Vanderbilt University has launched its newest internal funding initiative, the Innovation Catalyst Fund. Sponsored by Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Information Technology Brett Sweet, the application portal officially opens Oct. 1 and will remain open for submissions until the first cycle proposal deadline on Oct. 31.
“Innovation means going where others haven’t been brave enough to go yet. We are giving our faculty the opportunity to think even bigger and reach even higher when it comes to turning their world-class research and expertise into courageous, interdisciplinary discovery,” Diermeier said. “Radical collaboration is at the forefront of this new fund—we want our faculty to be radical and ambitious in their ideas, their goals and the potential societal solutions.”
Designed to bridge the gap between academic research and translational innovations, the fund empowers faculty to refine and test ideas with a focus on market viability and societal benefit. This includes support for early-stage commercialization and projects addressing urgent civic and societal issues.
“This fund empowers our faculty to become strategic risk-takers as they lead transformative translational research and innovation,” Raver said. “We believe in nurturing bold ideas that have profound economic and social impacts. Every applicant will receive invaluable feedback and guidance, to support the success of their innovative projects.”
The application portal, hosted on the Innovation Catalyst Fund website, welcomes proposals from all disciplines, schools and colleges within Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Future application cycles for 2024 are scheduled for February, June and October.
“This new fund distinctly diverges from historic Vanderbilt investment funds, which are primarily aimed at channeling ideas toward external research funding. The Innovation Catalyst Fund zeroes in on initiatives addressing societal needs or holding commercial potential,” Sweet said. “The fund will provide critical nondilutive funding and faculty feedback to help advance their work. In partnership with Vanderbilt’s new Innovation Investment Fund, this initiative promises to be a cornerstone of support for our faculty in the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nashville.”
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation oversees the management of the program in consultation with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Office of Research and academic leadership across all Vanderbilt schools and colleges.
The Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization is managing the proposal submission and review processes, coordinating with diverse departments to ensure that the fund achieves its desired outcomes.
With a focus on advancing basic research programs with commercial potential, the Innovation Catalyst Fund will offer:
- Expert evaluations by Vanderbilt faculty, including constructive feedback on all proposals regardless of whether they are awarded.
- Accelerated feedback and decisions, including additional recommended resources available to faculty.
- Emphasis on research with commercial and social impact.
- Milestone-based funding distribution.