Western Innovation Training Fellowship

Important Dates

January 16, 2024:

Applications due to rsp@wwu.edu

February 15, 2024:

Award notifications made

March 2024:
  • March 1, 4-5 pm: Kick-off meeting for cohorts (on-line)
  • March 8, 1:30-3:00: Solutions Focused Innovation (in-person)
  • March 15, 2:30-4:30: Fundamentals of Intellectual Property (in-person)
May 2024:
  • Workshop #3
June 2024:
  • End of quarter progress reports
September 2024: 
  • Final reports
  • Networking event

Programmatic components without specific dates will be updated *03/01/24.

Questions?

Please direct inquiries to Lindsey Frallic, Director, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, at frallil@wwu.edu.

Call for Proposals

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Overview

The Western Innovation Training Fellowship provides a full-time summer stipend for students and funding for one year of research costs combined with structured training in solution-focused innovation, technology commercialization, and STEM entrepreneurship. The goals of the program are to support new scientific discoveries, build institutional capacity for accelerating translation of the products of Western research into practice, and inclusively expand student engagement in research. Funding is made possible by a grant from the Washington Research Foundation.

Description of the Program

These one-year fellowships provide a three-month student summer stipend combined with four quarterly allowances for research expenses. During the academic year leading up to the summer stipend, student-faculty teams also receive innovation training through structured workshops. The training encourages researchers to contextualize their work relative to potential knowledge transfer and consists of several meetings over the course of the year teaching strategies for translation of research discoveries (see below for more information on the curriculum). Fellows are nominated by their faculty Mentors, who are expected to lead the design of the proposed research plan and fully participate in all program activities together with their student. 

FUNDAMENTAL AND USE-INSPIRED RESEARCH TRACKS

The program supports both basic and applied research. Nominations are accepted in two tracks, with slightly different criteria for evaluating proposals focused on fundamental and use-inspired research, described below.  Technological breakthroughs sometimes arise from asking basic questions, and proposed projects need not necessarily draw a direct line to a specific anticipated use or application. However, all proposals should address the potential practical impacts of the research, even if currently the research is primarily motivated by advancing fundamental understanding of an aspect of a problem of practical importance.

INNOVATION TRAINING

Technology commercialization by universities helps advance solutions to societal challenges, contributes to regional and national economies, and exposes students to entrepreneurial thinking and culture.  Fellowships include training for students and Mentors in basic principles and common strategies for translation of academic research.  The training is provided through several workshops over the course of the academic year, facilitated by subject matter experts.  In-person attendance at all events by Fellows and Mentors is an expectation of receiving the fellowship.  The curriculum aims to impart foundational knowledge while fostering community and connectedness among entrepreneurially-minded investigators.  The curriculum covers:

  • Introduction to Solution-Focused Innovation. Design thinking. Minimal viable products. Customer discovery. Introduction to the NSF I-Corps program.
  • Fundamentals of Intellectual Property.  Patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Non-disclosure and similar agreements. Related University policies and procedures.
  • Introduction to University Spin-Outs. Common business structures and company ownership.  Licensing university IP.  Leveraging university resources, sponsored research agreements, use of facilities. Incubators. Funding opportunities. 

Eligibility

Faculty and students from every discipline are eligible but proposed projects should focus on a science/math/engineering-based solution or question. Faculty Mentors should hold a tenured or tenure-track appointment. There is no limit on the number of students a Mentor may nominate and advise, but each student should have their own independent project or well-defined individual role in a larger project. For collaborative projects involving multiple faculty, the student’s primary Mentor should serve as the nominator. Faculty are expected to be fully available during the summer to advise their student. Any enrolled graduate or undergraduate student able to make a minimum 12-month commitment is eligible for nomination, including students beginning their final year at Western, who will receive their stipend in the summer following their graduation. Fellows are expected to devote full-time to their research during the summer and part-time during the academic year. Faculty may also apply for a Summer Research Grant, or other funding, to augment the student fellowship.

Funding Information and Limitations

Number and Amount of Awards

Between 6-8 Western Innovation Training (WIT) Fellowships will be awarded each year for 2024 and 2025.

  • WIT Fellowships for graduate students include summer support of $15,000 and a quarterly research allowance of $1,000 for a total of up to $19,000.
  • WIT Fellowships for undergraduate students include summer support of $10,000 and a quarterly research allowance of $500 for a total of up to $12,000.

Applicants should note the following restrictions:

  • The program is made possible by a grant from the Washington Research Foundation. It supports research in all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. It is unable to support applications for research or creative activities in non-STEM fields at this time. Students and faculty from any discipline may apply and receive an award, but the project should focus in a STEM area.  Interdisciplinary proposals and teams are strongly encouraged.
  • A student may only receive the fellowship once and fellowships are not renewable. 
  • Research requiring IRB, IACUC, or IBC approvals may commence only after the approvals (or exemptions, as applicable) have been obtained.
  • Use of funds is limited to costs necessary for the project and allowable under University grant policies and federal uniform guidance (2 CFR part 200). Funds may not be used for salaries or wages beyond the amount provided in the Fellowship stipend. Purchased supplies and equipment are the property of the University and remain with the University at the conclusion of the project. Any unexpended funds remaining at the end of the project are returned to RSP.
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PROPOSAL PREPARATION  INSTRUCTIONS

Faculty mentors should combine the following elements into a single pdf document and email it to rsp@wwu.edu using the subject line "WIT Fellowship Proposal" followed by the appropriate track (i.e. WIT Fellowship Proposal: Fundamental Research Track or WIT Fellowship Proposal: Use-Inspired Research Track).

  1. The proposed research agenda, limited to two pages including any figures. This portion of the application should be developed by the faculty Mentor. Refer to guidelines below for advice on narrative content.
  2. Up to one page of cited references.
  3. A statement up to one page prepared by the Fellow addressing their interest in the topic, motivation, their background or prior academic, life, or work experiences providing evidence of preparedness for contributing to the project’s success, and how the Fellowship would help them achieve professional goals. Note that no prior research experience is required.
  4. A letter of recommendation prepared by the Mentor or another qualified individual providing their overall assessment of the student's potential to contribute to project success; their degree of motivation, curiosity and interest in the research experience; and how they would benefit from the experience.

Two-Page Narrative Content Guidelines

Please be sure to write your narrative for an audience of colleagues who are not in your discipline. Explain methods or techniques that are specific to your field and may not be clear to someone from another field. Avoid technical jargon and offer sufficient background information to assist the reviewer in understanding the merit of your proposal.

Ensure that figures, charts, or other graphics are readable and fit within the 2-page narrative limit. Include a timeline, specific anticipated deliverables, and plans for disseminating your findings, as appropriate. All proposals should address the potential practical impacts of the research, even if currently the research is primarily motivated by advancing fundamental understanding. Applicants are encouraged to divide the narrative into sections as follows:

  • Introduction and background.  Define the problem or question your project addresses and discuss its importance, including the unsolved need, prevalence, and currently existing solutions or understanding. Identify whether this is a fundamental research or use-inspired research track proposal.
  • Intellectual merit and innovation: Describe the advantages of your approach relative to current standards and/or to any competing approaches. If applicable, outline the potential for generalizing to other problems.
  • Approach: Describe specific aims, pertinent preliminary data and outline how you plan to use the award to establish proof of concept. Include milestones linked to a projected timeline.
  • Team. Describe the team, qualifications, and anticipated impact for students beyond the Fellow.
  • Beyond: Briefly outline your plan to move the project forward after an award, including any specifics outcomes relative to readiness to apply for translational opportunities, protection of intellectual property, or external funding.

EVALUATION OF PROPOSALS

HOLISTIC REVIEW

Applications are reviewed by an interdisciplinary faculty panel which makes funding recommendations to the Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, who serves as the Principal Investigator on the grant that provides funding for this program. Consideration prioritizes student and project potential over prior achievement to elevate the most promising research and help level the playing field for students with varying access to past opportunity. Fellows are not required to have previously engaged in research. Review is based on the following criteria:

  • The intellectual merit of the research and potential for innovation. 
  • The broader impacts of the proposed research.
  • The potential of the award to broaden participation and advance the inclusion and success of innovators with historically underrepresented or marginalized identities.
  • Student applicant qualifications:
    • Adequate academic preparation for the proposed work and the student’s potential for success.
    • Motivation and evidence of sincere curiosity and interest in the topic or research experience.
    • Overall assessment of student’s abilities and potential for learning; their degree of motivation, curiosity and interest in the research experiences; and how they would benefit from the experience. 

In addition to the above criteria, applications to the Fundamental and Use-Inspired research tracks include the following specific criteria:

  • Fundamental Research Track: potential for the project to advance to the discipline’s basic understanding of an important topic or problem.
  • Use-Inspired Research Track: potential for the project to accelerate translation of University-developed innovations.

Questions?

Please direct inquiries to Lindsey Frallic, Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, at frallil@wwu.edu.

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SUBMISSION PROCEDURE

Proposal Due Date

January 16, 2024

Faculty Mentor

1. Combine application elements described in the proposal preparation instructions into a single pdf document

2. Email the pdf document to rsp@wwu.edu using the subject line "WIT Fellowship Proposal" followed by the appropriate track (i.e.WIT Fellowship Proposal: Fundamental Research Track or WIT Fellowship Proposal: Use-Inspired Research Track).

Award Notification Date

February 15, 2024