New funding program will spark innovation at UA


Sometimes all you need is a small spark to start a big fire, and that is the goal of The University of Akron Research Foundation’s (UARF) new Spark Fund program. The Spark Fund is designed to support prototyping and testing of new innovations and technologies created by UA graduate students and faculty. With monetary help from the Spark Fund, UARF hopes that these innovations will lead to more successful UA start-ups.

Elyse Ball

Elyse Ball

“The Spark Fund aims to jumpstart a lot of upcoming innovations,” said Elyse Ball, a project manager at UARF, who is overseeing the Spark Fund initiative. “The funding will pay to build prototypes of the technology, run tests to confirm that the technology works, scale up production for polymer products, or other activities that prove the technology can meet an identified customer need.”

The Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Start Up Fund matched the Spark Fund with a $250,000 award, making the total of the Spark Fund $500,000. The Spark Fund will be able to fund five to seven technologies in 2017, which means that each project will receive about $70,000 in funding from the Spark Fund alone.

The fund will work with UA faculty, graduate students and other UA students to evaluate each technology and determine if there is a competitive landscape, customer base and sizable market for the technology. If there is a strong customer need, then the project will be awarded a portion of the money to help prototyping and perform product testing.

The Spark Fund hopes that the funding will help the technologies find a licensing agreement with a company that is ready to take the product to market. The Spark Fund will only invest in technologies invented in UA labs and that have gone through either UA’s I-Corps Site or I-Corps@Ohio programs.

 Story by Courtney Bosetti

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