Early Innovation Fund

Early Innovation Fund logo with Technology commercialization logo underneath

The Early Innovation Fund is a competitive funding program available to the UMN research community to fund short-term projects that advance early-stage innovations. The program provides $3,000 to $10,000 per project and will fund approximately 5 to 10 projects per cycle. Where applicable, program participants may also be connected to additional funding opportunities.

This opportunity is open to all UMN researchers and employees, including faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and staff. Funding is offered twice a year, in the spring and fall, with a goal of advancing a diverse portfolio of innovation opportunities across all campuses, colleges, and disciplines. We encourage all to apply, especially those who have never worked with the Tech Comm office previously.

Fund Scope

The Early Innovation Fund is designed to help advance the technology readiness of an innovation through a variety of means, including support for: materials or resources to advance an innovation (e.g., buying/renting equipment or purchasing materials); access to services, expertise or personnel (e.g., student worker); dissemination or implementation of innovations to generate user feedback; and/or entrepreneurial exploration (e.g., travel for customer conversations that are part of MIN-Corps or I-Corps programs).

Project Examples

  • Algorithm / Software / App development
  • Beta / MVP / User testing with feedback
  • Fabrication / Prototyping
  • In-vivo animal testing
  • Material synthesis 
  • Material testing 
  • Method development
  • Optimizing system design and performance
  • Regulatory consulting
  • Scale-up analysis
  • Simulation / Modeling
  • Building a small product inventory
  • Teaching / Learning module advancement
  • Techno-economic analysis
  • User design
  • User training
  • Validation in lab or simulated environment

Tech Comm is open to proposals for other types of projects (not listed above) focusing on innovations that are past the basic research stage.

For more Early Innovation Fund project examples, read about our past award recipients.

Project Requirements

  • Clear, achievable goals/milestones
  • Completed within 6-12 month duration
  • Lead investigator who is employed at UMN
  • UMN-owned innovation and/or intellectual property (IP)
  • One-time reporting after project completion

How to Apply

Application Timeline

October 16, 2023 - Application opens
December 15, 2023 - Submissions due
End of January 2024 - Awardees announced

Apply here: z.umn.edu/EarlyInnovationFund


Contact Tim Cusack (cusac021@umn.edu), MNBridge Gap Funding Network Manager.