The Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative today announced the creation of the Duke Incubation Fund, a vehicle for enabling projects originating within the campus innovation community.
The fund will offer awards to Duke faculty, graduate students, post-docs and medical residents and fellows to support early-stage ideas based on Duke intellectual property with the potential to go to market and affect society.
Although many resources currently exist to support research and commercialization at Duke, the Incubation Fund is one of the only funding opportunities for innovations still at the ideation stage.
“There’s a moment in the innovation cycle when you think you might have something, but you’re not quite sure,” said Kip Frey, interim director of Duke I&E. “If you just had the resources to run one experiment or test one market, it could give you the beginnings of an answer. But often, no one is willing to invest in this moment because of the uncertainty of a financial return. We are thrilled that visionary donors have stepped up to found the Duke Incubation Fund, understanding that investment in early-stage research and testing bolsters and expands our entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Those donors are Jeffrey Citron and his wife Suzanne, parents of Duke sophomore Kyra Citron. Their founding gift will enable dozens of grants over the initial four-year period of the Duke Incubation Fund.
“During my career as an entrepreneur, I have recognized how new ideas sometimes need exploration before a real value proposition can be developed,” said Jeffrey Citron, a longtime philanthropist and founder of high-speed Internet and broadband device company Vonage. “Our hope for the Duke Incubation Fund is that it will catalyze innovative thinking across the university and perhaps lead to new technologies that could one day disrupt an industry.”
The Duke Incubation Fund will invest more than $500,000 each year across 10 to 20 projects. Award applications will be evaluated by an independent committee of experienced early-stage investors, and may be renewed in compelling circumstances. Initial grants are expected to average $20,000.