(CLOSED) VentureWell Course & Program Grants (fall 2021)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

Formerly the Venturewell Faculty Grants, the VentureWell Course & Program (C&P) Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded to faculty or staff at US higher education institutions to support curriculum that engages students in science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship..

C&P grants may be used to strengthen existing curricular programs or to build new, pedagogically inclusive courses and programs that engage student teams in developing and pursuing scalable solutions to real world needs through S&T I&E. The end goal is to support diverse groups of faculty, staff, and students in collaborating to develop novel inventions and technologies that have positive social and environmental impact (see Appendix for definitions of key terms used here).

Activities supported by C&P grants should lead to effective courses and programs that are sustained by the institution, lead to the formation of student teams (ideally involved with the VentureWell E-Team Program), and expand opportunities for learning across science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

C&P grant proposals should include plans to create or improve an individual course, course sequence, minor, major, certificate program, or other co- and extracurricular programs that are directly tied to and support I&E-focused curriculum. Focus may include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • General (science- and technology-based) entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable technologies (new materials, clean tech, green energy and chemistry innovation)
  • Climate change solutions (technology to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change), especially technologies that support communities most impacted by climate change
  • Biomedical and healthcare innovation
  • Technologies that address poverty alleviation and basic human needs

To advance our organizational commitment to advancing equity, we have made diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority on ALL of our faculty grants. Successful VentureWell C&P grantees must make clear how funding will increase access and broaden the participation of traditionally underrepresented, underestimated, and under-resourced groups, specifically those who identify as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous, women from all backgrounds, individuals who identify as coming from low-income backgrounds, and others who are marginalized due to racism, sexism, classism, and/or other forms of marginalization (referenced throughout this document as URGs; see definitions in Appendix). We especially encourage faculty and staff applicants from URGs or from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Tribal Colleges, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, etc., and other institutions that demonstrate clear support for students from URGs in S&T I&E.

Institutional Limitations

VentureWell member institutions may submit up to two applications. Current VentureWell member institutions are Penn State-University Park and Penn State Berks. For information on on your campus becoming a member see: https://venturewell.org/membership/

Characteristics of Successful Proposals

VentureWell C&P grants are competitive. Successful proposals will:

  • Create or strengthen courses or programs that engage student teams in developing novel technology innovations with the end goal of pursuing scalable solutions to real world needs with social and/or environmental impact.
  • Provide students with a meaningful experience, including opportunities for experiential learning and the formation of student teams that may be eligible to apply to VentureWell’s E-Team program.
  • Set the stage for sustained institutional change. A 2020 retrospective study highlighted the potential for VentureWell grants to initiate and sustain broader institutional change through their focus on creating multidisciplinary, collaborative teams, well-defined connections to a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem beyond the proposed course or program, and the identification of campus-based champions and plans for continuation and financial sustainability of the course or program after VentureWell funding, as demonstrated in letters of support. Schools that are just beginning to grow their I&E ecosystems are also encouraged to apply, and should describe the funded course or program as part of a larger plan for entrepreneurial ecosystem development. A letter of support from an administrator acknowledging this effort is highly recommended.
  • Articulate a plan for broadening participation among underrepresented groups (URGs). Describe the current campus landscape. Proposals must provide a clear and specific plan to articulate how the course or program will increase participation of students and faculty from URGs in S&T I&E. Specifically, successful proposals will articulate how students from URGs will be recruited, supported, and mentored in this work, and how success will be measured. The proposed course or program should include faculty and mentors with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise to support students, including students from URGs.

Examples of projects that are NOT strong candidates for C&P grant funding include:

  • Courses or programs that do not directly encourage development of innovations and technologies that have a positive environmental and social impact.
  • Courses or programs that do not lead to the creation of student teams.
  • Pure research or single project courses (i.e. where there is no student team ownership or commercialization plan for the innovation/venture).
  • Courses or programs that are unlikely to continue beyond the grant period.
  • Existing courses or programs where there is little change or improvement proposed (i.e., ongoing support requests).
  • Proposals that focus solely on extracurricular activities (e.g. hack-a-thons, business plan competitions, etc.) without a clearly stated connection to existing curriculum or other coursework.
  • Courses or programs that are disconnected from other campus and community-based resources (i.e., without a description of how the course/program is part of a larger plan for entrepreneurial ecosystem development).
  • Proposals that do not demonstrate support for the most promising technologies and teams to move beyond the classroom, lab, or club.
  • Proposals that do not include a plan to address both supporting diversity and inclusion, and environmental and social sustainability in S&T I&E.

For more information, please view the guidelines attached to this competition.

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Nov 03, 2021
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should send the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_VentureWell_2021 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

Cover Page:

  • Principal Investigator’s (PI's) names and departmental affiliation
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • A list of possible participating organizations (if applicable)
  • Proposal Title

History and Context (no more than one page):

  • What are you proposing? Is it a course or a program? Is it a new offering or an expansion of existing courses/programs? How will the grant funding be used to support this initiative? If you are proposing a co-curricular or extracurricular offering, how will it be directly tied to, support, and improve existing I&E-focused curriculum?
  • What are the goals and objectives of this proposal? List 2-3 specific objectives.
  • What gap(s) are you addressing on your campus? What do you feel is missing to support I&E?
  • What have you accomplished so far, if anything? Have you received other support for this work (e.g. financial, stakeholder, etc.)?

Proposed Initiative (2-3 pages):

The more SPECIFIC, CLEAR and COMPELLING your narrative is, the more competitive your proposal will be. Tell the reviewers a story: what currently exists, where are the gaps, what are you proposing to create and what are the hoped-for outcomes? In other words, why this idea now?

  • Differentiate between what already exists vs. what you are asking for funding to support. Emphasis should be placed on what you are proposing, however, it is important to briefly share what already exists to support I&E on your campus (e.g. institutional resources, personnel support, makerspaces, competitions, etc.).
  • Describe the project’s potential for positive educational, environmental, and social impact.
  • Who is/are your target audience(s)? How will your work support student innovators from URGs in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. As part of the narrative, include a specific plan that articulates how you will broaden participation in your course/program by answering the following questions:

    • How will you market to and recruit students from URGs to participate in the proposed course/program?
    • How will you recruit mentors that will reflect the URGs of student participants?
    • How will you mentor students to ensure inclusivity?
    • How will you create an inclusive curriculum? How else will you support these students’ success in I&E?
    • How will you measure success? (Share metrics.)
  • Explain the process: How will the proposed course or program lead to the creation of student teams? How will teams be formed? Where will the S&T ideas come from?
  • Describe the experiential learning opportunity for students.
  • How will your entrepreneurship ecosystem support the most promising teams and technologies towards commercialization?

Team and Partners (no more than one half page):

  • Describe the role of each key individual involved with delivering and supporting the proposed course or program. Keep each description to 1-2 short sentences.
  • How might the backgrounds, experiences, and identities of the PI and/or Instructor of Record, and other collaborators, support the goals of this grant?
  • Identify partners on campus or beyond who will help to broaden participation among students from URGs (e.g. for improved student recruitment and retention).
  • Multidisciplinary faculty teams are highly encouraged.

*Note: Proposals should go beyond listing entrepreneurial support resources and demonstrate that a structured path is available for some teams to further develop a path to market.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (half page):

Describe the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” on your campus and in the community, and how your students will access these resources (i.e., centers, incubator/accelerator programs, other faculty, mentors, departments, etc.). Your proposal should go beyond a listing of entrepreneurial support resources to explain how the program participants will engage those resources. Describe how students who wish to continue on the commercialization path to market will be able to leverage other entrepreneurial resources.

Letter of Support from Department Head/Chair:

  • Letters of support should demonstrate to reviewers that there is ongoing institutional support for your project and/or technical competence and market opportunity in the proposed work. Letters can also serve to verify partnerships discussed in your proposal narrative or verify additional funding to complement the proposed budget. More weight will be given to letters of support from key administrators and/or community partners. Note that if the proposal focus is outside the campus community or outside the US, at least one off-campus local partner is required, and a letter of support from this partner should be provided.

Formatting Guidelines:

  • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
  • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
  • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)
To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OSVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 - 4:00pm
University Park: Carter Hunt (HHD); Maria Spencer (AgSci) Behrend: Samy Madbouly (PS Behrend)