MIT Deshpande Center Grants

The Deshpande Center helps MIT faculty and students commercialize breakthrough technologies and inventions by transforming promising ideas into innovative products and cutting-edge spinout companies. The center makes pivotal investments in research, and provides valuable industry expertise.

A market-oriented perspective

Beyond funding, our program helps academically oriented scientists and engineers develop a more business-minded perspective on their work — which is essential when exploring potential markets and applications. An immersive experience exposes grantees to a rich net­work of experts — including other MIT researchers, venture investors, and executives with experience in early-stage companies —as well as events sponsored by the center and MIT’s startup-friendly culture.

A “Catalyst” mentors each project funded by the Deshpande Center. These seasoned en­trepreneurs provide the research team with ongoing guidance as they assess market opportunities, commercialize their inventions, and launch startup companies.

Our Deshpande Center grants are open only to MIT faculty and students; applications must be submitted by MIT employees with Principal Investigator (PI) status. These grants help bridge a funding gap between government support for basic science and the availability of private-sector funding for emerging innovations.

The Deshpande Center also collaborates with the Alana Down Syndrome Center to offer grants through the Technology to Improve Ability (TTIA) program. For more information, visit our TTIA page.


Key dates

The 2023 call for proposals will open soon. Check back in January for more information.


Grants are open only to MIT faculty and students; grant applications must be submitted by MIT employees with Principal Investigator (PI) status. 

  • All applicants must submit a pre-proposal, which will be reviewed by the Selection Committee.
  • The Selection Committee will review pre-proposals and will choose the most compelling projects and invite those investigators to submit a full grant proposal. (Written feedback will be provided on all pre-proposals, including those that are not selected.)
  • Researchers continuing the grant application process will be assigned a Deshpande Center Catalyst (mentor). The Catalyst will assist them in developing their submission package, which must include a full grant proposal and a budget. Applicants are also required to make a brief presentation to the Selection Committee.
  • Applicants will be notified of grant awards in June or July.

Questions? Contact us at deshpandecenter@mit.edu.

The center awards first-year grants of $50,000 to MIT researchers who are doing promising work with a potentially significant impact. By funding positions for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, a grant allows the team to continue experiments that validate a concept and/or develop a working prototype of an invention. Grantees who accomplish their milestones and demonstrate lab viability are invited to apply to renew their funding.

Renewal grants are available by invitation only. Renewal grants provide the support needed to refine and enhance an innova­tion, systematically explore potential markets, and assess the commercial viability of specific applications. The ultimate goal is to attract sufficient investment to commercialize a product and launch a spinout company and/or to license the technology to an existing company. Funding for an Innovation Grant ranges from $50,000 to $150,000. Total funding cannot exceed $250,000 over the lifetime of the grant (including renewals).

Applications are not yet available for the 2023 grant cycle. Please check back here in January.

A multidisciplinary committee selected from inside the Institute and from our Catalysts evaluates all applications. These individuals are participating under our conflict of interest and Catalyst guidelines. Please note:

  • Funding must be for research done in MIT laboratories
  • Proposals must be submitted by a faculty member at MIT (exceptions for sponsored research staff that are accorded principle investigator status)
  • Outside and cross-disciplinary collaborations are welcome
  • This is a competitive selection process and only the top ranked proposals will be funded

Selection Criteria for Initial Grants

  • Will this greatly help move the technology towards commercialization?
  • Is this technology likely to be spun out of MIT within 3 years?
  • Is this a totally novel, unique, and potentially disruptive technology? Would the faculty member be taking a risk (vs. doing an extension of existing work)?
  • Will this result in a “high reward” by addressing real market needs if successful?
  • Would this technology have broad, fundamental implications? Cross-disciplinary applications are especially desirable.
  • Is there an opportunity for creating new IP?
  • What is the likelihood of technological success? Is the scope appropriate for the $50k budget? High risk is OK, as long as feasibility can be determined within one year.
  • Is Deshpande Center support – such as funding, partnerships, and mentoring – critical to the success of this idea?
  • Is the PI eager to participate in programs and partnerships early on to increase likelihood of commercialization? Will the PI be a role model in encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in his/her lab or department? Is this team eager to benefit from the Deshpande Center Catalyst Program?

Selection Criteria for Renewal Grants

  • The criteria for selection are similar to Initial Grants with the following modifications or additions:
  • Is this technology likely to be spun-out of MIT within 1-2 years?
  • Is there a strong market need or potential impact? Is there a business model that makes sense?
  • Is there a proof of concept/product? Is there compelling experimental data indicating a reasonable technical risk?

Use of Funds
Funding shall be used for innovative research as described in the submitted proposal.

Program Participation
There is an expectation that principal investigators (PI’s) funded by the Deshpande Center are keen to see their research make an impact on the marketplace, whether through a start-up or some other license. The center provides guidance and team building opportunities through its Catalyst Program and connections to the entrepreneurial community. It hosts an annual IdeaStream symposium, an annual fall VIP Open House, occasional workshops, and other events to enhance and showcase innovative work done at MIT. Grantees understand that, if funded by the Center, they and their team will be asked to participate as appropriate. This includes staffing a poster at the Open House and IdeaStream events, and presenting at IdeaStream.

Intellectual Property
PIs funded by the Deshpande Center shall seek to establish IP, where appropriate, via disclosures of potentially patentable inventions submitted to the TLO as normal MIT practice, with an indication that Deshpande Center funding has been used to support the work.

Communication
– The PI shall communicate the project’s progress through various means, including the following:
– Initial kick-off meeting
– Regular meetings with Catalyst (mentor) – as appropriate, usually monthly
– Informal notification of all significant milestones achieved
– A midterm and final meeting
– Final written report or presentation to the Deshpande Center
– Publications – Publication of results from work sponsored by the Center is encouraged, and with Deshpande Center support will be acknowledged in all publications.
– Media relations – When appropriate, PIs funded by the center might be asked to interface with the press. Media training will be available.

Reviewing Proposals
As part of the grant selection process, the Deshpande Center relies on MIT faculty to review proposals. Grantee PIs agree to be members of the grant review and selection committee for a three-year term.

Conflict of Interest
Faculty funded by the Deshpande Center should follow MIT guidelines in Policy and Procedures and be diligent to avoid conflict of interest related to the funding, research, or collaborators on a project they are requested to review.

2023 call for proposals coming soon

Please check back in January for information on the 2023 grant cycle. All applicants must submit a pre-proposal, which will be reviewed by the Selection Committee. Investigators with the most compelling projects will be invited to submit a full grant proposal.