Supporting UWM’s Entrepreneurs and their Ventures

The Bridge Grant Program bolsters efforts to commercialize innovations developed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and foster the development of startup companies that improve the Wisconsin economy.  The program leverages the grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Capital Catalyst Program to invest in early stage startup enterprises developed at UWM. Now more than ever our startups need help to bridge the so-called valley of death faced by most entrepreneurial leaders.

UWM has a broad array of scientists working in many fields of discovery, and commercialization outcomes vary depending on the stage of discovery or the technology.  But in all cases, the common thread is the dedicated and creative researchers – faculty, students, and staff – that make it all happen. The Program is designed to focus on areas where UWM has the greatest potential to impact the local economy through commercialization activities including science and engineering.

UWMRF is still looking for donors to support this program. If you are interested in supporting, please contact Jessica Silvaggi.

Next call for proposals will begin December 2022.

Thank you.



Focus Areas

Any start-up product/service type is eligible for funding. The Bridge Grant Program will make “Gap Fund” awards to foster development of projects further along the continuum toward commercialization.


Full proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee of five members. The committee will include judges such as angel investors, venture capital investors, serial entrepreneurs, business development leaders in industry, or senior research leaders in industry. Each application will be scored.


  • 12/16/20: Call for proposals
  • 02/10/21: Deadline for full proposals – by 5:00 PM
  • 03/08/2021: Scientific review of full proposals
  • A03/12/2021: Target for notification of awards
  • 05/01/2021: Target beginning of award period

Evaluation Criteria

Qualification Criteria:

  • Applicant must be formed/registered LLC or corporation
  • Applicant must have intellectual property owned by UWMRF, a license agreement in place with UWMRF, UWMRF holds an equity share in the company, or submit a new invention disclosure for consideration
  • UWM team member (employee or student) must be part of the start-up or must have licensed IP from UWMRF; proof of affiliation
  • Strength of the team and their advisors
  • Must have completed a customer discovery program such as I-Corps, UWM Student Startup Challenge, or Ideadvance or commit to participate in such a program in the year of funding in order to qualify
  • Solid description of the business case/technology
  • Description of any intellectual property
  • Go to market plan
  • Quality of the opportunity and competitive advantage
  • Specific milestones to be selected for advancement using the grant funding (one or more)
  • Exit plan if applicable
  • Description of partnerships planned or needed
  • Applicants must have raised an aggregate of less than $5M as a formed company from investments or commercialization type grants such as SBIR/STTR


Eligible Costs:  Applicants are expected to justify their funding requests based on specific milestones to be reached. Eligible expenses can include, but are not limited to:

  • Business services
  • Software Developer Service Fee
  • Business filing fees
  • Market research reports helping you to strategize assumptions to test
  • Market research (focus groups; surveys; etc.)
  • Travel expenses especially for conferences and customer discovery calls
  • Development /Project Management Tools
  • Legal/Accounting expenses
  • Office/lab rent
  • Subscription to data services
  • Web/hosting services
  • Analytic tools
  • Prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) development
  • Training and education
  • Beta testing/free trials


Ineligible expenses include:

  • Basic research support
  • Fringe benefits


Investor Evaluation Criteria for Gap Fund ApplicationsReviewers will be asked to rank the proposals based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment of milestones to Bridge Fund mission and eligibility
  • Quality of market opportunity and competitive advantage
  • Strength of team to move forward
  • Impact of milestones to advance commercialization efforts and reduce risk
  • Impact of the proposed use of funds
  • Overall likelihood that the product will offer a significant and competitive advantage to customers


Confirmation: You should receive a confirmation that your proposal has been received within one business day of submitting it.  If you do not receive a confirmation email, please contact the UWM Research Foundation immediately.

Questions should be directed to the UWM Research Foundation:  Jessica Silvaggi,, 414-906-4654 or Brian Thompson,, 414-906-4653

Commercializing Ideas through
the NSF I-Corps Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) created the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program to help accelerate the transfer of academic research into the marketplace.  Leading entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley have worked to adapt the “lean launch” methodology for faculty around the country to help researchers better understand the markets of their technologies. In 2015, UWM and the UWM Research Foundation were awarded a three-year grant from NSF to bring this important program to Milwaukee, creating the first NSF I-Corps Site in Wisconsin. This methodology is a natural complement to the Catalyst Grant Program.  The Catalyst Grant Program pairs strong science with strong commercial potential, and I-Corps helps researchers understand and validate the commercial potential for their work.  Several teams funded by Catalyst Grants have used I-Corps to better understand the path to market.  And I-Corps is now used on the front end of the Catalyst Grant Program.