Supporting UWM’s Best and Brightest Researchers

The Catalyst Grant Program supports discovery – the creation of new knowledge – and innovation – bringing ideas to the broadest possible audience through commercialization.  Successful grants must be built on strong science as judged by expert reviewers and clear commercialization outcomes that move technologies closer to market.  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.

$36.6 MM

Phase 17 begins December 21, 2023.


Information emailed via Constant Contact at 12pm.


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Focus Areas

This 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. This program seeks to emphasize research areas that complement regional capabilities, including:

Any department or area of UWM-based research that demonstrates commercial potential is eligible to apply for this program. Past examples include:

  • Biomedical Engineering – including biomedical imaging,
  • Advanced Automation – including software, devices, and sensors,
  • Connected Systems and Internet of Things
  • Data Science
  • Materials – including advanced nanomaterials, sustainable materials
  • Biochemistry and Drug Discovery,
  • Water – including advanced sensors, point-of-use technologies, and sustainable solutions,
  • Energy – including novel techniques for energy generation, storage, and sustainable designs,
    • NEW 2023: Invenergy has donated $50,000 specifically to support Clean Energy

Sub-categories include:

          • Clean energy – wind, solar, offshore wind,
          • Energy storage,
          • Energy Transmission,
          • Clean hydrogen,
          • Clean water/desalination,
  • Healthcare – including software applications and medical devices,
  • Other – other program areas based on well demonstrated commercial potential.


Investigators will be asked to submit a short abstract of one to three pages. A limited number of full proposals will be invited based on assessment of the commercial and intellectual property potential by the UWM Research Foundation. Full proposals will be reviewed by external reviewers. Final recommendations to the funding organization(s) will be made based on external assessments and commercial assessment by the UWM Research Foundation.

Download Grant Materials (click in the circles below):

  1. Program Summary
  2. Abstract Template
  3. Full Application Packet and Instructions

Application & Instructions (Full Proposal - By invitation) Available in February

**Abstracts should be submitted in PDF form to: This short abstract should not exceed three total pages. Budget, CV and WISPER record are not required at the abstract stage. A complete budget is not required at this stage, as well.



  • 12/21/23:             Call for abstracts
  • 1/26/24:               Deadline for submission of abstracts – by 5:00 PM
  • End of March:      Invitations for full proposals issued
  • 4/2/24:               I-Corps Customer Discovery Mini-Course Optional Date 1 –4:30-6:00pm @ LEC, AmFam Studio
  • 4/4/23:              I-Corps Customer Discovery Mini-Course Optional Date 2 –12:00-1:30pm @ LEC, AmFam Studio
  • 4/22/24:               Deadline for full proposals – by 5:00 PM
  • May 2024:           Scientific review of full proposals
  • June 2024:   Final selection of proposals and begin donor approval process.
  • Late July 2024:   Target for notification of awards
  • Award period:     Target beginning 8/1/24

Evaluation Criteria

Qualification Criteria:

  • Field of Study – sciences, engineering, healthcare, or other areas identified
  • UWM Researchers – project is for UWM-based research;
  • Funding Period – funding period shall be for up to one year;
  • Amount of Funding – project funding between up to $50,000 for catalyst grants and $10,000 to $30,000 for gap fund awards.
  • Intellectual Property – research must relate to an active intellectual property matter with the UWM Research Foundation (disclosure, patent application, or issued patent).  Investigators who do not currently have an active matter may submit an invention disclosure along with the abstract.

Scientific Evaluation:

Scientific reviewers will be asked to prioritize all reviewed proposals and rank proposals against national standards (top 10%, next 40%, bottom 50%)

  • Quality – Excellence and novelty of concept, approach, and methodology; clarity and appropriateness of project plans; desirability and impact of potential results on the national and international scholarly community
  • Return – Return on investment (ROI) through extramural funding or commercialization [expectation: 3X requested seed funding from external sources, potential for intellectual property, licensing revenue, corporate partnerships, start up companies and other commercial return measures]
  • Risk – Availability of necessary skills and experience, likelihood of achieving the intended outcomes; probability of securing extramural funding or engaging in commercialization; and potential for self-sustainability after the seed investment phase

Investor Evaluation Criteria for Gap Fund Applications:

Applications will be reviewed by entrepreneurs and/or investors and asked to rank proposals based on the following criteria:

  • Commercial Return – Ability of the project to advance a technology toward commercialization – through a key proof of concept, prototype development, cooperative research effort with a company or other means. Commercialization may be measured by completion of a license agreement, launch of a startup company or ability to secure outside investment.

Programmatic/Commercial Criteria:

Qualifying grants will be reviewed by the UWM Research Foundation following the program’s goal of fostering economic development and made based on the following criteria:

  • Intellectual Property – current intellectual property, potential for future patents, freedom to operate, strength of potential intellectual property claims
  • Market Assessment – total market size, addressable market, other market dynamics
  • Licensing Potential – potential licensees, assessment of license revenue potential
  • Corporate Partnerships – potential for corporate partnerships and/or startups, tie-in with regional industrial clusters


One of the goals of the program is to foster the development of intellectual property and the commercialization of UWM technologies. It is a requirement of the program that the proposed work be directly related to an active intellectual property matter with the UWM Research Foundation. This may include an invention disclosure already submitted to UWMRF, a new invention disclosure related to the proposal (new disclosures should be submitted in advance of the abstract deadline), an active patent application (provisional or utility application), an issued patent managed by UWMRF or an active copyright matter.

New invention disclosures should be submitted through the UWMRF Inventor Portal here.


Confirmation: You should receive a confirmation that your abstract 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: Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, 414-906-4684; or Jessica Silvaggi,, 414-906-4654.

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.


UWM Success Stories

Dr. Junhong Chen received one of the first catalyst grants in 2008, and his Catalyst Grant award in 2011 was instrumental in refining the sensor platform that is the basis for his startup company, NanoAffix Science, LLC., that is working to bring a novel sensor technology patented and licensed by the UWMRF to market. Since then, Dr. Chen has attracted more than $7.7 million in grants and received more than a dozen awards from the National Science Foundation for his innovative research.

Dr. Dave Clark’s Catalyst Grant in 2014 was a pilot project to examine ways to create software tools to serve a need he had identified among regional companies. Dr. Clark participated in the NSF Milwaukee I-Corps Program as well as the national I-Corps program where he and his team conducted more than 200 customer interviews. Informed by the valuable market insight, Dr. Clark is using his 2016 Catalyst Grant to create the first marketable product.

Catalyst Grants (2012 and 2014) were instrumental in the creation of UWM’s latest startup company, SafeLi, LLC., launched in 2017 by Dr. Carol Hirschmugl and Dr. Marija Gajdardziska-Josifovska.  Through the NSF I-Corps entrepreneurial training program, the team was able to define a target market for their technologies.  They have recently completed a license agreement with the UWMRF, and are pursuing support to prove the technology in battery applications.