(CLOSED) VentureWell Course & Program Grants 2024

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

VentureWell Course & Program (C&P) Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded to U.S. higher education institutions to expand and strengthen STEM innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystems, with the end goal of accelerating sustainable and inclusive innovation. Ideally, C&P Grant funding should act as a catalyst for increased entrepreneurial activity and help faculty and universities leverage other opportunities to launch and/or grow their I&E ecosystems.

C&P Grants may be used to strengthen existing curricular programs or to build new, pedagogically inclusive courses and programs that engage students in collaboratively developing and pursuing scalable solutions to real-world needs through STEM I&E.

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 by leveraging experiential learning practices, and expand opportunities for learning across S&T I&E.

Activities supported by C&P Grants should lead to effective courses and programs that are sustained by the institution, enhancing collaboration between students and the larger community by leveraging experiential learning practices, and expand opportunities for learning across STEM I&E.

C&P Grant proposals may include plans to create or improve an individual course, course sequence, minor, major, certificate program, or other co- or extracurricular program that is directly tied to and supports I&E-focused curricula. Programs are defined as a set of organized, planned activities or structures that occur on an ongoing basis and are intended to work in collaboration with departments and degree pathways (e.g., engaging with a tech transfer office, office of sustainability, office of entrepreneurship, certificate program, community-based learning program, etc.).

Proposals are required to address the following core components (For more details on the core components, please view the VentureWell guidelines):

  • Inclusive innovation
  • Sustainability
  • I&E ecosystem building
  • Stakeholder collaboration
  • Project team & resources
  • Long-term financial plan & deliverables

Proposals may also include the following:

  • General invention-oriented (science- and technology-based) entrepreneurship
  • Emergent industries in your region that solve social and environmental problems (i.e., biomedical and healthcare innovation, clean energies, agriculture, educational technologies, etc.)
  • Interdisciplinary innovation & entrepreneurship with a STEM component

VentureWell is committed to inclusive innovation in STEM, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are a priority in our C&P Grants program. We are aware of diversity and equity gaps in our past grant cycles, and are striving to award the majority of grants to the following institution categories or groups:

  • Community colleges
  • Tribal Colleges, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Predominantly Black Colleges & Universities, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)
  • Teams that include one or more co–principal investigators who voluntarily self-identify in their proposal narrative as members of one or more underrepresented groups (URGs) in innovation and entrepreneurship, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous people, women of any racial background, and people from low-income backgrounds
  • Qualified universities or colleges that have never previously received a VentureWell C&P Grant

Institutional Limitations

Current VentureWell member institutions are Penn State-University Park and Penn State Berks. For information regarding your campus becoming a member see: https://venturewell.org/membership/. Membership in VentureWell’s network of higher-education institutions is currently available at no cost.

Characteristics of Successful Proposals

Successful proposals typically meet the following criteria:

  1. Inclusive Innovation (the pursuit of innovation motivated by environmental and societal aims, with problem-owners—often working with multiple stakeholders—responding to challenges experienced in their local context [Klingler-Vidra, et al.])
    1. Describes a plan for how to recruit, mentor, and support students who have been traditionally underrepresented, underestimated, and/or under-resourced within science & technology innovation and entrepreneurship
    2. Describes a curriculum that includes the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the student experience and serves students with varied lived experiences through explicit inclusion strategies
    3. Describes a curriculum where innovative thinking and problem-solving are grounded in a participatory framework in collaboration with stakeholders
  2. Sustainability (sustainable technologies, materials, and processes; climate change solutions; technological support for communities most impacted by climate change, etc.)
    1. Describes a curriculum that includes science and technology projects that have a strong focus and positive, enduring impact on society and/or the environment
  3. Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Ecosystem Building (building a network of interconnected partners, institutions, and resources that collaborate to support the creation and operations of entrepreneurial colleges and universities in STEM ecosystems)
    1. Describes a course and/or program that makes connections to the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem (faculty, colleges, departments, centers) that can support student entrepreneurship OR shows how the course/program will contribute to entrepreneurial ecosystem development
    2. Describes how grant funding could be a catalyst to build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem
  4. Stakeholder Collaboration (student teams participating in curricular, co-curricular, extracurricular, and/or off campus I&E activities; students and faculty connecting with on- and off-campus resources such as sustainability and entrepreneurship offices, accelerators, small business associations; etc.)
    1. Describes a curriculum that includes experiential learning and encourages student teams that extend beyond the classroom
    2. Connects students and faculty across disciplines
    3. Connects students with stakeholders as part of the innovation and entrepreneurship process
  5. Project Team & Resources
    1. Include faculty principal investigators (PIs), teaching team members, mentors, partners, advisors, and/or external consultants and resources with the disciplinary/domain expertise necessary to oversee, advise, and support the project
    2. Include multiple leaders, administrators, and/or partners that support program objectives
  6. Long-Term Financial Plan & Deliverables
    1. Outline a work plan and budget that are aligned with the proposed impact goals, and clear and measurable educational outcomes
    2. Describe a complete and realistic plan for how the course or program will be financially sustained beyond the grant period
    3. Describe an example of a tangible work product, program, or model as a result of this work that could be publicly shared for the benefit of other educators

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 include student collaboration as part of an experiential learning pedagogy
  • Pure research or single project courses (i.e., where there is no student ownership)
  • 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 VentureWell guidelines.

Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Nov 08, 2023
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should send the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_VentureWell_2024) no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

  • Cover Page:
    • Proposal Title
    • 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)
  • 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?
  • Letter of Support from Department Head/Chair:
    • Note/email of support indicating a commitment to ongoing institutional support for your project. A more extensive letter would be required with your external application.
  • If resubmission to Venturewell, one page explaining changes to your initiative that respond to feedback from VentureWell submission
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, October 3, 2023 - 4:00pm
For help or questions: 

The Office of Foundation Relations is the designated institutional contact responsible for communicating with the Foundation and is collaborating with OSVPR on the internal downselect process. Questions concerning the application process and other foundation-related questions should be directed to Andrew Kuhn, Assistant Director, Foundation Relations (auk553@psu.edu).

Penn State Harrisburg: Amma Johnson; University Park: Maria Spencer (AgSci); College of Medicine: Kevin Harter; CoM and UP Slots available, contact limitedsubs@psu.edu if interested in applying.