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Innovation Fellowship Track

Virginia Tech’s Presidential Postdoctoral Innovation Fellowships are intended for postdoctoral researchers who are highly motivated to extend the impact of their research through new technology commercialization activities. Successful fellows will have a high level of Interest in learning more about advancing technologies from the lab to market and are open to considering potential entrepreneurial career opportunities involving the formation of a new technology startup related to their research. 

Innovation Fellowships are offered through the LAUNCH Center for New Ventures within the Office of Research and Innovation.

The Innovation Fellowship is different from the Research Frontiers and Cybersecurity Fellowship tracks as it supports postdoctoral research activities while simultaneously supporting lab-to-market innovation.

  • A minimum of 25% of the postdoc’s time (applied continuously across the fellowship duration) must be applied to innovation activities. 
  • A higher percentage of innovation activity will be favorable (50% or more) when there is a clear commercialization opportunity identified by the mentor. 
  • The remaining time is applied to research in the relevant academic domain under the postdoc’s primary academic mentor. 
  • The innovation activities will be under a secondary mentorship provided by LAUNCH, the Center for New Ventures. 
  • This dual mentorship enhances the value of the postdoctoral experience for both the postdoctoral researcher and the primary mentor by simultaneously advancing knowledge creation and potential economic impact from that knowledge creation.

Benefits to the Postdoctoral Researcher

As an Innovation Fellow, postdocs will gain hands-on experience with methodologies that help explore, shape and validate new technology commercialization opportunities. In addition to domain focused research, innovation fellows will elevate their understanding of university technology transfer, including commercial opportunity assessment, intellectual property protection, and licensing while receiving hands-on experience with technology entrepreneurship. Postdocs will learn how to define potential commercialization opportunities and assess the related risks and rewards. They will also gain experience with defining market opportunities, analyzing those markets and the segments within those markets, building early business models and testing assumptions in those models. Access to LAUNCH technology entrepreneurship resources will enhance the postdoctoral experience. 

These resources include:

  • Professional Workshops - Innovation Fellows can enroll in two Virginia Tech professional workshops specifically directed to commercializing university research: the LICENSE Technology Transfer Boot Camp, and the LAUNCH Startup Labs.
  • NSF I-Corps Programs  - As a member of the Mid-Atlantic Hub of the I-Corps program, Virginia Tech offers regional courses and programming related to translating technology from research to commercial opportunity. These resources provide new perspectives on shaping a prospective technology commercialization opportunity, and can lead to participation in a funded NSF I-Corps National cohort program.
  • Early Stage Gap-funding - Opportunities to apply for LAUNCH Proof-of-Concept grants to advance early stage technologies from research. These grants are awarded on a competitive basis.
  • Startup Mentorship - Several programs are available at Virginia Tech and in the regional innovation ecosystem to connect postdocs to successful entrepreneurs and potential investors.
  • Startup Incubator Support - Specialized access to LAUNCH resources to help with detailed market analysis, business model creation, networking, pitch development and startup formation.
  • Startup Funding Support - Guidance and networking is available to help secure early stage startup funding from SBIR/STTR grants, technology accelerator programs, and other sources of public and private funding.
  • Pay it Forward - As an Innovation Fellow, postdocs are strongly encouraged to help build a community of practice at Virginia Tech and share accumulating innovation experiences and knowledge with other postdocs and early-stage researchers through the events and activities that postdocs build and deliver.

Benefits to Primary Mentors

Many faculty who are interested in commercializing emerging technologies from their research say that a fundamental obstacle for them is available time. The Innovation Fellowships track provides the opportunity for mentors to engage and work with a creative and motivated postdoctoral researcher who has interest in the mentor's research, interest in entrepreneurship, and as a result of the Innovation fellowship, has meaningful time to investigate potential commercial opportunities of one or more technologies emerging from the mentor’s lab.

Commercialization of technology from research is aligned with Virginia Tech’s land grant mission to generate positive societal and economic impact. Innovation is also part of the strategic metrics of the university. The Innovation Fellowships are designed to support innovation from research, supplementing other university investments to support and incentivize innovation efforts. Virginia Tech’s Policy 13000 defines faculty inventor’s potential financial benefit from commercialization activities, and LICENSE and LAUNCH are structured to directly support our researcher’s commercialization efforts.

Application Guidelines

The Innovation Fellowship will follow the same process as the other tracks with the exception of differences in the proposal and evaluation criteria. The first Innovation Fellowship proposal deadline is Sept. 15 after which it will follow the set cycle of the full Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship program (next deadline Nov. 15).

Contact

For questions, contact Chris Smith at 540-231-1951 or christsmith@vt.edu.