2024 CCI+A (CATAPULT) Fund
Letter of Intent requested by Jan. 29, 2024; Applications due Feb. 16, 2024
The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), which works to speed the translation of cybersecurity innovations to the marketplace, seeks proposals from teams to receive support from our Cyber Acceleration, Translation, and Advanced Prototyping for University Linked Technology (CATAPULT) Fund.
The program is part of the Commonwealth Cybersecurity Incubator and Accelerator (CCI+A) Program to advance translational research projects among faculty and partners.
This is a market-discovery and commercialization grant aimed at university faculty and Virginia-based startups who want to bring cybersecurity-related products and services to the market. It is not research-focused.
Selected teams will be a part of CCI’s third CATAPULT cohort, and can use funds to support development of a commercially viable product, as well as required participation in the CCI+A Program.
This program, an important part of CCl's innovation toolbox, provides funding critical to advance the maturity of cyber discoveries during the critical “Valley of Death” phase of commercialization defined by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
During this phase, innovators prepare for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Commonwealth Commercialization Fund (CCF) grants to assist in product development and market testing, but are not yet ready for outside investment.
During the 16-week CCI+A program (which will run from mid-May through early November 2024), teams will attend business development workshops, engage with prospective customers, partners, experienced tech mentors, serial entrepreneurs, and others in the ecosystem to evaluate the commercial potential for turning their technologies into successful products, processes, and services.
The CATAPULT Fund will support eight to 10 awards of up to $50,000 each, with funding increments released predicated on achievement of agreed upon milestones during the program.
- Part One: Teams will participate in the July cohort of the Regional I-Corps Program, affiliated with the larger NSF ICorps lean startup methodology.
- Part Two: Teams will participate in a series of workshops, roundtables, and panel discussions specifically designed for the cohort with members of the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia cybersecurity ecosystem.
- Part Three: The CCI+A program will culminate with a pitch presentation to cybersecurity investors and industry experts in October.
- Part Four: Teams that are considered ready will win the opportunity to pitch to investors at the annual regional tech Accelerate Investor Conference, held in early November in Arlington.
Eligibility: Applications must be submitted by a Virginia-based innovation team. For example, this could include faculty at a Virginia public institution of higher education and other team members such as graduate research assistants (GRAs) or partner faculty; or a team comprising a faculty member at a Virginia institution of higher education (to serve as Principal Investigator, PI) on the grant) and team members from a Virginia early-stage startup.
A faculty member from a Virginia public institution of higher education must serve as the PI; however the rest of the innovation team can be students, other faculty, or members of a Virginia-based startup.
Researchers and faculty members at public institutions of higher education in Virginia who are deemed eligible by their home institution to serve as Pl on an external grant are eligible to apply as PI.
Number of Applications per Institution: No restrictions or limits.
Number of Applications per Pl: An eligible researcher serving as Pl can participate in only one proposal submission.
Applicants whose PI fails to attend one information session will forfeit consideration of their application.
Letter of Intent Guidelines
PIs intending to submit a proposal must send a brief Expression of Intent email to NoVACCl@gmu.edu by Jan. 29, 2024 (preferred date, but emails will be accepted on rolling basis until the proposal due date).
This email expression of intent should contain:
- The name and affiliation of the Pl, contact information (name, phone, email), the title of the innovation team, a title of the project concept, and a very brief description of the intellectual property (IP) or research that is expected to be used in the planned proposal (50 to 100 words).
- The name, phone numbers, and email of each current team member. Additional team members can be added after submission of Letter of Intent.
Applications should use a 12-point font and 1-inch margins and must include these sections:
Title page (one page): Title of the proposed project, and the name, affiliation, and contact information for the Pl (for example, faculty member of a Virginia public research institution) and each team member.
Summary (limit one page): Provide a brief, high-level description of the IP or research concepts to be applied and the project purpose.
- Describe the market need or problem to be solved, shortcoming of current solutions, expected outcomes of the proposed project and how these outcomes will add value to the technology and to business outcomes.
- Identify the next steps toward commercialization if this phase is successful and potential sources for additional funding.
Commercialization Potential (limit one page): List all commercial and paid government uses for the cyber innovation, define the market size, and the potential advantages over existing products.
- Describe how the new technology would support and drive business outcomes for customers.
- Describe how the company expects to engage funders and potential customers.
- Provide information on potential partners for commercialization and how the startup to be funded would engage such partners effectively.
- Describe the status of the IP or research concepts being utilized and — if IP is to be licensed or acquired — provide a plan for doing so. Explain how the content of this program will be of benefit to you.
Project Plan (limit two pages): Describe in detail the proposed work plan to take the technology from research to market, including the overall strategy, key milestones, and expected product outcomes.
Provide citations to existing research and applications that have already been tested and validated.
Include a timetable with detailed milestones (including the key milestones noted previously) that can be used to evaluate progress throughout the project towards commercialization, as well as anticipated results for each milestone and an explanation of how meeting each milestone will move the project toward commercialization.
Emphasize any novel aspects associated with the project and identify and flag key risks associated with the project. Provide specific references to any key literature.
List any industry conferences you plan to attend where you can interview potential customers. Attending such conferences is key to understanding the market.
Budget (limit 1 page): Provide a detailed budget for the work proposed. No indirect costs may be charged.
All resources will be awarded to the faculty Pl, who may then make sub-awards to partners, Virginia-based startups, etc., as applicable.
Evaluate your travel and other expenses related to your market research, including mileage and accommodation.
Budgets should be submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs (or your institution’s equivalent) at the PI’s home institution and approved by their academic institution according to the institution’s policies and procedures in advance of submission of this application.
Proposals will be reviewed by a group of corporate executives and innovation investment experts working with the NoVa Node of the CCI to evaluate the commercial potential of the related cybersecurity innovations.
The committee will review proposals against appropriate criteria and recommend awardees to the CCl+A leadership team.
Prior to final selection, the recommended awardees will be required to participate in a 30-minute interview/discussion with a three-person panel to ensure they understand the dynamics of the program.
Total Program Funding: $500,000
Maximum Award Amount: $50,000 per proposal
Award Conditions: Successful applicant teams are expected to participate fully in CCI activities, including providing materials needed for reports, participation in CCI meetings, and responding to data collection requests by the CCI.
All publications and presentations resulting from the grant should acknowledge support from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.
|Request for Proposals Released
|Jan. 10, 2024
|Virtual Information Sessions
|Jan. 16; Jan. 26; Feb. 12, all at 1 p.m. ET
|Preferred Letter of Intent Deadline
|Jan. 29, 2024
|Feb. 16, 2024
|March 18-29, 2024
|Anticipated Award Notification
|April 1, 2024
|Successful Teams' Acceptance Due
|April 15, 2024
|May 12, 2024 to May 31, 2025
Frequently Asked Questions
The program will cover key aspects of investigating the commercialization phase and launching and funding a startup. The process features:
- A bootcamp-style program to rapidly move new technologies forward.
- Support for customer discovery efforts.
- Opportunities for cyber startups to engage with potential industry and government partners and D.C.-Maryland-Virginia and Commonwealth-based customers.
- Opportunities for customer engagement.
- Opportunities to bring university innovation to industry and government for feedback and collaboration.
- Industry and government collaboration opportunities for cyber faculty on technical work and product testing.
- Opportunities for training students to work in cyber startups (CCI + A awardees will have access to subsidized college interns at no cost).
- Cybersecurity-focused workshops, meetings and collider events with government agencies, industry, and investors.
- Opportunities to engage with seed and venture capital including an opportunity for exposure to investors and for potential prize money at Mason's annual Accelerate innovation competition.
CCl+A will leverage the knowledge base and experience of Mason’s comprehensive entrepreneurship support programs including the Mason Enterprise Centers, the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
The program will provide mentorship from industry experts who have deep knowledge and experience in the cybersecurity and technology domains, resources, startup services (including free legal and business consulting), investment-based funding, access to rent-free physical space in the Digital Innovation Pilot facility on the Mason Square (Arlington) campus of Mason, if desired, and a set of educational programs for each cohort.
The CATAPULT Fund will help innovation teams pay for critical resources to advance development of their product, personnel, and time to test products, travel expenses, and participation in the CCI+A program. The program’s objective is to get initial market feedback, a critical first step in obtaining seed or angel funding.
Funds will be released in three installments. After the initial award of $10,000, two installments of $20,000 each will be predicated on the completion of 20+ customer interviews during the I-Corps program and the completion of an additional 20+ customer interviews between the end of the I-Corps program and the final pitch event.
Overall, requirements include participation in as many virtual sessions as possible by at least one team member and the completion of the customer interviews. The successful commercialization of a team’s IP will correlate with the team’s deep engagement in all aspects of the program.
Applications must be submitted by a Virginia-based innovation team (for example, faculty at Virginia public institution of higher education and other team members such as GRAs or partner faculty, or a team comprised of a faculty member at a Virginia institution of higher education (to serve as PI) and team members from a Virginia early-stage startup.
A faculty member from a Virginia public institution of higher education must serve as the PI. The rest of the innovation team can be students, other faculty, or members of a Virginia-based startup.
Researchers and faculty members at public institutions of higher education in Virginia who are deemed eligible by their home institution to serve as a Principal Investigator (Pl) on an external grant are eligible to apply as PI.
The team should define member roles based on their expertise and personal interests. For example, a faculty member might be focused on technical aspects of product development.
At least one member should serve as the entrepreneurial lead and pay special attention to customer discovery and development of the business aspects of the budding commercial entity.
In some cases, the faculty PI can serve as entrepreneurial lead. In other instances, the team might be more effective if the entrepreneurial lead is a PhD student, other faculty member, or in the case of a partnership with a Virginia-based startup, the lead from the startup could serve as entrepreneurial lead.
Due to the amount of work involved during the first phase of the program, which requires teams to conduct a minimum of 20 customer interviews, we strongly advise PIs to form a team with post-docs, PhD students, or fellow PIs to assist with the groundwork necessary to obtain and perform these interviews.
A PhD student or post-doc team member can take on the responsibility of leading the effort to investigate commercialization opportunities for the research as long as the PI is kept fully involved with the process and is debriefed on the key findings from the interviews and customer feedback.
Alternatively, if faculty PIs are collaborating with a Virginia-based startup, a team member from the startup should be engaged in customer interviews.
If the IP is sourced from the faculty PI, the faculty member must complete or already have completed an invention disclosure with the relevant technology transfer office at their home academic institutions by the time the application to CATAPULT is submitted.
If the IP is sourced from a Virginia-based startup, the startup team retains all rights to the IP, but the faculty PI is expected to actively contribute technical expertise to further product development in a meaningful way.
Failure of the faculty PI to be engaged in product development and/or CCI+A activities could lead to withdrawal of funding. The partnership between a faculty PI and a Virginia-based startup should be meaningful and beneficial to both.
- Forty customer interviews. Complete a minimum of 20 potential customer interviews during the I-Corp portion of the program. Complete an additional 20+ customer interviews between the conclusion of the I-Corps event and the final pitch event.
- In-Person Session Attendance. Full team (defined as PI faculty member and entrepreneurial lead (if not faculty member) and additional personnel as desired) attend the kick-off meeting, bootcamp day, Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) day and closing pitch day sessions, for a total of four in-person sessions.
- Virtual Session Attendance. The PI and/or entrepreneurial lead are expected to participate in virtual sessions and mentor office hours. Other team members are encouraged to attend as many as possible to ensure continuity of learning.
- I-Corps Sessions. The PI and/or the entrepreneurial lead, should attend all ICAP sessions. Other team members are encouraged to attend as many as possible to ensure continuity of learning.
- Customer Discovery. Follow the customer discovery process and other guidance provided by the instructors and mentors.
- Explore Commercialization. Commit to exploring the commercialization potential of your technology.
Attendance to the four in-person sessions in Arlington is mandatory for the PIs and the entrepreneurial lead. Faculty PIs who are teaching on the dates of the in-person sessions should make appropriate arrangements for class coverage on those dates. Grant funds can be used to cover travel and accommodation expenses related to these in-person sessions.
The CCI+A program is divided into two phases:
- The I-Corps program, which follows the NSF’s I-Corps lean startup model and requires teams to obtain 20 customer interviews during its course. Completing this goal is time-consuming and necessitates the PI and their teams actively network and reach out to the ecosystem that will use/adopt their innovation.
- The CCI+A program, comprising a series of workshops, roundtables, and panel discussions tailored to the cybersecurity industry, in which teams will have the opportunity to interact with industry leaders, potential customers, and investors.
An additional 20 customer interviews are required during this phase to continue honing their work. An ICAP mentor will be assigned to each team and considered the team’s primary mentor. This mentor will also provide guidance and insight about potential next steps for pursuing funding. Other counselors, technical advisors, and experienced serial entrepreneurs will be available for support and consultation with the teams throughout the program and beyond. Connection with these advisors and tech mentors is enabled even after the conclusion of the program.
Attendance at the four in-person sessions, held in Arlington, is mandatory for the PIs and the entrepreneurial lead. Grant funds may be used to cover travel and accommodation expenses related to these in-person sessions. Please ensure you are available during the in-person dates (see schedule) before submitting an application.
|Date and Time
|I-Corps Session 1
|July 8, 8 a.m. to noon
|I-Corps Session 2
|July 9, 8 a.m. to noon
|I-Corps Session 3
|July 10, 8 a.m. to noon
|I-Corps Session 4
|July 17, 8 a.m. to noon
|I-Corps Session 5
|July 24, 8 a.m. to noon
|I-Corps Independent Customer Discovery
|Meetings with Tech Mentors as Needed
|ICAP Session Five
|July 27, 8 a.m. to noon
|Independent customer discovery
|Meetings with tech mentors as needed
|Check-in, Session One
|Aug. 13, 20-minute blocks from 5 to 8 p.m.
|SBDC: Launching and Running a New Business Entity (Michael Mort)
|Aug. 14, 6 to 8 p.m.
|Check-in, Session Two
|Aug. 21, 20-minute blocks from 4 to 8 p.m.
|Tech Transfer (David Grossman) and Commercialization Pathways (Callye Keen)
|Aug. 26, 6 to 8 p.m.
|VIPC Funding –SIBR/STTR / Commercialization Grants (Sean Mallon & Hina Mehta)
|September, date TBD, 6 to 7 p.m.
|Pitch Workshop –Content & Presentation Skills (Irfan Ali, Gisele Stolz, & Jason Hines, CEO Gigasheet)
|Sept. 4, 6 to 7 p.m.
|How to write an SBIR/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Proposal (Robert Brooke)
|Sept. 22, 6 to 7 p.m.
|Debrief & progress report with CCI+A team (30-minute one-on-one sessions)
|Sept. 22 to 25, 4 to 7 p.m.
|Bootcamp with CEOs, customers, government/PTAC + investor roundtables
|Sept. 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
|George Mason University, Mason Square's Fuse Pilot Space, Arlington, Va.
|Pitch practice session with SBDC and ICAP mentors
|Sept. 18 (one-on-one scheduled sessions)
|CCI + PTAC Industry Day Department of Defense (DOD)/Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (TBC) (in-person event)
|Sept. 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
|George Mason University, Mason Square's Fuse Pilot Space, Arlington, Va.
|Pitch event with stakeholders, investors
|Oct. 10, 4 to 8 p.m.
|Pitch event with stakeholders, investors (in-person event)
|Oct. 11, 4 to 8 p.m.
|George Mason University, Mason Square's Fuse Pilot Space, Arlington, Va.
|Accelerate Event 2023
|Army-Navy Club, Arlington, Va.