October 26, 2018

$500,000 Innovation Fund launched for early-stage discoveries at UAB

Written by

Written by: Briana Bryant

Media contact: Alicia Rohan



innovation fund streamMany times, research and innovation projects need additional funding to bridge the gap between ideation and commercialization. The Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has established a $500,000 Innovation Fund to support development of early-stage discoveries and promising new university start-ups.

Beginning January 1, UAB investigators whose research has demonstrated commercial potential may apply for up to $35,000 in funding to further develop technologies, including creating prototypes, conducting critical life science experiments, completing software coding or user interface development, initiating Beta testing and researching customer demand and market validation.

“The Innovation Fund builds on the university’s research, innovation and economic development strategic mission pillar,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “Our local innovation ecosystem is more promising than ever, and this program provides another way UAB research can continue to support the Birmingham startup pipeline.”

Initial funding opportunities will be offered on a competitive basis and governed by a milestone-driven approach to ensure discoveries progress quickly through development. Awards will support two distinct phases of commercialization: the bridge funding phase of applications development inside the research institution and the seed stage phase of company establishment.

Funding awards may be influenced by the amount of matching funds available from the investigator’s school or unit, and other opportunities. Priority will be given for projects by market opportunity and the likelihood that Innovation Fund monies will influence overall commercial impact.

For more information about the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit uab.edu/innovation or contact Briana Bryant at 205-934-2838 or bebryant@uab.edu.

“The Innovation Fund is designed to help address the growing challenge of lapses in funding between grants and venture investment,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., executive director of the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Our mission in launching the Fund is to support projects that have a high chance for impact but are unlikely to get there without gap funding and seed investment.”

With total research expenditures exceeding $562 million annually, UAB is a powerhouse for academic, clinical and research innovation. Such initiatives are already generating successful commercialization outcomes with revenue from licenses, options and royalties exceeding $6 million in fiscal year 2018.

The institute is launching the fund with an initial $500,000 investment and hoping to grow the program over time through reinvestment of future revenue from portfolio sales and fundraising. Applications will be accepted each spring and fall.

“Our office focuses on facilitating the rapid development of new ideas, products and technologies and preparing faculty, students and researchers to become entrepreneurs in an increasingly technology-driven ecosystem,” Nugent said. “We think contributing the initial funding from the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship shows how invested we are in that goal.” 

An advisory board of local community stakeholders has been assembled to vet companies and oversee distribution of funding awards.

“This is an exciting time for Birmingham’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said James W. Childs, partner, Maynard Cooper & Gale and chair of the Innovation Fund’s advisory board. “UAB plays a lead role in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship that works within the framework of the city. The launch of this innovation fund will help leverage UAB’s tremendous research engine to create new companies that will grow Birmingham and its economy.”

Spring applications will be available at uab.edu/innovation beginning January 1, 2019.