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Cyber Acceleration (Catapult) Fund

Due: April 29, 2022 (accepted on rolling basis)

Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI)

Cyber Acceleration, Translation, and Advanced Prototyping for University Linked Technology (CATAPULT)

The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is committed to working together with key partners in Virginia, including academic, government, and industry partners to accelerate the translation of academic cybersecurity innovations to the marketplace, including through the development, management, and marketing of intellectual property (IP); incubation and acceleration support provided to small businesses including mentorship, legal and business consulting, access to student workers, customer discovery support, and facilitating access to seed stage and VC funding, among other things; and the provision of cohort-based, bootcamp-style entrepreneurship training for innovators, faculty, and students.

In 2022, CCI will support a Cyber Acceleration, Translation, and Advanced Prototyping for University Linked Technology (CATAPULT) Fund to advance collaborative translational research projects among CCI partners, with the goal of speeding the transition of academic research outcomes to the marketplace. The CATAPULT Fund will support 4-8 awards of up to $50,000, with funding increments released based on achievement of agreed upon milestones. The CATAPULT Fund is an important tool in the CCI’s innovation toolbox, providing funding critical to advance the maturity of cyber discoveries during the critical “Valley of Death” phase of commercialization defined by the National Science Foundation. During this phase, innovators are preparing for SBIR or CRCF grants to assist in product development and market testing, but they are not quite prepared for outside investment. The CATAPULT Fund will help innovation teams pay for critical resources, personnel and time to test products, and get initial market feedback critical to obtaining Seed or Angel funding.

These grants will also enable recipients’ participation in the Commonwealth Cyber Incubator + Accelerator (CCI+A) that is being launched in early 2022 on the new Digital Innovation Pilot facility on the Arlington campus of George Mason University. CCI+A will offer: (1) a bootcamp-style program to rapidly move new technologies forward; (2) support for customer discovery efforts; (3) opportunities for cyber startups to engage with potential industry and government partners and DMV and Commonwealth-based customers; (4) opportunities for customer engagement; (5) opportunities to bring university innovation to industry and government for feedback and collaboration; (6) industry and government collaboration opportunities for cyber faculty on technical work and product testing; (7) opportunities for training students to work in cyber startups; (8) engagement with meaningful student projects; (9) cyber-focused hack-a-thons; (10) cybersecurity-focused workshops, meetings and collider events with government agencies and industry; and (11) 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.

CCI+A will leverage the knowledge base and experience of the Mason Enterprise Centers (MECs) to provide mentorship from volunteer industry experts who have deep knowledge and experience in the the cybersecurity and technology domains, resources, startup services (including free legal and business consulting), investment-based funding, access to rent-free physical space the Digital Innovation Pilot facility on the Arlington campus of George Mason University, and a set of educational programs for each cohort.

Schedule

Call released

Feb. 14, 2022

Notice of intent to submit proposal

March 14, 2022 (preferred date but accepting proposals on rolling basis)

Full proposals due

5 p.m. April 29, 2022 (proposals continue to be accepted on a rolling basis) 

Award announced

May 30, 2022 (approximate date)

Period of performance

May 31, 2022 - May 31, 2023


 

Eligibility

Who May Serve as PI:

To be eligible for CATAPULT Fund support, proposals must be submitted by a Virginia-based innovation team (e.g. a Virginia-based early stage start-up, or team of faculty/students at Virginia public institution of higher education) consisting of at least one faculty member from a Virginia public institution of higher education who will serve as the PI. If the IP is sourced from the faculty PI, then the faculty member must also complete and file an invention disclosure with the relevant tech transfer office at their home institution when a proposal is submitted.

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 (PI) on an external grant are eligible to apply.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Institution:

  • There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI:

  • An eligible researcher serving as PI may participate in only one (1) proposal submission.

Expressions of intent:

Principal investigators (PIs) intending to submit a proposal must send a brief email expression of intent to submit proposal to NoVACCI@gmu.edu by March 14, 2022 (preferred date, but accepted on rolling basis). This email expression of intent should contain:

  • Name and affiliation of the PI, contact information (name, phone, email), the title of the innovation team, a title of the project concept, and brief description of the IP or research that is expected to be used in the planned proposal.
  • Name, phone numbers, and email of each current team member. Additional team members may be added after submission of Letter of Intent.

Awards

Total Amount of Funding for this Program:

$400,000

Maximum Award Amount:

$50,000 per proposal

Award Conditions:

Successful applicants are expected to participate fully in the activities of CCI 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 (CCI).

Proposal Format

Proposals submitted must include the following sections:

Title page (1 page)

Title of the proposed project, and the name, affiliation, and contact information for the Principal Investigator (PI) and each team member

Summary (limit 1 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 3 pages): 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 thecompany 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.

Project Plan (limit 4 pages): Describe in detail the proposed work plan to take the technology from research to practice, including the overall strategy, key milestones, and expected product outcomes), as well as provide citations to existing research and applications already tested and validated. Include a timetable with detailed milestones (including the key milestones noted above) that can be used to evaluate progress throughout the project towards commercialization, as well as anticipated results for each milestone along with an explanation of how meeting each milestone will move the project toward commercialization. In setting out the project plan, please emphasize any novel aspects associated with the project and be sure to identify and flag key risks associated with the project. Provide specific references to any key literature.

Budget (limit 1 page): Provide a detailed budget for the work proposed. No indirect costs may be charged. Note all resources will be awarded to the faculty PI who may then make subawards to partners, as applicable.

Proposals will be reviewed by a group of corporate executives and investment experts working with the NoVA Node of the CCI to evaluate the commercial potential of the related cyber innovations, and the CCI+A leadership team. The review committee will review proposals against appropriate criteria and recommend awardees to the CCI+A leadership team which will account for such recommendations in the course of its review and award decisions.

Please direct questions to NoVaCCI@gmu.edu