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Start-Up Challenge

NIA Healthy Aging Start-Up Challenge and Bootcamp to Foster Diversity and Accelerate Innovation

Through this Challenge, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is seeking researchers and entrepreneurs with a demonstrated need who have innovative ideas for science-driven technologies and products with the potential to increase the diversity of NIA-funded small business research and development. Entrepreneurs from groups underrepresented in health-related sciences are strongly encouraged to apply (PDF, 1.2M).

Challenge finalists will participate in a four-month entrepreneurial bootcamp. To provide maximum flexibility for participants, the bootcamp will be mostly virtual, except for one 3- to 4-day in-person networking event in Boston scheduled for September 19-22, 2022. That activity will take place depending on COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions; NIH will cover travel costs for participants.

Learn more about the challenge on the Inside NIA blog.

About the Challenge and Bootcamp

Individuals from diverse backgrounds can provide unique and valuable contributions in the research and development of life science innovations that prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health. However, certain groups, such as women and individuals from racial/ethnic minoritized groups, remain underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical sciences and in life science entrepreneurship1. Women represent just 12% of U.S. innovators and an even smaller percentage of that proportion are in STEM programs or are working as scientists and engineers2.

An external analysis conducted in 2015 of NIH-sponsored Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants reported that only 0.3% of grants were awarded to small businesses with an African American Principal Investigator (PI), 2% with a Hispanic PI, and 0.2% with a Native American PI3. Unique barriers identified as contributing to the systemic exclusion of underrepresented groups in life science entrepreneurship include a lack of access to funding, entrepreneurial training, mentorship, and connections within key industry networks4.

The National Institute on Aging’s Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP) has a strong interest in and commitment to fostering diversity in aging research-inspired entrepreneurship and in encouraging participation of underrepresented groups (as defined in NOT-OD-20-031) in the NIA SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

To support this commitment, NIA OSEP is hosting the Healthy Aging Start-Up Challenge and Bootcamp to Foster Diversity and Accelerate Innovation, in partnership with the NIA Office of Special Populations (OSP). The goal of this Challenge is to stimulate innovation and foster diversity in aging research and development by providing cash prizes and non-cash prizes, such as strategic resources provided through an entrepreneur bootcamp, that will help participants overcome barriers to participating in life sciences entrepreneurship. The Challenge also aims to enhance equity in the NIA SBIR/STTR program as a means of furthering the congressional goal of the SBIR/STTR program to foster and encourage participation by social and economically disadvantaged small businesses, and by women-owned small businesses, in technological innovation.

This Challenge invites researchers and entrepreneurs with a demonstrated need who have innovative ideas for science-driven technologies and products that have the potential to increase the diversity of NIA-funded small business research and development. Proposals may demonstrate a high impact on diversity by addressing a gap in NIA-funded small business research and development, by addressing a unique need of older adults from minority and/or medically underserved areas/populations (as defined by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)), or by being led by an individual or team of individuals who possess a background and/or unique life experience that can bring a diverse perspective to aging-related research and development.

NIA strongly encourages applications from researchers and entrepreneurs from groups underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical sciences and in life science entrepreneurship. NIA has a special interest in proposals for tools, technologies, and products aimed to improve the health and quality of life of older adults in minority and underserved populations, as outlined in the NIA Health Disparities Objectives. Applicants who are addressing health disparities should reference in their application the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework to facilitate identifying and proposing tools, technologies, and products that reflect the life course perspective or theory, as well as relevant levels of analysis among the different domains described in the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.

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Prizes

NIH will award cash prizes and non-cash prizes (such as entrepreneurial coaching, mentoring, and networking opportunities) as follows:

Graphic showing prizes for applicants, finalists and winners. Read details below.

Stage 1:

Up to 20 Stage 1 finalists will be selected from the initial pool of applicants (Figure 1). Each Stage 1 finalist will be awarded the opportunity to participate in a four-month entrepreneurial bootcamp. The bootcamp will provide resources that address unique needs and barriers faced by individuals who are seeking to develop science-driven aging innovations and to whom the NIA SBIR/STTR program could be especially critical to support their early-stage research, development, and commercialization activities. These resources include entrepreneurial coaching and workshops, mentorship, grant application skill building, peer-to-peer networking, and access to key industry networks, each of which have been identified as areas of need to foster success in the diverse research entrepreneur community.

To provide maximum flexibility for participants, the four-month bootcamp will be mostly virtual except for a 3- to 4-day in-person networking event in Boston scheduled for September 19-22, 2022, (travel costs paid by NIH) pending COVID-related travel and gathering restrictions. Stage 1 finalists must commit 4-6 hours per week to participate in the bootcamp, and over the course of the bootcamp, the finalists must work with their coaches and mentors to complete the following requirements:

  1. The finalist must form a company and be eligible to apply for an NIH SBIR/STTR grant.
  2. The finalist must identify and/or assemble a committed team of investigators, consultants, and/or collaborators that are appropriately trained and capable of carrying out the proposed R&D.
  3. The finalist must meet with an NIA program officer to discuss aims and objectives of a potential SBIR/STTR grant proposal.

At the conclusion of the bootcamp, finalists must submit a one-page written proposal, present a seven-minute pitch presentation to a panel of judges, and must have completed the above requirements.

Stage 2:

Up to five (5) winners will be selected from the Stage 1 finalist pool to receive up to $60,000 each.

The cash prize, coaching, mentorship, and skills gained through the bootcamp may be vital to launch or grow the participant’s start-up and execute activities that can improve a future NIA SBIR or STTR research proposal; for example, testing the premise of the research idea, generating preliminary data, developing or improving a prototype, and/or building an experienced team.

Prizes awarded under this competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer and may be subject to federal income taxes. HHS/NIH will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable. NIH reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, and/or modify this prize competition, or any part of it, for any reason, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no submissions are deemed worthy.

The Award Approving Official will be Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Aging.

Note: While Stage 1 participants are provided grant application skill-building resources, it is important to note that NIA has a variety of resources to help entrepreneurs apply for NIA grants, whether they participate in the Challenge or not, such as the NIA Applicant Assistance Program. Grant application technical assistance is not solely available to Stage 1 Challenge participants. For more information on resources, visit the NIA Small Business Research Programs website.

Additionally, while NIA hopes that the Challenge will encourage growth of diversity in the NIA SBIR/STTR applicant pool, and that the cash and non-cash prizes will further the development of a successful SBIR/STTR grant application, Challenge participation or selection as a winner does not guarantee that NIA or any other NIH component will award grant funding to support the research proposal. All grant applications, including those that are developed as a result of this Challenge, are still subject to competition, peer review, and all other grant application and award requirements.

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Sign Up to Mentor Challenge Participants

NIA seeks entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors who are excited to coach a group of emerging entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds as they pursue start-up ideas for healthy aging. Interested potential mentors can sign up by May 2 to help Challenge participants compete for the $60,000 top prize. If you have questions about becoming a Challenge mentor, contact the NIA Challenge team.

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Important Dates

  • Challenge Launch Date: March 15, 2022
  • Registration Period and Application Submission Period Begins: March 15, 2022
  • Deadline to Volunteer as a Mentor: May 2, 2022
  • Registration Period and Application Submission Period Ends: May 23, 2022
  • Stage 1 Finalists Announced: June 30, 2022
  • Stage 1 Bootcamp: July 18–Nov. 18, 2022
  • Final Application and Pitch Due: Dec. 5, 2022
  • Stage 2 Winners Announced: January 2023

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Submission Process

The registration period and application submission period for this Challenge opened on March 15, 2022. To register and apply, applicants must download an application form (PDF, 1.1M) and submit it to niastartupchallenge@nih.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on May 23, 2022. Do not include any confidential or proprietary information in your submission materials. By submitting materials in response to this Challenge, you are agreeing to allow the National Institute on Aging to publish all or parts of your submission materials on www.nia.nih.gov.

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Evaluation and Winner Selection

Technical reviewers with expertise in aging research, life science entrepreneurship and investment, business development, and product development will individually evaluate and score applications and submission materials based on the criteria outlined below. Technical reviewers will be comprised of experts from the federal government, academia, industry, and other sectors as deemed relevant. The evaluations from the technical reviewers will then be reviewed by a panel of federal employees serving as judges, who will provide a final evaluation and score of the applications and submission materials and recommend the Challenge finalists and winners for approval by the Award Approving Official. Finalists will be provided with a summary of the evaluation of the initial application. While the major rubric of the evaluation criteria for the finalists will remain the same for the winners, the emphasis will be on the applicant’s demonstrated need and the potential impact on diversity in aging research and development, as outlined in the criteria of evaluation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) complies with applicable federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, or sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity). 

Stage 1:

The criteria of evaluation to select the Stage 1 finalists are as follows:

  1. Significance (0–10 points): Does the technology or product address a significant unmet need in the older adult population?
  2. Innovation (0–10 points): How novel is the technology or product? What is the competitive advantage?
  3. Approach (0–10 points): What is the scientific premise of the idea? Is the design and methods of the proposed research and development appropriate and reflective of the NIH Inclusion Policy? Are obvious problem areas addressed?
  4. Commercialization (0–10 points): What is the value proposition? Is there a clearly defined market for the proposed product? Is the company’s business strategy one that has a high potential for success?
  5. Innovator(s) (0–10 points): Does the individual or team of individuals demonstrate a high level of commitment and collaboration? What level of relevant expertise does each person bring to the team? Are there significant gaps in expertise on the team and what is the plan to fill those gaps? Will the team significantly benefit from the coaching and workshops provided in the Challenge?
  6. Challenge Impact (0–25 points): Do the submitters demonstrate a need for the coaching, mentoring, and workshops? Will the coaching and workshops significantly enhance the ability of the team members to further develop and ultimately commercialize the innovation?
  7. Impact on Diversity of Technological Innovation (0–25 points): Will the applicant’s participation have the potential to increase the diversity of NIA-funded small business research and development in at least two of the following ways:
    1. The technology or product addresses a gap in NIA-funded small business research and development. (Active NIA SBIR/STTR awards can be found in NIH Reporter.)
    2. The technology or product addresses a unique need of older adults from minority and/or medically underserved areas/populations (as defined by HRSA) in alignment with the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and incorporating the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.
    3. The submitting individual or team of individuals possesses a background and/or unique life experience that would bring a diverse perspective to aging-related research and development. Some examples include but are not limited to:
      1. Experience being a caregiver for older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s disease or AD-related dementia.
      2. Research experience or training (aging or nonaging-related) which brings a complimentary and/or diverse perspective to enhance aging-related research and development.
      3. Individuals who have experienced and/or overcome unique challenges or barriers, which gives them a diverse perspective on aging-related research and development.
      4. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (as defined in NOT-OD-20-031) or medically underserved areas/populations (as defined by HRSA) who understand the unique needs of older adults in those communities, and, based on this, can develop aging innovations that are accessible, culturally appropriate, and responsive to the needs of the community.

Stage 2:

The criteria of evaluation to select the Stage 2 winners consist of the following:

A one-page document that addresses the following points [50 points total]:

  1. Prize Impact (0–25 points): Do the submitters demonstrate a need for prize funds? Do the submitters present a clear and strong plan for how the prize funds would enable the company to advance development and/or secure additional funds? Are the prize funds critical to accelerating development of the innovation?
  2. Impact on Diversity of Technological Innovation (0–25 points): Will the applicant’s participation have the potential to increase the diversity of NIA-funded small business research and development in at least two of the following ways:
    1. The technology or product addresses a gap in NIA-funded small business research and development.
    2. The technology or product addresses a unique need of older adults from minority and/or medically underserved areas/populations (as defined by HRSA) in alignment with the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and incorporating the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.
    3. The submitting individual or team of individuals possesses a background and/or unique life experience that would bring a diverse perspective to aging-related research and development. Some examples include but are not limited to:
      1. Experience being a caregiver for older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s disease or AD-related dementia.
      2. Research experience or training (aging or nonaging-related) that brings a complimentary and/or diverse perspective to enhance aging-related research and development.
      3. Individuals who have experienced and/or overcome unique challenges or barriers, which gives them a diverse perspective on aging-related research and development.
      4. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (as defined in NOT-OD-20-031) or medically underserved areas/populations (as defined by HRSA) who understand the unique needs of older adults in those communities, and, based on this, can develop aging innovations that are accessible, culturally appropriate, and responsive to the needs of the community.

A seven-minute video pitch that addresses the following points [50 points total]:

  1. Significance (0–10 points): Does the technology or product address a significant unmet need in the older adult population?
  2. Innovation (0–10 points): How novel is the technology or product? What is the competitive advantage?
  3. Approach (0–10 points): What is the scientific premise of the idea? Are the design and methods of proposed R&D appropriate and reflective of the NIH Inclusion Policy? Are obvious problem areas addressed?
  4. Commercialization (0–10 points): What is the value proposition? Is there a clearly defined market for the proposed product? Is the company’s business strategy one that has a high potential for success?
  5. Innovator(s) (0–10 points): Does the individual or team of individuals demonstrate a high level of commitment and collaboration? What level of relevant expertise does each person bring to the team? Are there significant gaps in expertise on the team and what is the plan to fill those gaps?

Finalists must also work with their coaches and mentors over the course of the bootcamp to complete the following requirements to be eligible for winner selection:

  1. The finalist must form a company and be eligible to apply for an NIH SBIR/STTR grant.
  2. The finalist must identify and/or assemble a committed team of investigators, consultants, and/or collaborators who are appropriately trained and capable of carrying out the proposed R&D.
  3. The finalist must meet with an NIA program officer to discuss aims and objectives of a potential SBIR/STTR grant proposal.

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Challenge Eligibility and Rules

The Challenge is open to any individual or team of individuals who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. As the goal of this Challenge is to foster diversity in aging research and innovation, NIA strongly encourages applicants from underrepresented populations (as defined in NOT-OD-20-031), which includes individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis. To be considered for participation in this Challenge, applicants must at a minimum meet the following two criteria:

  1. The applicant must demonstrate a need for the Challenge prize and entrepreneurial resources that will be available through the Challenge, and;
  2. The applicant must propose an innovative idea for a science-driven technology or product that aligns with the NIA small business research priorities. NIA has a special interest in proposals for tools, technologies, and products aimed to improve the health and quality of life for older adults in minority and underserved populations, as outlined in the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and incorporating the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.

The applicants must also satisfy each rule below to be eligible to participate in the Challenge and to win a prize:

To be eligible to win a prize under this Challenge, an individual or entity—

  • Shall have registered to participate in the Challenge under the rules promulgated by NIH as published in this Notice;
  • Shall have complied with all the requirements set forth in this Notice;
  • May not be the principal investigator on an NIH SBIR/STTR award that is active at the time of the Challenge submission period end date.
  • In the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States, and in the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. However, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents can participate as a member of a team that otherwise satisfies the eligibility criteria. Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents are not eligible to win a monetary prize (in whole or in part). Their participation as part of a winning team, if applicable, may be recognized when the results are announced.
  • May not be a federal entity or federal employee acting within the scope of their employment;
  • May not be an employee of HHS (or any component of HHS) acting in their personal capacity;
  • Who is employed by a federal agency or entity other than HHS (or any component of HHS), should consult with their agency Ethics Official to determine whether the federal ethics rules will limit or prohibit their participation in the Challenge or acceptance of the Challenge;
  • May not be a judge of the Challenge, or any other party involved with the design, production, execution, or distribution of the Challenge or the immediate family of such a party (i.e., spouse, parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild).
  • Has formed a U.S.-owned and -operated small business or intends to form a U.S.-owned and -operated small business during or at the conclusion of the program that meets the eligibility requirements to apply for SBIR/STTR funding.
  • An individual or entity shall not be deemed ineligible because the individual or entity used federal facilities or consulted with federal employees during the Challenge if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals and entities participating in the Challenge on an equitable basis.
  • Submissions must align with the NIA’s small business research priorities. The NIA Small Business Program is interested in proposals to develop innovations that address Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and AD-related dementias, aging-in-place, and age-related diseases and conditions. Additionally, NIA has a special interest in proposals for tools, technologies, and products aimed to improve the health and quality of life for older adults in minority and underserved populations, as outlined in the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and that reflect the key domains and levels of analysis illustrated in the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.
  • Finalists from the first stage of the competition must commit up to 4-6 hours per week for approximately four months beginning in July 2022 to participate in the bootcamp. To provide maximum flexibility for participants, the bootcamp will be mostly virtual except for a 3- to 4-day in-person networking event in Boston scheduled for September 19-22, 2022, (travel costs paid by NIH) pending COVID-related travel and gathering restrictions.
  • Federal grantees may not use federal funds to develop their Challenge Submissions unless use of such funds is consistent with the purpose of their grant award and they have specifically requested to do so due to the Challenge design, and as announced on challenge.gov.
  • Federal contractors may not use federal funds from a contract to develop their submissions or to fund efforts in support of their submission.
  • Multiple entries are permitted. Each solution must be sufficiently novel and unique and not be a minor modification of a prior submission.
  • Submissions must not infringe upon any copyright or any other rights of any third party.
  • By participating in this Challenge, each individual (whether competing singly or in a group) and entity agrees to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the federal government and its related entities (as defined in the COMPETES Act), except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from participation in this Challenge, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.
  • Based on the subject matter of the Challenge, the type of work that it will possibly require, as well as an analysis of the likelihood of any claims for death, bodily injury, property damage, or loss potentially resulting from Challenge participation, no individual (whether competing singly or in a group) or entity participating in the Challenge is required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in this Challenge.
  • By participating in this Challenge, each individual (whether competing singly or in a group) and entity agrees to indemnify the federal government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to Challenge activities.
  • By participating in this Challenge, each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) warrants that he or she is the sole author or owner of, or has the right to use, any copyrightable works that the submission comprises, that the works are wholly original with the participant (or is an improved version of an existing work that the participant has sufficient rights to use and improve), and that the submission does not infringe any copyright or any other rights of any third party of which participant is aware. In addition, each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) and each entity grants to NIH an irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free nonexclusive worldwide license to reproduce, publish, post, link to, share, and display publicly (e.g., on websites) the submission and abstracts on the web or elsewhere, and a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice, or have practiced for or on its behalf, the solution throughout the world. Each participant will retain all other intellectual property rights in their submissions, as applicable.
  • NIH reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, or modify the Challenge, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no entries are deemed worthy.
  • Each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) or entity agrees to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) or entity ensures that no confidential or proprietary material is submitted.
  • Each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) and entity participating in this Challenge must comply with all terms and conditions of these rules, and participation in this Challenge constitutes each such participant’s full and unconditional agreement to abide by these rules. Winning is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements herein.

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The IC’s Statutory Authority to Conduct the Challenge

The NIA is conducting this Challenge pursuant to authorities under the Section 2002 of the 21st Century Cures Act, 42 U.S.C. 283q, and the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, 15 U.S.C. 3719. In addition, this Challenge is consistent with the mission of the NIA, as described in 42 U.S.C. 285e, to conduct and support biomedical, social, and behavioral research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the aging process and the diseases and other special problems and needs of the aged. This Challenge also aims to enhance equity in the NIA SBIR and STTR programs as a means to further the congressional goal of the SBIR and STTR programs under 15 U.S.C. 638 to foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses, and by women-owned small businesses, in technological innovation.

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FAQs and More Information

Frequently Asked Questions About the Start-Up Challenge

Who is eligible to apply?

The Challenge is open to anyone who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Two of the basic qualifications for the Challenge are:

  • Applicants must show a need for the Challenge prize and resources.
  • Applicants must present an innovative idea that aligns with NIA’s research priorities.

NIA strongly encourages applications from researchers and entrepreneurs who belong to groups underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical sciences (as defined in NOT-OD-20-031) and in life sciences entrepreneurship.

Principal investigators of active NIH SBIR or STTR awards and federal or Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees are not eligible to apply.

Will my application be considered if I have previously received SBIR/STTR funding or other NIH funding?

Yes, you are eligible unless you are the principal investigator on an NIH SBIR/STTR award that is active at the time of the Challenge submission deadline (May 23, 2022).

What is NIA looking for in terms of diversity?

NIA encourages applicants and ideas that can increase the diversity of the NIA-funded small business research and development portfolio in at least two of the following ways:

  • Technology and products that meet the needs of older adults from minority or underserved populations in alignment with the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and incorporating the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.
  • Individuals/teams from underrepresented backgrounds that will bring diverse perspectives to aging-related research and development. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, racial/ethnic diversity and/or diverse experiences.
  • Technology or products that address a gap in NIA’s small business research and development portfolio.

How is “demonstrated need” defined?

“Demonstrated need” is defined as the essential support applicants require to launch a company and/or accelerate their technology. This could be access to funding, mentorship, entrepreneurial development workshops, equipment and facilities, collaborators, business expertise, or other resources.

What research priorities is NIA interested in funding?

The NIA Small Business Programs strategically fund science-driven innovations that promote healthy aging; address aging-related diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias; and meet unique needs of older adults, their caregivers, providers, and communities. Please review NIA’s small business research priorities.

For this Challenge, there is special interest in tools, technologies, and products that address health disparities in the older adult population in alignment with the NIA Health Disparities Objectives and incorporating the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework.

Can I apply to the NIH Applicant Assistance Program (AAP) and the Challenge at the same time?

Yes, you can apply to both programs, though each program targets a different need. The goal of the Challenge is to stimulate innovation and foster diversity in aging research and development and help participants overcome barriers to participating in life sciences entrepreneurship. NIA aims to do that by providing mentorship, industry exposure, and in-depth learning and skill-building opportunities to enhance understanding of the life sciences entrepreneurial pathway and how to develop a competitive proposal. Participants will also compete for a cash prize.

If you are ready to submit an NIH Phase I SBIR or STTR application for an upcoming submission deadline, AAP may be a good fit for you. This 10-week coaching program is designed to assist small businesses in preparing an NIH Phase I SBIR or STTR application package. AAP is offered once per funding period, roughly 3 months before standard due dates. The application portal for the next application cycle closes on May 23, 2022, at 5 p.m. ET.

What are the key dates for the Bootcamp and Challenge? How much time is required if selected?

Review the Important Dates section for more details about key dates. Selected finalists will participate in a 4-month virtual Bootcamp and attend a 3- to 4-day in-person networking event in Boston on September 19–22, 2022. Travel expenses for approved attendees will be paid by NIA.

How many participants will be selected for the Bootcamp?

NIA anticipates 15–20 finalists will participate in the Bootcamp.

If my company/organization is selected to participate, how many of my team members can join the Bootcamp?

All team members may participate in the virtual Bootcamp activities and mentoring sessions. NIA will cover the travel expenses of at least one team member to participate in the in-person networking event in Boston on September 19–22, 2022.

What costs are covered to participate in the Bootcamp?

NIA will arrange and pay for domestic travel costs for at least one team member to attend the 3- to 4-day networking event in Boston on September 19–22, 2022. This event will follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and policies.

What is the difference between this program and I-Corps™ at NIH?

I-Corps at NIH is an 8-week program for current NIH SBIR/STTR Phase I awardees. The program has a strong focus on customer discovery. NIA’s Challenge and Bootcamp are designed for companies that are not yet SBIR/STTR awardees but have a strong interest in applying for SBIR/STTR funding from NIA. The Challenge is an in-depth, 4-month program that provides 1:1 mentorship, entrepreneurial training, networking opportunities, and industry exposure. Although the Challenge will involve some customer discovery, those activities will not be a primary focus. In the end, the Challenge and Bootcamp may provide a foundation for further development through I-Corps after a successful award. Additionally, Challenge participants will deliver a final pitch to compete for one of five $60,000 cash prizes.

Can I submit more than one application on different topics?

Yes, you can submit more than one application if the specific aims are uniquely different.

What are the benefits of the Challenge and Bootcamp? Will I have a mentor if I participate?

The Challenge and Bootcamp will provide resources including entrepreneurial coaching and workshops, mentorship, grant application skill-building, peer-to-peer networking, and access to key industry networks. NIA identified each of these as areas of need to foster success in a diverse research entrepreneur community. Applicants will have access to a primary mentor as well as secondary mentors with specific expertise to impart. Additionally, Challenge finalists will compete for one of five $60,000 cash prizes.

If my company/organization is selected to participate, do we receive any special consideration for the NIA SBIR/STTR program application process?

The resources provided through the Challenge and Bootcamp can help participants launch or grow their start-up and execute early-stage activities that are critical to a successful NIA SBIR/STTR research proposal. These activities could include developing or improving a prototype, generating preliminary data, and/or building an experienced team. Although NIA hopes the Challenge will encourage more diversity in the NIA SBIR/STTR applicant pool — and that the cash and non-cash prizes will further the development of a successful SBIR/STTR grant application — Challenge participation or selection as a winner does not guarantee that NIA or any other NIH component will award grant funding to support the research proposal. All grant applications, including those that are developed as a result of this Challenge, are still subject to competition, peer review, and all other grant application and award requirements.

For More Information

Pre-Application Webinar

NIA hosted a pre-application webinar for the Challenge on April 20, 2022, to share information and guidance for the application and to discuss expectations for selected participants.

Access this video with audio description.

Contact

Joy Toliver, MPH, NIA, at NIAstartupchallenge@mail.nih.gov.


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2 Fleisher L and Marquez A. A Seat at the Table: Special Considerations for Women and Underrepresented Groups in Academic Entrepreneurship. Academic Entrepreneurship for Medical and Health Sciences. 2019. doi.org/10.21428.

3 Mervis J. NIH Program Fails to Launch Blacks in Biotech. Science. 2015. doi:10.1126/science.350.6263.896.

4 Innovation, Diversity, and the SBIR/STTR Programs: Summary of a Workshop. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. doi.org/10.17226/21738.