Up to 4 pages (with 11-point font and one-inch margins) and should include the following:
- Non-confidential title and summary, to be published for winning proposals (up to one half page). This should be designed for public consumption (i.e. written in layperson's terms), and should not include any patentable information, nor any sensitive data or conclusions.
- Scope/background of the proposed project (up to one half page).
- Specific aims/objectives/goals of the project (up to one half page).
- Methods/approach (up to one half page).
- Expected outcomes (up to one half page), including periodic milestones to be achieved during the gap fund award period.
- What else may be important to achieve commercialization but is outside the project? Are there any regulatory compliance obstacles that must be traversed? How and when will those be addressed? (up to one half page)
- Larger proposals (>$20k in direct costs) should include an analysis of the proposed product or service and company, using The Lean Canvas methodology,
as described at https://toolkit.techstars.com/build-your-lean-canvas (up to 1.5 pages). Include these sections:
- Problem – Identify the problem the proposed product or service will solve for customers and/or users.
- Customer Segments – List the target customers for this product or service (customers are the ones who will be paying for the product or service; not always the same as users).
- Solution – What is the proposed solution to the problem you have identified?
- Unique Value Proposition – What makes the proposed solution different from and better, faster, and/or cheaper than alternatives?
- Channels (Marketing and Sales Strategy) – How will the company reach customers and convince them to purchase?
- Revenue Streams – How will the company be paid for delivering the product or service?
- Cost Structure – What are the anticipated costs for producing the product or service? Consider both fixed and variable costs.
- Key Metrics – In the time before this technology is profitable, what can be measured to indicate whether the product or service is on the path to success (or failure)?
- Unfair Advantages – What will allow this technology and company to prevail against competitors, including potential imitators? This could include any existing or anticipated intellectual property associated with the technology.
- Smaller proposals (≤$20k in direct costs) should include the Lean Canvas analysis detailed above if the technology is sufficiently mature to do so in a meaningful way. If the technology is not sufficiently mature, an acceptable alternative is to include up to one half page detailing what will be accomplished by this funding that will serve to advance the ability of MSU to license the technology and achieve successful commercialization.
It is understood that the Lean Canvas analysis submitted here is tentative, and that the methodology is intended to be iterative as the product or service is refined over time.
PI’s who are not familiar with the Lean Canvas methodology may request assistance from MSU’s Launchpad and/or the Technology Transfer Office. You can easily schedule an appointment with the Launchpad online.
Proposals containing information that may be considered proprietary to a company should contain a notice in the footer such as “BUSINESS PROPRIETARY: document contains proprietary information. Do not disseminate without prior written consent of ABCo, Inc.” and may arrange for the company to enter into a Confidentiality Agreement with MSU prior to proposal submission.
Additional Documents Required (not counted towards the 4 page limit)
- Cover page indicating:
- project title
- principal investigator(s)
- PI department or center
- technology invention disclosure TechID and/or date
- any ongoing or proposed research related to the technology, but not part of this proposal (project title, funding source, funding amount, project start & end dates, and MSU proposal or grant number if applicable)
- name of associated startup company (if it already exists)
- Up to 2 page biographical sketch/CV of principal investigator(s)
- Half page or less of references cited—this is not a scientific proposal, so proposals need only include a few key references demonstrating technical feasibility, market research, and/or potential competition.
- Up to 1 page profile of the associated startup company (either planned or as it already exists)—incorporation information, key personnel, number of employees, existing and/or planned products/services.
- Proposed budget and budget justification (personnel, supplies, equipment, travel,
contracted services). PI’s need only budget for direct costs here, and only for the
Gap Fund award. Budget for any matching funds (see #6 below) shoould be excluded
from the Gap Fund proposal.
Note: Any equipment, travel, and faculty summer salary should be well-justified. EDA requires additional record-keeping for outside purchases, such as travel or supplies. Contracted services may include analytical or testing services, machined parts, and the like, but are not to be used to outsource research or technology development.
- Matching funds, if appropriate, and source.
- Proposals requesting >$20k in direct costs are expected to include at least a 50% funding match through a sponsored research agreement funded by an associated company. For example, if a proposal requests $50k for direct costs, MSU would expect a sponsored research agreement covering at least $25k in direct costs (+54.73% indirect) from the company, to leverage the MSU CATalyst Gap Funds. A portion of the company match may be in the form of (fair market value) equipment or materials donated to MSU for this project, but not in the form of in-kind efforts performed by the company. Such in-kind efforts or other resources or actions performed by the company should be mentioned in the proposal, but do not count toward the expected company match.
- Companies are free to procure their own sources of capital, without prejudice to the proposal. However, MSU has sourced a potential equity-based financing option with Next Frontier Capital. If associated companies are interested in potential investment by Next Frontier Capital, indicate this interest in the proposal. Investment is subject to due diligence by Next Frontier and mutual agreement to financial terms.
- (Only for projects that have previously won a CATalyst Gap Fund Award):
- A review (up to two pages) of the "expected outcomes and milestones" to be achieved during the previous Gap Fund Award vs what was actually accomplished.
Evaluation and Awards
Proposals will be evaluated based on:
- The probability that the proposed project will lead to commercialization, and the magnitude of the expected economic development. Preference will be given to anticipated economic impacts within Montana and for small businesses.
- The expected importance and impact of CATalyst funds on the commercialization of this technology (i.e. smaller funding requests with greater impact will be prioritized over larger funding requests with less impact.)
- Expected additional external sources of support during the 12 months of gap funding, such as an associated company match.
Finalists will be asked to make a short in person presentation to the proposal reviewers before a final decision is made. Funding decisions are expected by late November 2021, with the award period expected to begin in January 2022 and concluding December 2022. Awards may be made contingent upon the realization of external funding sources identified in the proposal.
Post-Award Obligations (i.e. The Fine Print)
- Awardees will be asked to submit a brief (1-2 pages) final report at the conclusion of the project summarizing what was accomplished, and what are the expected next steps for the technology.
- MSU is required by EDA to periodically collect certain information from companies that are funded by this program, with the last report due in September 2031. This information helps EDA assess the effectiveness of its awards. Participating companies must agree to provide this information.
For additional information:
Questions may be addressed to Daniel Juliano in the Technology Transfer Office.
Phone: (406) 994-7483