Invitation to Submit Proposals for the Spring 2024 MSU Quantum Technology Commercialization “CATalyst” Gap Funds (Due date: June 1, 2024) 

Call for Proposals

The MSU Technology Transfer Office announces the availability of quantum technology commercialization “gap funds,” to support the pre-commercialization activities around MSU-owned inventions exhibiting strong market potential.  These gap funds are being made possible by an award from the Air Force Research Lab to support technology commercialization, so 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 quantum-related 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
  • proving utility in an industry relevant application
  • developing a more manufacturable or economic version of a product
  • developing a commercial grade prototype
  • economic modeling, market research, and customer discovery activities

The intent is to both technically and commercially “de-risk” an invention such that the technology can be licensed to a company for commercialization, and the company can attract further investment (e.g. venture capital, angel investment, SBIR/STTR awards) in order to achieve commercialization.  For this particular opportunity, the technology to be de-risked must be related to quantum.  So, while all MSU colleges and departments are technically eligible, the departments most likely to be appropriate are Physics and Electrical Engineering.


Available funding level is up to $50,000 in direct costs.  Funding is limited, so only a subset of proposals will be funded. 


The award period is expected to begin in June 2024 and conclude May 2025.


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).
  • Investigators may submit up to two projects for this CATalyst gap funding opportunity.
  • Proposals are due June 1, 2024. Proposals must be submitted electronically by email to Daniel Juliano, Director of MSU's TTO.  (PI's of proposals selected for funding will instructions as to what must then be submitted to OSP's ePCF in order to activate and access the funding).

Proposal Format

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)
  • Ideally, the proposal will include an analysis of the potential product or service that would use this technology, using The Lean Canvas methodology, as described at (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.
  • Alternatively, if the technology is not sufficiently mature to perform a meaningful Lean Canvas analysis, include up to one page detailing why the technology to be developed is important and 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.


Additional Documents Required (not counted towards the 4 page limit)

  1. 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)
  2. Up to 2 page biographical sketch/CV of principal investigator(s)
  3. 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.
  4. Up to 1 page profile of the associated startup company (if it already exists)—incorporation information, key personnel, number of employees, existing and/or planned products/services.
  5. 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 funds.
    Note: Any equipment, travel, and faculty summer salary are unlikely to be appropriate here, and  would have to be exceptionally well-justified.  

Evaluation and Awards

Proposals will be evaluated based on:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)


Finalists will be asked to make a short presentation to the proposal reviewers before a final decision is made.  Funding decisions are expected by end of June 2024, with the award period expected to begin in August 2024 and concluding May 2025.


Post-Award Obligations (i.e. The Fine Print)

  • Awardees will be expected to apply for and particpate in MSU Launchpad's 406 Labs incubator program in fall 2024 or spring 2025.  This 10 week program is designed to help those who have developed business concepts or conducted research into a potential new business to create solid business plans and identify the steps they need to take to test and clarify their thinking about markets, customers, strategy, financials, etc.
  • 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 may be required by AFRL to periodically collect certain information regarding the ongoing development and commercialization of the technology, after completion of this Gap Fund award period.

For additional information:

Questions may be addressed to Daniel Juliano in the Technology Transfer Office.


Phone: (406) 994-7483