1- What is the SPARK Colorado Program?

SPARK is a biotechnology accelerator program to support promising academic discoveries towards commercialization and/or entering into the clinic. The program specifically focuses on technologies addressing unmet clinical needs in drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics.

If you have a digital solution please reach out to CU Innovations. We might have alternative support mechanisms that you can benefit from.


2- What is REACH Colorado?

NIH has been funding the establishment of Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH) across the country which is designed to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into commercial products that improve health for patients. CU Innovations, by using the SPARK Colorado program as the ‘preliminary data’ applied for the NIH REACH grant and was selected to be one of the five new REACH Hubs to be funded in 2019. Hence, part of the funding for the SPARK program will be coming from NIH funds.  

You can find more information about REACH Hubs through this webpage https://ncai.nhlbi.nih.gov/ncai/


3- What does the SPARK program provide to accepted projects?

The SPARK program provides funding, mentorship, education, opportunities for networking and resources to further develop accepted projects. This is NOT a basic funding program, the aim is product development and moving your discovery from the lab to patients and the SPARK team will be highly engaged in your success and product development process, which will require an equal time commitment from you should you get selected.


4- How many applications do you accept per year?

The hub plans to accept up to 10 teams into the 2020-2021 cohort.


5- How much funding is provided and how is it distributed?

The funding will be up to $100,000 over two-years. However, if the hub decides to take in less than 10 projects there might be a slight increase in the budget allocations. The budgets of selected projects will be review by the hub leadership which might recommend alterations. The program is milestone-based where funding is dispersed as your research program progresses.


6- What is the source of funding?

This year, funding for SPARK Colorado comes from the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade’s (COEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) program, CU Innovations and the NIH REACH grant.  Hence, NIH post-award procedures and university policies regarding NIH funding will be applicable.


7- Are there restrictions for the use of SPARK funds?

Yes, since part of the source of funding is coming through NIH, all NIH budgetary rules as well as university rules applies. For further details please see the SPARK Colorado application for additional details on the budget restrictions and timeline.



8- What is the application process?

Applications open on November 26th, 2019.

Full Application: Closes at 5:00pm January 20th, 2020

Final Presentations: Times TBD but will be held during second half of March

Final Selection Notification: End of March 2020


9- Who will be evaluating the applications and pitch presentations?

The review committee will be comprised of successful life science entrepreneurs, industry experts, and CU Innovations’ Entrepreneurs in Residence. The committee will spend every effort to make sure that judges evaluate within their specific expertise areas. Once the external review board completes its review, selected projects will be send to NIH Technology Guidance Committee that has representatives from FDA, NIH, CMS, USPTO, Kaiser Permanente, who will provide feedback about the projects regarding their expertise areas.


10- Who is eligible for the program?

The applicant must be an eligible principal investigator from CU Anschutz. To check for eligibility: www.ucdenver.edu/research/OGC/awardadmin/preaward/Pages/eligibility.aspx


11-  Can a PI submit more than one application?

Yes, however only one of their projects will actually be admitted. Multiple technologies can be ‘packaged’ into single applications if it is logical for their development.


12- Can solo PI’s apply?

Yes. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged and tend to perform better in the SPARK model. A strong team with all necessary skillsets required to move the project forward would potentially have a greater chance to meet their milestones and convince investors down the line.

Having a scientific and clinical lead on the project would increase the chances of success for the application and the project.


13- What are the expectations from SPARK teams?

Faculty admitted to the program will be expected to commit certain time to programmatic components such as participating in educational seminars, certain business meetings etc. The program will also require the faculty to work closely with the CU Innovations team, unlike a traditional grant. We provide industry advisors which you’ll meet as needed. Additionally, you’ll be expected to attend bi-weekly evening educational seminar series (Wednesdays 5pm-7pm). You’ll also meet with the CU Innovations team quarterly to discuss your milestone progress and any resources you need. Since funding is provided in part by the State of Colorado, some additional paperwork will be required after acceptance into the program to ensure your funding. The CU Innovations team will be assisting you and facilitating all stages of product development throughout the program.


14- What elements are important for the application?

Does the proposal address a significant unmet need?

How solid is the scientific rationale (theory and available data?)

How well-differentiated is the proposed approach vs. standard of care and competition in industry and academia?

Is there a clear path forward to de-risk the proposal?

How engaged is the team behind the proposal?

Does the proposal have IP and commercial potential? If not, what would be a possible development path to make the product available to patients?


15- Do I get help if I decide to set up a company?

Absolutely! CU Innovations already offers this help to all faculty on the campus.


16- Who should I ask if I have questions?

You can e-mail the SPARK Program e-mail (sparkcu@ucdenver.edu).