With upcoming application submissions for the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF), NC State staff members have the opportunity to apply and receive research grants of up to $75,000 to support their short-term, commercially focused research projects.
CIF program manager and New Ventures Associate, Amy Parker, discussed how CIF came about, saying that initially there was a gap between research funds and commercialization funds.
“In product development, they call it the ‘valley of death’ because the funding goes from research all the way down, and then it comes back up when you get to [Venture Capital] and investor funding,” Parker said. “This gap really inhibits a lot of projects from moving forward.”
Parker said that the goal of CIF is to direct funds to projects that are still in early stages of research, where the research could potentially become licensable and useful to the public.
“The big thing to think about is application-oriented research, and focusing and being very specific on ‘this is this technology will do’ ‘this is who it will benefit,’” Parker said.
As program manager for CIT, Parker manages all the support programs that would move research forward from labs into the marketplace, to include university owned research, faculty research and non-undergraduate research.
“In my role, I manage all of our support programs for a lot of those efforts,” Parker said. “It really focuses on voice of customer as opposed to creating a technology and looking for a need or focusing on the need, and then kind of modifying our technology based on that market-based program.”
Parker said that although individuals must be eligible Principal Investigators, and to be PI’s they must be a faculty member with the university, students can still get involved with the research done through CIF by working with faculty members.
“A graduate student or even an undergraduate student technically wouldn’t be eligible to apply, which doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to be associated with a project, it’s just that you would have to work with a faculty member to apply to be eligible,” Park said.
Andre West is an associate professor in NC State’s College of Textiles and was a recipient of the CIF in 2017 for his bite-proof maternity clothing that helps prevent pregnant women and their babies from contracting the Zika virus.
“At the time, Zika was very prevalent, especially in South America, so we are looking at the fact we can make maternity clothing for expecting mothers, because the last thing people want to do when they’re pregnant is put on anything with chemicals to stop mosquitoes from [biting them],” West said.
West said the CIF contributed to his team’s cause, as the maternity clothing being produced by him and his team is a very capital-intensive product. The fabric must be tested on a human subject, the mosquitos must be grown in a lab, and the products had to be manufactured.
“This is a very capital-intensive type of product because first we have to test the fabric on a human subject, we have to grow the mosquitoes in a lab, and we have to get the human studies to wear them. The main funding was student-based. We were funding students to make the garments and design the apparel, so we could test [the apparel] in the labs. Most of the time, I did the tests, but if the students volunteered, they could go in the case and most of them did. It was very interesting.”
The CIF pre-proposal submission for 2018 is due Nov. 1, 2018. The application process can be found on the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund’s website.