The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Manning/IALS Innovation Awards



Call for Applications

UMass Applied Proof-of-Concept (POC) Seed Fund Program

 Open to ALL IALS Faculty and ALL UMass Amherst associated Startup/Pre-Startup Ventures


Important Dates | Key Points | Information Sessions | LOI | Full Applications | Questions

UMass Amherst invites applications for the UMass Amherst ‘Proof-of-Concept’ (POC) Seed Fund Program. These awards are to advance translational and applied R&D efforts from faculty groups, pre-startup companies, and individuals affiliated with UMass Amherst through the development of spin-out/startup companies or by developing significant extramural translational research funding.

The objective is to advance the ongoing development of discoveries, new knowledge, and inventions originating from UMass Amherst towards translational research funding and/or advancing start-ups towards product candidate status. Manning/IALS Innovation Award applications are open to researchers and entrepreneurs from the UMass Amherst community.

Important Dates

June 1, 2020 – Short Letter of Intent due – A template for the LOI can be found below.

July 8, 2020 Completed electronic applications due, details and templates will be made available on the Manning/IALS Innovation Awards website following the information sessions.

September 2020 Award decisions will be made, with funding starting as early as needed following awards decisions.

Key Points

Eligibility: Applicants must be permanent full-time UMass Amherst faculty, or Co-Founders/Leadership Team Members of a startup or pre-startup venture with auspices of such a faculty member.

Funding: Up to $100,000 of funding based on milestones with no indirect costs. Grant duration is for ~12 months.

Significant funding for this opportunity comes from a gift to the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) by the Manning Family Foundation and from the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) Seed Fund Program. Additional contributions come from the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center, the Isenberg School of Management, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Recipients of Manning funds will be designated Manning/IALS Innovation Fellows.

Administration of the POC Seed Awards is managed through IALS with oversight from the IALS Executive Committee and the Office of the Dean, CNS, for the Manning Family Foundation gift. 

Purpose: To advance translational and applied R&D efforts from faculty groups, pre-startup/startup venture teams, and individual PI’s, consistent with the campus strategic plan:

  • Grow relationships with government, industry, communities, and others by expanding industry master agreements, increasing the competitiveness of center-scale proposals, increasing the value of UMass IP, and supporting community-engaged research
  • Enhance research collaborations with companies in the region and in technology clusters such as the Greater Boston area
  • Strengthen the UMass entrepreneurial ecosystem, the value of UMass IP, and research-driven startups via education, practical assistance, and by attracting additional public and private investment

Selection Criteria: Applications will be reviewed for the potential to advance a research idea/project or startup/pre-startup venture from basic research toward application to real-world problems. See the “Full Applications” section below for details.

About the Awards:

  • POC seed funding will support “high-potential” and “applied” projects to increase the number and quality of campus translational projects ready to receive follow-on federal, state, and private funding (Angel Investment, Venture Capital, SBIRs, Center-level awards, etc).
  • The awards are intended to allow the hiring of a research staff scientist, postdoctoral fellow, or graduate student, and associated lab expenses for approximately one year.
  • All awards are milestone-driven. Applicants reaching agreed-to milestones are eligible to apply for a second year of funding, and in exceptional circumstances a third year of funding.
  • POC seed fund award teams will receive training and mentorship on a range of topics designed to help them reach their milestones.

Post-Award Requirements:

  • Progress Reports: Manning / IALS awardees will be expected to submit progress reports highlighting successes, issues, and progress towards interim milestones. These reports will be in the form of short (10 min) presentations to members of the internal/external grant review board.
  • Training: Teams receiving funding for their startup or pre-startup ventures will be required to attend several 1-hour workshops focused on building knowledge of and capacity for the business aspects of research-driven new ventures.

Information Sessions

All three information sessions for the Manning/IALS Innovation Awards have been completed. You are not able to submit a Letter of Intent without attending one of these sessions.

Letters of Intent

Letters of Intent are due June 1, 2020. You are required to have attended a mandatory information session to be eligible to submit a Letter of Intent.

Download the template: Letter of Intent Template 2020.pdf

Submit your LOI: Letter of Intent Submission Form

To be included in future Manning/IALS solicitations, please send an email to

Full Applications

Invited Applications must be submitted by July 8, 2020. If you have not been invited to submit a full proposal based on a letter of intent, please do not submit a proposal. Submissions will be reviewed for the potential to advance a research idea/project or startup/pre-startup venture from basic research toward application to real-world problems. This is further defined as:

  • Identification of and commitment to achieving translational milestones
  • A realistic plan to advance the research/technology towards follow-on funding/resourcing from investors/agencies
  • For start-up companies the key elements of a business plan which include,
    • Describing product candidates
    • The unmet need
    • A differentiation plan
    • An intellectual property plan
    • Resource needs to support development into a self-sufficient enterprise.

Confidentiality: In anticipation of external reviewers, do not include any confidential information in the proposal. If you believe inclusion of confidential information is critical to your application, email to discuss.

Each application needs to contain the following: (6 pages MAX - without budget/ and appendixes)

  • Executive Summary: project title, team members and, abstract. For start-up companies this will also include the key elements of a business plan by briefly describing product candidates, the unmet need met, a differentiation plan, an IP plan, and resource needs to support development into a self-sufficient enterprise (350 words max).
  • Statement of Work: High-level objectives; Project Plan including timeline, interim milestones/deliverables and final milestones/deliverables (up to 3 pages)
  • Progress to Date/Preliminary Data: (up to 2 pages inclusive of any figures)
  • Intellectual Property Status/Strategy: (up to 1 page)
  • Budget: must contain the major budget categories, named personnel or timeline for hiring if these are TBD, and a brief justification for each category (up to 1 page)
  • Appendix A - Other Support: List other funding by source, grant number, amount start/stop dates, and a summary sentence on specific aims (up to 2 pages, up to date NIH or NSF current and pending forms are acceptable)
  • Appendix B - Biosketches: (up to 2 pages for each team member, up to date NIH or NSF current and pending forms are acceptable)
  • Appendix C - Up to 3 letters of support: (1 page each)
  • Appendix D - Bibliography and Patent Information: (up to 2 pages)

Budget Guidelines: Up to $100,000 direct costs may be requested. There is no indirect cost associated with the award. Allowable expenses include:

  • Research staff scientist, postdoctoral fellow, or graduate student support
  • Laboratory supplies and consumable materials
  • UMA Core facilities usage and Collaboratory space rental
  • Grant writer/consultant support (e.g., SBIR/STTRs)
  • Graphic design, web development, and marketing communications
  • Other expenses will be considered on as case by case basis

Funding for faculty salary and capital equipment are not allowable expenses.

Formatting: Proposals must be submitted as a single File formatted to print on letter (8 ½” X 11”) paper with >0.5” margins in Calibri or Arial 11 or 12 point font, single spaces, with a blank line between each paragraph and left alignment.
Proposals should be submitted electronically as a PDF file using a file naming convention of PI LastName_FirstName_YYYY_MM (i.e. Smith_Mary_2020_05).

Selection Criteria: Applications will be reviewed by a panel of external and internal reviewers, who will make their recommendation for funding based on the following criteria:

  • Translation & Commercial Potential, and IP
    • The proposed application is translation, novel and innovative
    • The proposed project addresses an important unmet need
    • Successful execution of the proposal will significantly advance/de-risk the project to make it investment/funding-ready
  • Soundness and Technical Merit
    • The technical approach and data analysis are rigorous and likely to result in a meaningful outcome
    • Achieving the proposed milestones will result in a differentiated competitive advance to similar projects
    • The intellectual property plan is appropriate 
  • Principal Investigators, People and Resources
    • The team has the experience, necessary qualifications and skills to oversee and execute the proposed project milestones
    • The proposed work-plan is appropriate, and the resources in place/requested are sufficient to meet the milestones identified
    • The team has articulated a clear understanding of additional resources that will be needed to achieve self-sufficiency 
  • Overarching Considerations
    • The proposed milestones are appropriate and consistent with the goals of the Manning/IALS program
    • Preliminary data/achievements are compelling
    • The applicants clearly communicated their work-plan, timelines/milestones
    • There appears to be strong momentum to the proposed work

Questions and More Information

Information sessions will provide additional details. You can also reach out to with questions.