The Duke Incubation Fund (the “Fund”) was formed to support idea-stage projects at Duke University with potential commercial prospects. The Fund will make a number of awards each year to support novel ideas, applied research, potential products, nascent services and creative projects that if successful, will lead to new opportunities in the market. To receive funding, projects must demonstrate a potential path to subsequent financial support, new company formation, licensing, not-for-profit partnering or other channels to enable translation.The Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, which administers the Fund, is interested in innovative projects that could lead to new products or services that will have a positive impact on society, including:

  • Demonstrating the feasibility of an idea or innovation
  • Developing a working prototype
  • Obtaining supporting evidence or proof-of-concept for new ideas
  • Developing new applications or markets for a technology under development
  • Creative projects that might lead to professionally produced content

Applications are welcome from all fields of inquiry. At least one member of any team must be from Duke. The innovation must be related to the applicant’s research or work at Duke.

Each award will consist of up to $20,000 (direct costs only). Preference will be given to applications with high potential for significant advancement. Funds may be spent within Duke or within a start-up company formed to commercialize the innovation.

Awards will be contingent on the innovator entering into Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) Agreement with the Fund. Any proceeds returned to the Fund under the SAFE will be used to finance future awards.


Are there any terms associated with an award?

Yes. Anyone who receives an award under this program will be asked to execute an agreement that reserves to Duke a small portion of equity of any company formed as a result of the award. If no such entity is formed, or if the entity fails to generate any return, the award need not be repaid.

Awardees are expected to report findings of their work at six months.

Do I need to route my proposal through Sponsored Projects System (SPS) for approval prior to submission?

No. This is considered internal funding.

Can I apply as a company?

Yes. Awards may be issued to a corporation formed to commercialize a Duke technology.

Can graduate students apply?

Yes. However, proposals must utilize Duke intellectual property (IP) or be likely to lead to Duke intellectual property. Graduate students submitting applications to develop their own research require permission of their faculty advisor. A team submitting an application to develop existing Duke IP that does not include the inventor(s) must include a detailed licensing strategy in their application. 


Proposals may be submitted by Duke faculty (regular rank and non-tenure track), post-docs, medical residents and fellows with approval of an appropriate mentor or unit coordinator.

Individuals may submit more than one proposal, but are only eligible to receive one award per cycle. Promising projects that are not selected will be encouraged to reapply.

Funds may be spent within Duke or within a start-up company formed to commercialize the innovation.


Key Dates

  • Application Submission Deadline*: January 8, 2018
  • Final Selection: February 5, 2018

*Award Cycles will typically occur twice per year (Fall & Spring). However, the Selection Committee may elect to provide seed funds to particularly compelling projects off-cycle if it deems immediate funds are warranted. Preference will be given to requests of less than $5,000. To be considered for off-cycle award, contact Judd Staples at judd.staples@duke.edu.

Application Procedure

The Duke Incubation Fund Award uses the MyResearchProposal online application software to submit applications.

  • To apply visit http://bit.ly/myresearchproposal, click on “Create New User” (or log in if you already have an account). Proposals must be submitted under the Principal Investigator’s name.
  • A step-by-step user’s guide for applying via the MyResearchProposal software is available – Please review this document.
  • Enter Access Code “I&E,” then select the “Duke Incubation Fund Spring 2018” funding opportunity and follow the instructions.
  • For any questions concerning MyResearchProposal passwords or system issues, please contact Anita Grissom or Kara McKelvey at myresearchproposal@duke.edu.

Applicants will enter general project information via the web-based form:

  • Project Title, Brief Description, and Amount Requested
  • Primary Contact Name, Department/Company, phone, email
  • General Project Information: Applicants will be asked to answer general questions regarding the project (e.g. type of business, relationship to Duke, stage of development, ongoing sources of funding).
  • Intellectual Property (Character Limit: 500)
  • Compliance Plan (Character Limit: 500)

Some proposal sections will be uploaded as individual PDF files. The application sections are:

  • Intellectual Property: Summarize intellectual property, including any know-how, invention disclosure numbers, patent filings, copyrighted material, etc. If appropriate, you will be asked to provide contact information from OLV.
  • Budget: Upload a one-year spending plan using the I&E Budget Form.
  • Team Experience: Include a resume or NIH Biosketches for each key member of the research team (as a single PDF). Each individual resume may not exceed 4 pages.
  • Project Description: The Project Description should include: Idea, Background, Justification, Problem-Being-Solved, Preliminary/Supporting Data, Methods, Quarterly Milestones to be achieved during the year, and a plan for follow-on funding (5-Page limit, including tables and figures; and shorter applications are welcome). References do not count toward the 5-page limit; single spacing, font no smaller than Arial 11 and margins greater than 0.5”. The follow-on funding plan may include grant applications, internal funding, equity raises, licensing, selling product or strategic partnerships.


For additional information on this funding opportunity, contact Judd Staples at judd.staples@duke.edu or Barry Myers, M.D., Ph.D. at barry.myers@duke.edu.

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