VCU expands fund that supports innovation, entrepreneurial ideas

Virginia Commonwealth University is expanding its program that awards funding to the most innovative and entrepreneurial ideas at the university.

The Quest Innovation Fund, which was designed to support the growth of VCU’s culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, is being expanded to three funding pools that reflect VCU’s important role in the Richmond-area economy, as well as key components of the university’s strategic plan, Quest For Distinction.

“Quest for Distinction articulates a vision for VCU as a premier urban, public research institution focused on student success, innovative research, human health and community impact,” said Nicole Colomb Monk, enterprise and economic development executive in VCU Innovation Gateway in the Office of Research and Innovation. “This fund will allow our students, faculty and staff to participate in making our strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, a reality.”  

As part of the expansion, this year’s Quest Innovation Fund will support three types of activities:

This pool of funds is essentially the same as previous Quest funding rounds. Its aim is to support innovative pilot initiatives at VCU that help realize the strategic plan, Quest for Distinction. Traditionally, these “disruptively innovative ideas” have created a service, program or initiative that improves what we are doing in a creative and unique manner. Applicants can be awarded up to $20,000.

New this year, this pool of funds seeks to support and encourage entrepreneurial activity at VCU, including startup grants and paid pre-acceleration programs. Developing students with this agile training is critical to fulfilling future workforce needs and further supports the economy by producing graduates who are job creators as opposed to job seekers. Applicants can be awarded up to $5,000.

Also new this year, this pool of funding focuses on advancing research projects toward commercialization. It’s important to note that most inventions developed at VCU are in the concept phase. With these funds, VCU’s goal is to identify technologies with commercial potential and support “proof of concept” work that will de-risk these technologies and help attract other partners that can take the technologies to market, where they can benefit society as a whole. Applicants can be awarded up to $50,000.

The deadline to apply for this year’s Quest Innovation Fund will be 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 30. Successful applicants will be notified no later than January 2016.

The updated Quest Innovation Fund is part of VCU’s ongoing efforts to support the more than 3,300 full- and part-time faculty attracting more than $262.3 million in sponsored research and the university’s more than 31,000 students, including half who are interested in starting their own company.

“As always, the fund aims to support innovators, encourage bold thinkers and sponsor risk takers,” Colomb Monk said. “These activities are an integral part of life at VCU, and proof that ‘Make it real’ is not just a tagline for our billboards — it’s VCU’s mantra.”

As always, the fund aims to support innovators, encourage bold thinkers and sponsor risk takers.

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