Technology Commercialization Proof-of -Concept Grants Available


Venture Catalyst manages three proof-of-concept programs, which provide funding and resources to translate basic UC Davis research with commercial potential by demonstrating proof-of-concept and establishing market viability. These programs also help develop an innovative and entrepreneurial culture that extends the benefits of UC Davis research activities beyond the boundaries of the university.

  1. Science Translation & Innovative Research (STAIR™) Grant
  2. Food Systems Innovation Grant
  3. Data, Informatics & Application Launch (DIAL™) Grant

Key features of the proof-of-concept programs include:

  1. targeted funding to bridge the gap between basic research and early-stage commercialization efforts,
  2. project work conducted over a 12-month period,
  3. Review Committee consisting of industry representatives with corporate, investor, and entrepreneurial expertise,
  4. feedback and guidance on commercialization from members of the Review Committee and the Venture Catalyst team, and
  5. structured entrepreneurial training.

Over the past seven cycles, the proof-of-concept programs have awarded over $2.2 million of funding to 49 projects. These projects have resulted in 22 intellectual property agreements, including 16 startups launched around foundational technologies, and have been able to attract roughly $33 million of follow-on funding. See the list of previous awardees here and view the executive summary for the 2019-20 cycle here.

Venture Catalyst will begin accepting application for the eighth cycle of the proof-of-concept programs on January 19, 2021 with an application deadline of March 3, 2021 at 5:00 pm PST. Applications for all proof-of-concept programs can be submitted through Office of Research’s InfoReady grant application platform (Kerberos login required). The direct links to each grant are as follows:

Potential applicants can view a recorded information session for the 2020-21 cycle. If you would like to request an overview presentation and/or a Q&A session for your department or unit, please email [email protected].

For the STAIR and DIAL Grant programs, Venture Catalyst has engaged campus and industry partners to expand potential funding available to particular technologies and projects through the program. Partners include Elanco, the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, the UC Davis College of Letters & Science, the UC Davis School of Medicine, and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. See additional details on types of funding and areas of interest in the program materials below.


Technology Focus

IP Consideration

Project Budget

Funding Available for 2020-21 Cycle

Download Program Materials for 2020-21 Cycle

*Supplemental funding available from campus and industry partners
**All eligible Food Systems Innovation Grant applicants will also be reviewed through the STAIR Grant program

Email questions about any of the proof-of-concept grant programs to [email protected].

Developing New Tools To Improve Food Production and Safety

Developing New Tools To Improve Food Production and Safety

The agriculture sector is facing an enormous task—to increase food production to support the planet’s explosive population growth. At the same time, the industry must address a growing number of food safety challenges associated with pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. These challenges are driving the need for and adoption of innovative solutions at the farm level, including remote sensing and robotics. However, utilizing these new technologies effectively requires the ability to clearly interpret and analyze the vast quantities of data being collected, which comes with its own set of challenges.

AgriNerds, one of 14 startups enabled in FY 2018­–19 by technology developed at UC Davis, is helping farmers harness the power of these technologies by providing a data management and visualization tool to integrate and interpret this information in real time. Their Web-based application uses both machine learning and decision sciences to help farmers optimize production yield, food safety and operational efficiency.

The technology is based on the work of Maurice Pitesky from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-Cooperative Extension and former students Roberto Carrasco, Joseph Gendreau and Tristan Bond.

The team received proof-of-concept funding from the UC Davis Data, Informatics and Application Launch (DIAL™) Grant program from the Office of Research to develop and test the initial versions of the product. The startup is working with several poultry companies to further optimize their custom machine learning ­algorithms in order to expand operations throughout the agricultural sector.

Nine grants, totaling $328,000, awarded to help campus innovators advance research and technology towards commercialization

2017 STAIR Grant Awards

UC Davis announced today the recipients of nine proof-of-concept grants totaling $328,000 for campus innovators to advance their research and technologies towards commercialization. These grants and the associated review process are managed by UC Davis Venture Catalyst through the Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIRTM) grant program, which is in its fourth year, and the newly launched Data, Informatics and Application Launch (DIALTM) grant program.

“It remains the responsibility of public universities like UC Davis, to fulfil their societal mission of generating impact from research, by facilitating the translation of faculty and student research into meaningful products and services that enrich the human experience,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor for research and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis. “Through our successful STAIR grant program and the newly launched DIAL grants, we are enabling our most innovative campus researchers to map a more effective path from their scientific and engineering breakthroughs to the commercial sphere.”

The 2017 STAIR grant recipients

The STAIR grant program provides awards of up to $50,000 per grant recipient to help campus innovators demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility of their technologies. A total of 30 applications were received this year. Six award recipients were selected to receive grants following a multistage review process involving external industry experts, investors and entrepreneurs that evaluated each application based on its market potential, technical merit and ability to achieve identified commercialization milestones with the funds requested.

This year’s STAIR grant recipients are:

Johnathon AndersonJohnathon Anderson, assistant professor, Stem Cell Research Program

Anderson and his team have developed a novel drug candidate platform for inflammatory diseases that offers the beneficial aspects of stem cell therapeutics with fewer hurdles to clinical development.


Paul HendersonPaul Henderson, associate adjunct professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Henderson and his team are developing an add-on chemotherapy drug that increases the effectiveness of existing treatment regimens for advanced bladder cancer. Their innovation, an orally bioavailable drug, combines anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties.


Lee MillerLee Miller, associate professor, Center for Mind and Brain

Miller and his team have developed a powerful electroencephalogram (EEG) diagnostic that provides a rapid and comprehensive assessment of the functional health of the auditory system, including how speech is processed at different levels and how these levels interact. Their innovation is expected to enable individualized assessments of hearing loss and improve the performance of assistive listening devices.


David OlsonDavid Olson, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry

Olson and his team have discovered how to decouple the beneficial effects of neuroplasticity-promoting compounds from their deleterious hallucinogenic and psychostimulant effects in order to develop more effective drug therapies for various neurological disorders.


Lin TianLin Tian, assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

Tian and her team have developed a novel technology for drug discovery involving G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Their innovation directly tackles GPCR confrontational dynamics in living cells and organisms, providing a novel platform for rigorous high-throughput cell-based screening and validation.


Yu-Jui WanYu-Jui (Yvonne) Wan, vice chair for research, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Wan and her team are developing a bio-encapsulation process using yeast to deliver retinoic acid and a short-chain fatty acid with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitory properties that benefit the liver and intestine — offering the potential to help prevent and treat metabolic-associated diseases and cancer.


The 2017 DIAL grant recipients

The DIAL grant program is a pilot program structured similarly to the STAIR grant program, which targets commercial opportunities in software, informatics and data science. This program is enabled by funding provided by the State of California under Assembly Bill AB 2664. Passed in 2016, this unique legislation authorizes one-time funding of $2.2 million to each of the 10 University of California campuses with the objective of expanding innovation and entrepreneurship programs on each campus. Three DIAL grant recipients were selected following a review process modeled on the STAIR grant program, based on each project’s market potential, technical merit and ability to achieve identified commercialization milestones with the funds requested.

The DIAL grant award recipients are:

Petr JanataPetr Janata, professor, Department of Psychology

Janata has invented an online platform that allows users to document and share personal memories they associate with specific pieces of music. Janata’s technology platform leverages his research in the field of cognitive neuroscience and the psychology of music to enable a number of life enriching applications linking music, memory and interpersonal interactions.


Nelson MaxNelson Max, distinguished professor, Department of Computer Science

Max and his team have developed a novel system for use in emergency response training where emergency scenarios can be added to real world environments. His invention uses a quadcopter camera that will add computer-generated artificial reality graphic image components to a computer screen.


Lisa Miller, professor, Department of Human Ecology

Miller and her team have invented a gaming app to teach nutrition concepts, practice food-choice skills, build nutritional literacy and promote healthy behavior-change in adults to combat poor dietary habits.


Benefits extend beyond financial awards

In addition to the financial support, each recipient of STAIR and DIAL grants is assigned an experienced business mentor to review project milestones, offer commercialization guidance, provide business advice, and facilitate networking opportunities and connections to industry. Additionally, through a collaboration between Venture Catalyst and the UC Davis Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and enabled by the State of California’s AB 2664 Innovation and Entrepreneurship expansion funding, STAIR and DIAL grant teams will participate in commercialization clinics that will provide them with business and commercialization guidance and skills development.

“The direct interface between grant recipients and experienced industry experts, along with accompanying cohort-based skills development and training, is a critical element of the success of these proof-of-concept grant programs in de-risking UC Davis technologies and moving them closer to commercial uptake and societal impact,” said Pathak. “We are proud of our close collaboration with the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and grateful to our external industry review panel and participants in the STAIR and DIAL mentor engagement programs.”

Future awards

The application process for next year’s STAIR grant will begin in early 2018 and will be open to anyone with principal investigator status at UC Davis. Postdoctoral scholars and staff are eligible to apply as co-principal investigators. The DIAL grant program offering in subsequent years is yet to be determined and will be announced as soon as a decision has been made.

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