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Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund

The Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund is a technology commercialization accelerator fund administered by the University at Buffalo and supported by Empire State Development. The fund supports technology development projects that enable an innovation to become more attractive for licensing and/or partnering with established companies or facilitate the formation of an investible start-up company to further develop and commercialize the technology.

The average award amount is expected to be about $50,000 for projects that can be reasonably completed in 6 months to accelerate commercialization. The funds will be released in tranches upon successful completion of each of two to three milestones. Awards of up to $100,000 per project may be approved but will require very clear justification for the amount requested with well-defined milestones and measures of success. Larger budgets are more likely to be associated with life science technologies where expenses tend to be higher than, for example, software development projects.  

Funds may be use, for example, to:

  • Build Prototypes
  • Conduct Commercial Feasibility Tests
  • Complete Software Coding or User Interface Development
  • Accomplish work that demonstrates a mitigation of risk for potential licensees
  • Address a specific gap identified by industry that impairs the ability to license or attract capital
  • Strengthen or Broaden Patent Claims, but only if the project also advances commercialization

Eligibility

Principal Investigators:

Principal Investigators from the Partner Institutions are eligible to submit applications for funding (only one application per round). 

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Roswell Park logo.
Hauptman Woodward logo.
Kaleida Health logo.
Jacobs Institute logo.

Disclosure:

Must have an open and active invention disclosure or equivalent on file with your respective Partner Institution (ie. Technology Transfer Office) upon which the project will be based for at least three months prior to the submission.

If you have questions about your Partner Institution's process, contact your Partner Institution Designated Official.

Licensing:

Technology must not be exclusively licensed to an entity other than a Partner Institution Startup, or encumbered by any other prior obligations that would preclude the Partner Institution from moving forward with commercialization.

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed and of those approximately ten (10) will be invited to work with Innovation Hub Team members (as assigned) to refine the project plan and then present elements of the proposal and final project plan.

Proposals & Presentations will be evaluated on the following criteria:

After participating the project refinement, PIs will be required to present a short, 10-minute, presentation to the External Review Committee, Innovation Hub Team, and designees from Partner Institutions, followed by up to  15-minutes question and answer period. The primary purpose of the presentation is to provide an opportunity for the External Review Committee to seek clarifying information about the proposal, project plan and mitigations to risks. This is not intended to be an academic presentation of the science behind the underlying technology.  The presentation should briefly describe the technology and focus more on the commercial opportunity. Particularly the project’s ability to successfully meet the market opportunity and de-risk the monetization strategy within the scope of the proposed studies as well as within the requested budget and time –frame.

The Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund External Review Committee will evaluate proposals based upon a review of both the written documentation and additional information discussed during the presentation, including the question and answer session.  The Committee will provide recommendations to the Fund Manager on which projects to fund, considering the following:

  • Problem/Need –The market problem or need is clearly defined and well supported with references and customer discovery
  • Solution - How well the proposed solution meets the value proposition, is competitive in the marketplace and is validated to be important by customers (e.g. published sources or customer discovery).
    Funding Sources – Funding sources that either led to this solution and/or which may potentially be used to continue advancing the solution
  • Intellectual Property – Intellectual property risks and opportunities have been reasonably assessed and addressed.
  • Market Opportunity – The size of the addressable market that the value proposition addresses.
  • Competitive Landscape – Identification of the main players and products/services, both existing and pipeline, that might compete against your solution.
  • Value Proposition –How the product or service solves/improves problems, what benefits customers can expect, and why customers should buy it over your competitors.
  • Monetization Strategy-  How well the strategy for earning revenue from the solution is defined.
  • Monetization Risks and Mitigation Plan – How well outlined the top three risks to successfully monetizing the concept are defined and how strong the mitigation plan is for each of the risks. 
  • Budget –if the identified hurdles to commercialization have been externally validated and whether successful achievement of one or more of the proposed milestones/deliverables will clearly reduce licensee or investor risk to enable actionable interest and/or launch of an investible startup company. Potential licensees and/or partners, including any interest they may have expressed. While not a requirement, proposals that include matching funds or in-kind services, especially those provided by potential industry partners and/or licensees, are likely to be reviewed more favorably because support expands the scope of the project or confirms market interest if the project is successful. The Committee will consider whether the identified milestones can be successfully achieved within the proposed timeframe and budget.
  • Project Team - The Project Team, including collaborators and vendors (as applicable), will be evaluated for their experience, qualifications, and strengths with regards to the proposed Project Plan. Does the team have the subject matter expertise and commitment to execute the Project Plan?

Please see Program Overview Guide and other Resources below for more details and guidelines on the above.

Program Schedule: Round #4

September 4, 2020

Proposal

A Proposal Application endorsed by your Partner Institution Designated Official must be submitted via our online application. Proposals will be reviewed by the Innovation Hub Team.

*In order to access the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund application form, you will need to set up and account with Survey Monkey Apply if you do not already have one. This is the platform the Innovation Hub utilizes to manage applicants to a variety of our programs. 

September 14, 2020

Move On Invitations Sent

Approximately ten (10) Principal Investigators will be invited to work with Innovation Hub team members to refine the project plan and prepare a final presentation. Those invited to the next stage will be notified of next steps.

September 14, 2020 – November 6, 2020

PROJECT PLAN DEVELOPMENT

Investigators will be assigned to work with External Review Committee and Innovation Hub Team members to develop a project plan, further identifying and addressing key risks and a plan to mitigate those risks.

*In order to access the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund application form, you will need to set up and account with Survey Monkey Apply if you do not already have one. This is the platform the Innovation Hub utilizes to manage applicants to a variety of our programs. 

November 9, 2020 - November 20, 2020

Presentation Preperation

Investigators that are invited to develop a Project Plan will also be expected to present the Project Plan and elements of the Proposal to the External Review Committee and Innovation Hub Team. In preparation for this, investigators will be required to participate in a series of workshops and practice sessions. 

PRESENTATION PREP WORKSHOPS

In order to prepare for the final presentations to the External Review Committee, PI’s are required participate in Presentation Prep Workshops that will review the presentation elements and provide guidance on how to present the Plan and Proposal to people with varying backgrounds and focus on the commercial opportunity and mitigation of risks. 

Presentation Practice Sessions

After putting what you learned in the Presentation Prep Workshops, you will have the opportunity to practice your 10 minute presentation and get feedback from the Workshop Facilitator, Program Manager and others in order to make refinements before the final presentation.  

December 3-4, 2020

Presentations

Presentations to External Review Committee and Innovation Hub Team. Each Principal Investigator is required to give a ten (10) minute presentation followed by a fifteen (15) minute Q&A to address any open questions. 

By December 11, 2020

Award Decisions

Following deliberation by the External Review Committee, approximately seven (7) Full Proposals will be funded in whole or, in part, if modifications are recommended by the External Review Committee.

Round #5: Scheduled for Spring 2021

Partner Institution Designated Officials

University at Buffalo

Jeff Dunbar
Director, Technology Transfer
dunbarj@buffalo.edu  |  (716) 645-8134

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Patrick Emmerling
Director, Office of Technology Transfer and Commercial Development
patrick.emmerling@roswellpark.org  |  (716) 845-1300 Ext. 6955

Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute

Jill Szczesek
Chief Operating Officer
jszczesek@hwi.buffalo.edu  |  (716) 898-8597

Kaleida Health

David Hughes
Executive Vice President, Chief Medical Officer
dhughs@kaleidahealth.org

Jacobs Institute

Michael Springer
Vice President, Technology and Operations
mspringer@jacobsinstitute.org  |  (716) 888-4822

Resources

Please refer to these resource materials for more information about the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund.

Program Overview Guide

Provides a Program Summary and Program Details to help you prepare your application at each stage of the review process.

Proposal Guidelines

Provides instructions on what information is required in each section of the Proposal Application.

Previous Award Winners

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund funded?

Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development announced establishment of the Innovation Hub with a $32 million award over five years, which will be facilitated by University at Buffalo. There are three primary components: 

  • Entrepreneurial programming outreach and support;
  • Funds (Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund and Buffalo Innovation Seed Fund)
  • Incubator facility development at the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences to house startups

Why is the program focused so much on commercialization outcomes?

There are two main reasons. First, many promising innovations fail to achieve their potential impact because of the funding gap that exists after federal funding for basic research ends and before sufficient development occurs for companies or private investors to risk their money to bring the new product or service to market. The Accelerator Fund addresses that funding gap.

Second, New York State views its research institutions as economic engines and invests in programs to increase the impact they may have. Technology and innovation will help drive the growth and well-being of new and existing companies and create job opportunities in the community.

How many applications will be funded in each round?

It may vary from round to round based on the number of applicants and strength of proposals. Typically, ten (10) will be invited to present Proposals and seven (7) will be funded at an average award of about $50,000.

Why does a New Technology Disclosure have to be on file at least three (3) months before submitting an Accelerator Fund application?

Viable intellectual property protection is important in securing a commercial opportunity. Three months is sufficient time for your Partner Institution (i.e. Technology Transfer office) to conduct an assessment and protect the technology as appropriate. That period also provides time to explore the market potential to validate that the perceived customer problem or need is real and that your technology offers a viable solution.

There will be two rounds of the Accelerator Fund offered per year so the PI will be able to plan to submit New Technology Disclosures and prepare applications in a round that is appropriate to their timing. The ICorps Site program is offered three times per year to make it convenient to participate in customer discovery activities.

What is an ideal project plan?

An ideal project plan specifically addresses milestones defined by the market or a potential licensee that, if successfully completed, lead to a) a license to an established company or b) formation of an investible start-up company. If a company or investor said to you, if you do this experiment and get this result, I will license or invest in the technology, which would be an ideal basis for a project plan.

Is there any limit to the technical scope of eligible projects?

Proposals will be accepted from all fields of research in which the proposed project fulfills the goals and eligibility requirements as outlined in the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund Program Guide.

Why is there so much emphasis on ‘customer discovery?’

Customer discovery is a technology commercialization concept that is widely accepted nationally and it is the primary focus of the NSF I-Corps program. It is also the approach adopted in many of UB’s entrepreneurship programs. Various studies have reported that only up to 10% of patents actually claim a marketed product or service. And one of the primary reasons startups fail is there is no market. Customer discovery is a process to validate there is a customer problem/need that your technology can meet. The ICorps Site program is offered three times per year to make it convenient to participate in customer discovery activities

Will the Innovation Hub team members and/or External Review Committee sign confidentiality agreements before they review applications?

No, the Innovation Hub team members and/or External Review Committee will not sign confidentiality agreements, which is another reason why it is important to submit a New Technology Disclosure in advance, so a patent application may be filed if appropriate. Confidentiality agreements can sometimes restrict participation by experienced business and technical professionals. We do not want to limit participation by people who can help the program and the projects be successful.

Why is the PI required to give a presentation to the External Review Committee?

The presentation provides an opportunity for the External Review Committee to clarify any open questions with the PI before recommending proposals to be funded. It will also be an opportunity to discuss the project plan and perhaps make suggestions that better align it to addressing key market questions.

Can I apply if I already formed a startup company and executed an option and or license to the technology?

Yes, so long as the startup has NOT received private investment in any amount and/or a Phase I SBIR/STTR award for the subject innovation. The Accelerator Fund is intended to prepare a technology for private investment or grant funding. If that has already occurred, the Accelerator Fund is not needed.

Will the Accelerator Fund continue after the New York State funding ends?

That is the goal. Each Partner Institution is asked to sign a Letter of Intent acknowledging that they will return 30% of licensing revenue from the Accelerator Funded technologies to the Innovation Hub fund. The Inventor revenue-sharing provisions of the Partner Institution’s policy will still apply.

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PARTNER INSTITUTIONS

Empire State Development is supporting UB, Roswell Park, Hauptman-Woodward, Kaleida Health and Jacob's Institute to help commercialize technologies generated through research.

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