MEDC-Funded ADVANCE Program Launched

A new “Gap” or “Proof of Concept” fund is being launched to provide resources to assess market needs and the potential for promising new university inventions, thanks to $1 million of funding support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The University Early Stage Proof-of-Concept Fund program known as ADVANCE was approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund with oversight by the MEDC. ADVANCE is being administered by Michigan State University on behalf of all the universities in the state of Michigan. Each university’s tech transfer office can apply for up to $40,000 of funding, providing the conditions of the program are met, including a 1:1 match for the funding requested.

Gap funding has been used for many years by tech transfer offices to provide additional resources to understand the potential of a new invention. These funds supplement the analysis conducted by licensing, venture and mentors in the tech transfer office and allows the use of specialized consultants for market assessment, to fund customer discovery activities, to construct prototypes for customer demonstration, and other market-readiness activities. This analysis facilitates the patenting decisions and focuses the commercialization plan for a new invention. This assessment and customer discovery work also is instrumental in selecting a pipeline of promising inventions for translational research program funding, such as the MEDC-supported MTRAC programs. The MTRAC programs are co-managed with tech transfer offices and competitively fund high potential inventions to have faculty address technology-readiness issues.

Rich Chylla, Executive Director of MSU Technologies, the technology transfer office for Michigan State University, is administering the ADVANCE grant. “All the Michigan tech transfer offices felt the need for additional assessment funds to accelerate our discovery and commercialization activities,“ said Chylla. “This program will allow us to identify and address key customer and market requirements, provide a robust set of opportunities for our translational research programs and ensure our commercialization activities are addressing key market needs.”

The ADVANCE program will target “high-value technology sectors” represented by the research portfolios at the public universities across the State including, but not limited to innovations in:
Life Science and Healthcare
Advanced Automotive Manufacturing
Biotechnology and Agricultural Processing Technology
Advanced Materials
Alternative Energy and
Homeland Security and Defense Technology

Eligibility requirements for the ADVANCE program applicants include:

  • Applicants must be from institutions of higher education in the State of Michigan
  • The relevant technology must have an invention disclosure filed and have an identified commercial application
  • Grant applications may be submitted at any time. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis
  • Typical applications for these funds will be prototyping, customer discovery, market application research, animal studies, detailed IP analysis
  • Project funding requests may be submitted up to $80,000 of which $40,000 is supplied by the Program and $40,000 matched by the university submitting the proposal. Grant dollars supplied by the program must be matched in cash dollar for dollar by the university. In-kind contributions are not accepted as matching funds; and
  • Projects involving optioned or licensed technologies are ineligible for funding

“We’re proud to be supporting this new ADVANCE program and assist our state universities with their commercialization efforts,” said Denise Graves, University Relations Director. “This program complements the MTRAC translational research programs and the Tech Transfer Talent Network program that now can work together to seamlessly advance our university innovations to contribute to the economic vitality and quality of life for our state.”

University faculty interested in applying for the ADVANCE program should contact your tech transfer office or equivalent commercialization unit. U-M faculty should contact U-M Tech Transfer and your tech transfer licensing specialist or call 734.763.0614. For more program information, see the ADVANCE Grant Program.