About

The Duke Incubation Fund (the “Fund”) was formed to support idea-stage projects at Duke University with potential commercial prospects. The Fund will make a number of awards each year to support novel ideas, applied research, potential products, nascent services and creative projects that if successful, will lead to new opportunities in the market. To receive funding, projects must demonstrate a potential path to subsequent financial support, new company formation, licensing, not-for-profit partnering or other channels to enable translation. The Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, which administers the Fund, is interested in innovative projects that could lead to new products or services that will have a positive impact on society, including:

  • Demonstrating the feasibility of an idea or innovation for a commercial or social venture
  • Developing a working software or device prototype
  • Obtaining supporting evidence or proof-of-concept for new ideas
  • Developing new applications or markets for a technology under development
  • Creative projects that might lead to professionally produced content

Applications are welcome from all fields of inquiry. At least one member of any team must be from Duke.

Each award will consist of up to $20,000 (direct costs only). Preference will be given to applications with high potential for significant advancement. Funds may be spent within Duke or within a start-up company formed to commercialize the innovation.

Awards will be contingent on the innovator entering into Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) Agreement with the Fund. Any proceeds returned to the Fund under the SAFE will be used to finance future awards.

FAQs

What is the Duke Incubation Fund?

The Duke Incubation Fund provides up to $20,000 per project of seed funding for early-stage technologies and ideas at Duke University with potential for commercialization. Incubation Fund awards can be used to test the potential value of the idea – whether through market assessment, pilot studies, prototype development, intellectual property research, or other activities. The Incubation Fund differs from a traditional research grant in that the Fund is an investment in future venture creation and awardees are required to sign a SAFE agreement.

What does the SAFE entail?

SAFE stands for Simple Agreement for Future Equity. This agreement states that Duke will receive a small portion of equity of any company formed as a result of work funded by the Incubation Fund.  The equity will be due to Duke at certain triggers or events, namely, if the company raises capital, if there is a liquidity event (company is acquired or goes public) or the company is dissolved and other stockholders are paid from such dissolution. If no such entity is formed, the award need not be repaid.

Are the terms of the SAFE agreement negotiable?

No, for consistency among all award recipients, the SAFE terms are not negotiable.

Who is eligible to apply for the Duke Incubation Fund?

Any current Duke faculty, staff member, or graduate/ professional student team may apply for the Incubation Fund. Undergraduates are not eligible at this time. The team may apply as an incorporated entity OR as Duke employees or students. If applying as a Duke employee or student, one team member must establish a project-specific cost object (WBS Fund Code) within their department to accept the award.  No funds will be distributed directly to individuals.

I am applying under my Duke affiliation. Does the application need to be routed through Sponsored Projects (SPS)?

No.  This is considered an internal transfer of funds.

Who is authorized to sign the SAFE?

If the funding is going to a third-party entity (a company), the company signatory should sign.  If there is no company at the time of funding, the individuals will sign.

Can I submit more than one Incubation Fund Proposal per cycle?

Yes, provided they are for distinct, non-overlapping projects.

Can a project that has been funded before re-apply for the Incubation Fund proposal?

No, a particular project may only be funded once. However, individuals who have been funded in prior cycles may apply for funding for a different project.

Eligibility

Any current Duke faculty, staff member, or graduate/ professional student team may apply for the Incubation Fund. Undergraduates are not eligible at this time. The team may apply as an incorporated entity OR as Duke employees or students. If applying as a Duke employee or student, one team member must establish a project-specific cost object (WBS Fund Code) within their department to accept the award.  No funds will be distributed directly to individuals.

Individuals may submit more than one proposal, but are only eligible to receive one award per cycle. Promising projects that are not selected will be encouraged to reapply.

Funds may be spent within Duke or within a start-up company formed to commercialize the innovation.

Apply

Key Dates

Award cycles occur twice per year (fall and spring). The Spring 2020 application deadline is 11:59pm on Sunday, April 12, 2020.

Application Procedure

The Duke Incubation Fund Award uses the MyResearchProposal online application software to submit applications.

  • To apply visit http://bit.ly/myresearchproposal, click on “Create New User” (or log in if you already have an account). Proposals must be submitted under the Principal Investigator’s name.
  • A step-by-step user’s guide for applying via the MyResearchProposal software is available – Please review this document.
  • Enter Access Code “I&E,” then select the “Duke Incubation Fund Spring 2020” funding opportunity and follow the instructions.
  • For any questions concerning MyResearchProposal passwords or system issues, please contact Anita Grissom or Kara McKelvey at myresearchproposal@duke.edu.

Applicants will enter general project information via the web-based form:

  • Project Title, Brief Description, and Amount Requested
  • Primary Contact Name, Department/Company, phone, email
  • General Project Information: Applicants will be asked to answer general questions regarding the project (e.g. type of business, relationship to Duke, stage of development, ongoing sources of funding).
  • Intellectual Property (Character Limit: 500)
  • Compliance Plan (Character Limit: 500)

Some proposal sections will be uploaded as individual PDF files. The application sections are:

  • Intellectual Property: Summarize intellectual property, including any know-how, invention disclosure numbers, patent filings, copyrighted material, etc. If appropriate, you will be asked to provide contact information from OLV.
  • Budget: Upload a one-year spending plan using the I&E Budget Form.
  • Team Experience: Include a resume or NIH Biosketches for each key member of the research team (as a single PDF). Each individual resume may not exceed 4 pages.
  • Project Description: The Project Description should include: Idea, Background, Justification, Problem-Being-Solved, Preliminary/Supporting Data, Methods, Quarterly Milestones to be achieved during the year, and a plan for follow-on funding (5-Page limit, including tables and figures; and shorter applications are welcome). References do not count toward the 5-page limit; single spacing, font no smaller than Arial 11 and margins greater than 0.5”. The follow-on funding plan may include grant applications, internal funding, equity raises, licensing, selling product or strategic partnerships.

Contact

For additional information on this funding opportunity, contact Sharlini Sankaran at sharlini.sankaran@duke.edu or Barry Myers, M.D., Ph.D. at barry.myers@duke.edu.