Innovation Grant

The Innovation Grant provides researchers at SMU initial funding to facilitate the process of commercialising technologies. The Innovation Grant will be offered through a competitive application process to projects that meet the eligibility and evaluation criteria of the Grant.

Size of Grant

The Grant is for a sum up to $250,000 SGD and will be awarded for the development and delivery of a well-defined business opportunity attractive to start-up company formation or licensing to a commercial firm, especially in the following areas:

  • Fintech
  • Data Analytics
  • Cyber Security
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Smart Cities (Logistics, Mobility, Healthcare, Leisure & Tourism, Safety & Security, Education)

SMU may collaborate with corporates/industry partners to run specific Challenge Statement in the areas listed above to administer the Grant, with potential additional funds sponsored by the corporates/industry partners.

The sum of $250,000 SGD will be for one year and subject for renewal. The disbursement is based on actual expenses and work carried out during the Grant period, in the form of reimbursement.

Timeline

Timeline

Eligibility

  • Lead Principal Investigator (PI)(must be SMU faculty)
  • CxO/Entrepreneur Lead (SMU student or others, ideally someone who works in the same lab, e.g. PhD student, Post Doc or familiar with the technology) who can take the business forward
  • A volunteer industry mentor (optional)

Project that has preferably passed the publication stage, working on demo/prototype of the technology, and has higher Technology Readiness Level (TRL). A multi-disciplinary project team is strongly encouraged and will be given priority.

Evaluation Criteria & Application Process

Evaluation for funding will follow a simple two stage process.

Stage 1: Pre-proposal

This stage will focus on the following:

  • Ensuring that the Pre-proposal includes all the necessary information required;
  • This may include a meeting with the grant coordinator to enable the applicant to provide clarity in any areas that the grant coordinator feels is lacking;
  • Shortlisted project teams will be matched with industry mentor to work on the full proposal. Teams may attend training workshops available to prepare them for the full proposal submission.

Stage 2: Full Proposal and Evaluation by Evaluation Panel
An Evaluation Panel will be convened to evaluate the full proposals and make a decision on which project to fund.

The Evaluation Panel will include the following:

  • Entrepreneur-in-Residence, SMU Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Members from academic, research, industry, government and investment sectors
  • Subject matter expert relevant to the proposal
  • Team mentor (observer)

The proposals will be evaluated on the following parameters.

1. Value Proposition and Impact

  • What is the important societal need to be addressed? Addressable market size?
  • Why will your approach be compelling?
  • What are the benefits per costs (i.e., value) for society from this approach?
  • Why is that new value significantly better than the competition and alternatives?
  • What are the expected market impacts (societal and economic) of the proposed work if successful?

2. Team

  • Who are the team members and what are their relevant experiences and roles in the project?
  • Have any of the team members established a start-up related to the work? Who on your team would be part of a start-up company if one were formed?
  • Does the team have key partnerships (collaborators from industry, etc.) that will enable faster development of the technology and shorten the time to market?

How To Apply

  1. Submit your Pre-Proposal, a brief document explaining the invention and the team’s initial plans for commercialization to Roger Chen.
    Download the pre-proposal template here.
  2. Successful applicants will be invited to meet with Grant coordinator and subsequently submit a full proposal.
    Download the full proposal template here.

Terms & Conditions

SMU Commercialisation Grant carries with it certain expectations and obligations, as outlined below:

Industry Mentor

  • IE would assign a matching mentor to all teams that are selected for full proposal submission.
  • Mentors will work with the team to develop the full proposal
  • Mentors will continue to help the team should the team is selected for the award
  • Setting milestones at the various stages of the project;
  • Provide guidance & advise on possible pivoting if necessary
  • Ensure milestones are delivered on time
  • Provide independent feedback on team’s performance
  • Profile of the Mentor: Ex or retired CxOs of large corporates, General partner of venture firms

Disbursement of the Funds

The grant may be disbursed in tranches, based on the recommendations put up by the Evaluation Panel i.e. milestone based. For example, $20,000 might be given to a project team to perform further market validation as a start.

Disbursements will be based on the actual expenses, in the form of reimbursement. Original invoices/receipts for expenditures made are required.

Use of Funds

Funding shall be used for innovative research as described in the submitted proposal. The list of items that are eligible to be claimed under the SMU Innovation Grant is provided below:

Supportable Activities Supportable Items
Project and related costs Manpower and related costs

  • Student attachment allowance
  • Research assistant/engineer/post-doc

Expenditure on Equipment

  • Purchase of equipment is only permitted for those which are directly related to the commercialisation of the research and is not available in current premises.
  • Repair and maintenance of research equipment

Other Operating Expenditure

  • Use of services and laboratory spaces within or outside SMU’s central facilities
  • Pilot testing/User acquisition
  • Transportation, postage and courier services directly related to the research project.
Programmes for researchers to explore research commercialisation

Training and development costs which may include participation in technology commercialisation related conferences, workshops and programmes that could enable building of staff knowledge and expertise.

Intellectual Property

Background IP

“Background IP” (or BIP) is defined as any existing IP brought by parties into a collaboration funded under the Innovation Grant. “Foreground IP” (or FIP) is defined as new IP developed as a result of the collaboration funded under the Commercialisation Grant.

All collaborators involved in projects or collaborations funded by SMU will grant each other free access to any BIP necessary for the purpose of carrying out the research collaboration to develop potential FIP. Exceptions to this may be made in cases where the BIP is already encumbered, e.g. where prior licensing or other arrangements prevent free access to parties other than the IP owner, even for research purposes only. However, in such instances, the team should assess whether the encumbered BIP is critical for developing and exploiting any potential FIP, and make an informed decision on how to proceed with the intended collaboration.

No party is allowed to use, disclose or license another party's BIP, outside of the scope allowed for in the above paragraph, without the relevant BIP owner’s approval.

The FIP owner or its designated commercialisation entity will request in writing to the BIP owner to provide information on any licence rights that may be available with respect to the BIP that would be necessary for the subsequent commercialisation of the FIP. If the FIP owner or its designated commercialisation entity, so requests in writing, such BIP owner shall, to the extent not prevented by then-existing agreements or obligations to the contrary, for at least six (6) months following such request, refrain from granting any exclusive licence under such BIP that would prevent the grant of a non-exclusive license to the FIP owner or its designated commercialisation entity. If necessary for the subsequent commercialisation of FIP, the terms and conditions for the use of any BIP should be negotiated separately with the relevant BIP owner.

Foreground IP Disclosures of new FIP shall be formally evaluated by SMU to determine who should be listed as their inventor(s)/creator(s) under SMU’s policies. Only those who are determined as inventor(s) or creator(s) may be listed as such.

FIP shall be owned by SMU. SMU retains the right to use and exploit the FIP when negotiating IP ownership rights in collaborative projects with the relevant industry.

All those who have made inventive/creative contributions to the development of the FIP shall receive a share of the benefits. A portion of the net IP revenue (i.e. the amount remaining after deducting administrative costs for IP commercialisation and patenting, and applicable taxes, if any) shall be shared with inventor(s)/creator(s) and SMU as well as the employer of the other inventor(s)/creator(s) if any, in a fair manner, based on a formula agreed upon upfront in writing. The balance of such revenue, after the respective portions have been distributed to reward those who have made inventive/creative contributions to the development of the FIP, shall be allocated to support further research/innovation.

Assignment of the FIP to third parties shall only be undertaken after due consideration of the facts and circumstances, and with the necessary approval from SMU, and taking into consideration that assignment of such IP:

  1. Shall not be against the public interest of Singapore; and
  2. Shall not restrain the freedom of SMU to further use, develop or exploit the IP, either through further research and/or collaboration.

SMU shall be notified, in writing, in advance of the assignment of any FIP to third parties.

Disclosure Management and Publications The project team should play a proactive role to effectively protect, commercialise and exploit intellectual assets or IP arising from the funded research. This includes ensuring that disclosures of new IP are promptly reported by their project teams.

All publications of any material (including web pages) based on or developed under Innovation Grant must include an acknowledgement of SMU’s support as follows: “This material is based on research/work supported by the Singapore Management University’s Commercialisation Grant.” SMU’s support should also be acknowledged orally during all news and media interviews.

Except for articles or papers published in scientific, technical or professional journals, the following disclaimer must also be included in all publications arising from the funded research: “Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of SMU.”

SMU’s policies and requirements in terms of publication approval and submission processes would apply. SMU would ensure that commercialisable research results are appropriately protected and suitable processes are in place to facilitate this.

Information on disclosures of new IP, patents and publications arising from the funded research should be provided to SMU in the progress reports submitted.

FAQs

  1. What kind of innovation projects are eligible to apply for the grant?
    The grant is mainly for the technology innovation, to support SMU researchers with the commercialisation of the technologies.

  2. At what stage of my research am I eligible to apply for the grant?
    The grant is for the research projects that have passed the publication stage, ideally already in demo/prototype or later development stage of the technology, has higher Technology Readiness Level that are ready for commercialisation.

  3. Must projects secure an IP first before applying for the grant?
    IP is desired but not a must to apply for the grant, as long as the proposed solution demonstrates strong defensibility/protectability.

  4. Should a company be incorporated before submitting a grant application?
    No. It’s not advisable to incorporate a company at the point of grant application. It would complicate the disbursement process due to the nature of the grant, which is meant for SMU research projects, rather than a business entity.

  5. Is there a minimum time commitment for the Principal Investigator (PI) to be involved in the project?
    No. There is no mandatory time commitment for the PI to be involved in the project. It is up to the team to decide on each member’s contribution in terms of time commitment.

  6. If a SMU research staff is currently fully funded by another grant, and he/she would like to join the team to apply for the SMU Commercialisation Grant, can he/she be funded by the Commercialisation Grant at the same time should the team be awarded?
    No. There should not be double funding in all circumstances. PIs are allowed to propose alternative solutions, e.g. 50% funding from each grant to support the research staff to avoid a conflict of interest.

  7. In the event of IP being co-owned by SMU and corporate partners, can the PI apply for the Innovation Grant?
    If the corporate partner has the first right of refusal to commercialisation, the PI will not be able to take it forward and apply for the grant, unless he/she obtains the approval from the corporate partner.

  8. Do applications need to be endorsed by School Dean before they reach IIE?
    The SMU Commercialisation Grant is an internal grant, hence the endorsement by School Dean is not necessary. The application is made directly to IIE.

  9. Will the evaluation be more focused on the business model and commercialisation and less on technology?
    The evaluation will strike a balance between both technology and commercialisation considerations.

  10. Can the Lead PI be a research staff working in the lab, but not part of the SMU Faculty?
    No, the Lead PI must be part of the SMU Faculty (including adjunct faculty).

  11. Is there any restriction on the nationality of the PI?
    No, as long as the PI is a member of the SMU Faculty, he/she is eligible to apply.

  12. When a start-up company is formed out of the project, will SMU decide on the share distribution among PI and the team members?
    No, the project team can decide on the share distribution among themselves.

  13. Is detailed revenue projection required as part of the evaluation criteria?
    No, it is not required.

  14. Will the university impose a 30% overhead charge on the SMU Innovation Grant?
    IIE will be responsible for any overhead charge imposed on the SMU Innovation Grant.

  15. Will SMU support the cost of filing a patent application as a result of the SMU Innovation Grant?
    If you have an invention, please disclose your invention by filling up the Innovation Disclosure Form (found here) and submitting to the SMU Office of Research & Tech Transfer (ORTT) (ortt@smu.edu.sg). ORTT will evaluate the invention to determine the best strategy for IP protection. If the University decides to apply for a patent for the invention, the cost of the patent application will be supported by ORTT. You can also refer to the SMU IP Policy for more information.

  16. During the grant application process, in view of the project being exposed to the evaluation panel as well as the assigned mentors, how do you safeguard the interests of the SMU Faculty as the owner of the technology?
    All the panel members and assigned mentors will be required to sign a NDA to keep the privacy and confidentiality of the technology revealed.

  17. How much market validation should be done for the Pre-proposal submission?
    The team should have done some preliminary market research to be able to address the following questions:

    • Who are the target customers for this product?

    • What is the market need?

    • Why would they buy the product?

    • How big is the market and how would the technology fit?

    • What do you know about your potential customers and who have you talked with in that market to validate your ideas?

    • Explain how your proposed solution would be economically attractive and competitive. Part of the grant can be utilised to conduct further market validation if required.

  18. Can the grant be used to pay the PI’s time involvement in the project?
    No. The grant is not allowed to be utilised to pay for the PI’s time in any form, i.e. honorarium, buy-out for teaching time etc. Given that PIs will be granted equity in the startup companies, hence PIs’ time is considered a form of investment for his/her future.

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