University of Pittsburgh
May 5, 2016

Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds Established

Funds will accelerate translation of research from the University to market

Joe Miksch


Cell: 412-997-0314

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh has dedicated $1 million in gap funding over the next two years to assist Pitt innovators seeking to commercialize their research discoveries. 

Coordinated through the University’s Innovation Institute, the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds will assist faculty and students with Pitt discoveries in identifying unmet needs in the market for their innovations, developing prototypes, identifying potential commercial partners, or forming a new enterprise.

“The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is flourishing at Pitt. We are excited to provide additional resources to our faculty and student innovators, helping them translate their innovations into products and services that positively impact society,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. 

“More faculty and students are engaging with the Innovation Institute every year. Through the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds, we will be able to meet the rising demand from our Pitt innovators and help them speed the path to market for their discoveries,” said Innovation Institute Founding Director Marc Malandro.

The Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds will be distributed in the following ways: 

Pitt Ventures

Pitt Ventures is the Innovation Institute’s program assisting Pitt innovators in moving their innovations through the multiple stages of development toward commercialization. The new funding will provide $400,000 in additional support for this initiative over the next two years targeted at innovators participating in the Pitt Ventures Gear Commercialization Program. This includes the upcoming Michael G. Wells Student Healthcare Entrepreneurship Competition and the Kuzneski Innovation Cup, which is focused on non-health care innovations. 

The first Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds have been deployed to the following four teams that participated in Pitt Ventures’ latest “1st Gear” stage in April:

  • Manual Wheelchair Virtual Seating Coach (MVSC)
    Innovators: Rory Cooper, S. Andrea Sundaram: Human Engineering Research Laboratories
    Description: Pressure sores result from individuals sitting in wheelchairs and not performing frequent-enough weight shifts due to reduced or absent nerve sensation. The resulting ulcers are a significant health concern with negative effects on quality of life and expensive treatments. While the HERL team previously developed a tool to assist those in motorized wheelchairs, until now a solution for those in manual wheelchairs was not available.
  • VIP Wheelchair
    Innovators: Dan Ding, Hyun Ka: HERL
    Description: The VIP Wheelchair is a control system to improve power wheelchair driving accessibility, independence, and safety for people with vision and mobility impairment. The wheelchair incorporates a number of feedback and control mechanisms to help visually impaired users avoid obstacles and drop-offs.
  • Emotion Prosthetics
    Innovator: Greg Siegle, Program in Cognitive Affective Neuroscience
    Description: Stress can negatively impact quality of life. The Emoto wearable device includes a mobile application interface that empowers users by alerting them to stress-level changes. Users can use the Emoto to stimulate nerves in the head and neck shown to relax the body or improve alertness.
  • Working for Kids: Building Skills
    : Judy Cameron, Alexandra Miragaia: Clinical and Translational Science Institute
    Description: Working for Kids: Building Skills is an educational platform to boost cognitive and social-emotional skills in children in their first five years of life through a neuroscience-based approach. 

Accelerated Licensing

For innovations that lend themselves to licensing to an industry partner or entrepreneur, funding will be available to strategically de-risk projects based on industry/investor feedback. Up to $150,000 will be available per year in increments of up to $50,000.

Requests for Proposals 

Two times per academic year, the Innovation Institute will solicit proposals from Pitt faculty and students for innovations in key technology areas based on a demonstrated need by a potential commercialization partner. Each year, $75,000 will be available in increments of $25,000 and $12,500.

Collaborative Innovation Grants

To encourage collaborations between Pitt innovators and other regional institutions and local economic-development groups, $75,000 per year will be awarded in increments of $25,000 or $12,500 for projects with commercial potential, provided the partner institution matches the Pitt funds dollar for dollar.

For more information on how to apply for Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds through the Pitt Ventures Gear program or to register for one of the Pitt Ventures Student Challenge competitions, contact Jennifer Ireland at

For more information on the Accelerated Licensing program, contact Alex Ducruet at Industry partners and entrepreneurs interested in exploring a partnership or licensing Pitt discoveries should e-mail Ducruet.