The University of Southern California Launches Gap Funding and Mentoring Program for Faculty and Student Teams

Jun 08, 2010, 13:00 ET from University of Southern California

"Ideas Empowered" Program Provides $50k and Mentoring for Proof-of-Concept Experiments and Prototype Development

LOS ANGELES, June 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The University of Southern California today announced the launch of the USC "Ideas Empowered" program, a new two-year pilot program managed by the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation designed to bridge the gap between ideas and the marketplace, and to support the hand-on participation of students in that process.  The Ideas Empowered program will help identify the most exciting and game-changing ideas arising from research at USC, reduce the development and investment risks around these promising early discoveries, and bring together the elements necessary to translate the discoveries to the market.

This program will support both the idea and the innovator through mentoring and coaching, connections to resources, and funding of typically $50K for proof-of-concept experiments and prototype development. This program is open to all full-time tenure-track or non-tenure track faculty. Teams can include USC faculty, students and staff members.  

"Many barriers prevent academic ideas from turning into real products, companies, and organizational change. Most notably, there is a well-recognized 'funding gap' between idea and seed-stage investing that makes it difficult for university innovators to complete technical viability and proof-of-concept work," said Krisztina "Z" Holly, Vice Provost for Innovation at the University of Southern California and the Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. "The Ideas Empowered program will support groundbreaking projects emerging from USC research that, with a small amount of funding, some mentoring, and other programmatic support, could "spin out" of the university within a year or two and have great impact."

The Ideas Empowered program has already attracted an influential board of Charter Members, including James C. Blair, General Partner at Domain Associates; Ken Klein, USC Trustee and President of Wind River; David Lane, General Partner at ONSET Ventures; Andy Rappaport from the Rappaport Family Foundation and a General Partner at August Capital; and Mark Stevens, USC Trustee and General Partner at Sequoia Capital. The invitation-only group of Charter Members is helping architect and financially support the program. They will join a larger group of experts on and off campus who will also help review proposals and mentor projects.

Applications will be assessed on the level of commitment and quality of the team, the level of potential scalability and economic and societal impact of the proposed project, the novelty and feasibility of the idea, and the level to which the program adequately matches the project needs to attract outside investment. Priority will be given to teams with pioneering ideas, and committed team including at least one student researcher, and a feasible plan to attract investment within a year or so.

Successful projects could spin out in a number of ways: attracting investment to establish a high-growth start-up company, licensing to a corporation that invests resources to turn the intellectual property into a new product or service, or scaling a new model for organizational change.

Applications for the Ideas Empowered program are due on June 30, 2010. To apply, and for more information, visit:

Added Holly, "USC is one of the most creative, entrepreneurial, and diverse communities on earth. The Ideas Empowered program has been conceptualized and built upon a proven model, improved and adapted for the diversity and depth at USC. We look forward to seeing the wide variety of ideas we can support through this program."

USC is a leading research university with more than $560M annual research expenditures in broad areas including wellness and health, digital media, energy, and physical sciences.

About the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation

The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation ( is a university-wide resource in the Office of the Provost at the University of Southern California designed to harness and advance the creative thinking and breakthrough research from USC for societal impact.  The USC Stevens Institute identifies, nurtures, protects, and transfers to the market the most exciting innovations from USC, and in turn, provides a central connection for industry seeking cutting-edge innovations in which to invest.  Furthermore, USC Stevens Institute develops the innovator as well as innovations, through educational programs, community-building events, and showcase opportunities.  

About the University of Southern California

Located in Los Angeles, a global center for arts, technology and international trade, the University of Southern California is one of the world's leading private research universities. USC enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university and offers extensive opportunities for internships and study abroad. With a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education, USC fosters a vibrant culture of public service and encourages students to cross academic as well as geographic boundaries in their pursuit of knowledge.

SOURCE University of Southern California