Seed Fund

Purpose

The Student Seed Fund is a micro grant program managed by Drexel Smart House and open to all Drexel students. This program supports student innovation by funding early stage research and the development of prototypes or models, with the ultimate goal of launching strong research and development ripe for commercialization and technology transfer activities. Projects can receive up to $2500 from the fund, and proposals are reviewed within three weeks. In addition to funding, selected ideas will receive extensive support and mentorship from.

The Baiada Center Mentors, legal professionals, faculty, and industry partners when applicable. This valuable support will give you and your team the resources necessary to secure further grant funding, startup funding, or other translational milestones.

Student Seed Fund proposals are evaluated by a review board made up of faculty, DSH member students, and alumni partners. Review board members are under strict non-disclosure agreements to keep the contents of proposals confidential. Drexel Smart House members are available to support Drexel students in the proposal writing process.

Proposal Criteria

Relevance

Does the work aim to improve the urban living experience? Does the research relate to quality of life or environmental footprint in the urban residential environment? Does the research contribute to one or more of the DSH research themes: Energy, Environment, Health, Interaction, or Lifestyle?

Significance

Does the proposed activity have potential to make a difference in the real-world and meaningfully benefit society? Does it address an existing market need? Does the research answer a question and contribute to the scientific body of knowledge in an interesting way? Does the project address a problem better than previous research? Does it provide unique data, unique conclusions on existing data, or a unique theoretical or pragmatic approach?

Approach

Is the approach creative, original, translational, or transformative? Are the proposed scope, timeline, and budget feasible? Is the approach technically sound? Are the proposed activities well conceived and organized? Are sufficient resources available for execution? Is clear financial need demonstrated beyond exhausting existing university resources? If applicable, is labor divided adequately among team members?

Novelty

Are the problems or approaches novel? Is this a novel combination of familiar techniques? Is it clear how this work differs from previous contributions? Is related work adequately referenced?

EvaluationApproach

Do proposed activities include a well conceived plan for evaluating claims by theoretical analysis or experimental results? Will the proposed activities provide sufficiently convincing evidence to support conclusions? Are deliverables clearly articulated?

Clarity

Is the proposal clearly written? Is it well-organized? Does it adequately inform the reader?

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals are not to exceed three pages in length, in 12-point font, single spaced, with1.5-inch margins. Use the template below as a guideline to the structure of your proposal. Since Drexel Smart House funds multiple projects under this program and is bound to report obligations, it is important that proposals are uniform. Do not hesitate to submit a one page proposal, or a proposal for a small amount of money (i.e. $25-100, etc).

A student leader is required for each proposal. Faculty advisers are recommended, but are not necessary at the proposal stage. If your project is selected for funding, you must find a faculty adviser or work with our team to find a faculty adviser. There is no limit on the number of students on a proposal, however teams with more than five students are discouraged as they can become difficult to manage.

There is no limit to the number of proposals a student may submit per funding round. Applicants will receive notification of a decision within two weeks of the deadline, and funding will be provided immediately upon email confirmation of a faculty advisor(s).

Finished proposals should be emailed toseed@drexelsmarthouse.comby 11:59pm on the day of the deadline.

Proposal Template

  1. Background and Problem Definition -Include a description of where your idea came from. Are there similar existing technologies/methods you are improving upon? Make sure you clearly identify the problem area to which you are addressing.
  2. Purpose, Objectives, Scope –Include a discussion of the relationship to the Drexel Smart House mission and objectives. Does this project improve environmental or social conditions? Is this project related to the built environment or the urban residential setting?What is your target audience/group? Who/what are you making an impact upon, and in what way?
  3. Project Description -Is this project feasible (difficulty, timeline, cost, etc.) for completion (or actionable, transition-able next steps) by a student team prior to graduating? Is this project practical and applied? Is there a market for this project and is this project scalable? Is there potential to make a difference in the real world? Is the project original – a “wow” idea?
  4. Project Schedule -Show significant steps and milestones in the project. Clearly depict the project’s duration, and include key milestones and project tasks building on the timeline from research to design through development to implementation. Indicate anticipated role and tasks of each team member.
  5. Budget Justification -You must provide a budget, and all expenses must be carefully justified.
    Budget items can include:
    • Prototype costs
    • Supplies related to the project
    • Software for which Drexel does not own licenses
    • Equipment
    • Expenses related to students’ creating marketing analyses or business plans

  6. Budgets may not include:

    • Travel
    • Expenses related to patent searches
    • Publicity expenses
    • Reference materials & literature (most such expenses will be absorbed by DSH's partnership with the Drexel Library)
    • Consultation services
    • Legal and other expenses of business formation or operation
    • Wages or stipends
    • Machine Shop Costs (most work orders are done free of charge by the Drexel Machine Shop) If a substantial amount of machining is required, it may be included in the budget with justification. Please consult DSH for rapid prototyping needs.
  7. Attachments –you may include up to 10 attachments, such as drawings, photographs, bibliographies, or articles, are permitted. Resumes for all team members are required as one or more attachment.

Typical Operating Plan

Funding opportunities are announced and deadlines are posted in the weeks prior to the end of the term preceding the next round, starting no later than week 5. For instance for a Spring Term round this should occur no later than week 5 of Winter Term. Assistance with writing proposals, feedback and suggestions will be available from DSH members during this period up until the proposal deadline.

Proposal Deadline: Week 3- Proposals are due by the end of week 3. Proposals will not be accepted after Sunday 11:59pm.

Reviewers Solicited: Week 4- Proposals are sent along with a Review Form to all perpetual Review Board Members. Interim members are given a choice to opt in or out. Deadline to drop out is the end of Week 4.

Review Period: Weeks 4-6- A three week time period is given to the Review Board members to evaluate the proposals and complete the Review Form. Proposals are graded for overall integrity and are ultimately given a “yes” or “no” from each member as recommended to be funded.

Final Decision: Week 6- Seed Fund Committee meets to discuss review forms and ultimately decide, based upon Review Board feedback and recommendations, which projects to fund or not. Proposals that are rejected are returned to the students with feedback.

Implementation: Week 7- Funds are administered. Payment Authorization Liaison (PAL) has charge card/account information. 

Milestones – All projects granted funding are required to provide detailed progress reports at 3 and 6 months from the date accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions

What projects will Drexel Smart House fund?

The Drexel Smart House’s ultimate goal is to improve life through smart design and technology. The broad scope of our goals is up to the interpretation of the applicant, however we are most interested in innovations in the built environment - that is, innovations that improve life in some way within buildings, homes, workplaces, schools, etc. To date, Drexel Smart House projects have had a strong sustainability component, encompassing energy, health, the environment, human computer interaction, and automation.

Who is eligible for Seed Funding?

Any Drexel student, with the exception of freshman students: Freshman students may only receive funding for work to be completed in Summer term following their freshman academic year. We encourage freshman students to apply for funding as early as possible since funding is limited and proposals are occasionally returned for revision and re-submission.

Freshman students may apply for Seed funding in support of or in addition to a Star summer research program.

Proposals must clearly demonstrate a time commitment to pursuing project goals; the Review Board would be hesitant to approve a project for a team of senior design students which demonstrates little commitment to continuity following graduation. If this is your situation, we encourage your team to bring on upperclassmen students or partner with a freshman design group. Teams with this dynamic must clearly state team members contribitions and responsibilities.

What can go in the budget? What items are not eligible for funding?

Any prototype materials, tools, parts, components, or testing equipment can be budgeted into a project. All expenses must be well justified. Proposals missing justification for a budget item will be returned.

Items in the budget must not be available at Drexel; for example, it would be inappropriate for a team studying wireless sensors to budget an oscilloscope, because this equipment is available in many labs throughout campus.

Drexel Smart House members are equipped to identify available resources at the University to minimize the items that are budgeted. We highly encourage every applicant to consult with DSH to write budgets.
Budgets may not include:

Travel, conference registrations, software (unless strong justification is provided), stipends or pay, subcontracts, legal services, incorporation costs, business costs, consultant fees, literature or journal access (provided by Library), or computers (embedded application specific systems must have justification)
The review board reserves the right to approve a project with a board revised budget, or tier funding disbursements contingent on completion of project milestones.

Who owns the projects/prototypes/materials?

This common question is often a sticking point for students. With most grants obtained through the university, the associated materials and equipment is property of the university and not the faculty/researchers/students. Even though the funding is awarded to individuals and student teams, all materials purchased or produced using the funds are property of Drexel University and Drexel Smart House. However, since this program is meant to foster tech transfer and student innovation, teams or individuals may claim ownership of associated materials if a business is incorporated within one year of the completion of the Seed Fund project. This claim for ownership must be made in writing and is subject to approval of the Review Board.