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2018 Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Prize Competition

About the Challenge
I-FAST will provide entrepreneurship I-CORPS training to USDA NIFA grantees

Posted By: National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Category: Ideas
Partnership With: National Science Foundation
Submission Dates: 10 a.m. ET, Jul 13, 2018 - 11:59 p.m. ET, Aug 03, 2018 Judging Dates: Aug 06, 2018 - Aug 09, 2018 Winners Announced: Aug 09, 2018

SUMMARY: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA, is announcing the I-FAST prize competition (the “I-FAST Competition” or the “Competition”) to develop and implement the Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Program. NIFA will partner with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to provide entrepreneurship training to NIFA grantees under this I-FAST pilot program. The goals are to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. Selected NIFA I-FAST project teams will participate in the educational programs with NSF I-Corps Program. Over a period of six months the NIFA supported teams in the I-FAST program will learn what it will take to achieve an economic impact with their particular innovation. The final goal of the I-FAST Competition is to facilitate technology transfer of innovations that can make an impact in the marketplace and the global economy.

Subject of Challenge Competition:

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA, mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. As part of this mission NIFA is charged with providing grant funding for research, education, and extension that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture. A majority of NIFA grant funding is provided to academic institutions to focus on developing research in the areas of farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry (both urban and agroforestry), aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding.

NIFA will partner with the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) who will provide an Entrepreneurial Immersion course and training to NIFA grantees through this I-FAST Competition. The goals of this Competition are to spur translation of fundamental research to the market place, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train NIFA-funded faculty, students and other researchers to understand innovation and entrepreneurship.

The purpose of the I-FAST Competition is to identify NIFA-funded research teams (an I-FAST team includes the Principal Investigator (PI), the Entrepreneurial Lead, and the Mentor) who will receive additional support, in the form of mentoring, training, and funding to accelerate the translation of knowledge derived from fundamental research into emerging products and services that can attract subsequent third-party funding. NIFA-funded research teams will be required to participate in Entrepreneurial Immersion courses provided by the NSF I-Corps program. The NSF I-Corps is a program specifically designed to broaden the impact of select, basic research projects by preparing scientists and engineers to focus beyond the laboratory. Leveraging experience and guidance from established entrepreneurs and a targeted curriculum within the NSF I-Corp program, NIFA I-FAST teams will learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. The I-FAST Competition will help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development to address agricultural and societal needs.

DATES: Competition Submission Period – Pre-Application and Evaluation Interviews:

  • Pre-Application Open Period: July 13, 2018 to August 3, 2018.
  • Pre-Application Evaluation and Interviews: August 6, 2018 to August 9, 2018.
  • Full Application Open Period: August 10, 2018 to August 17, 2018.
  • Final Evaluation and Judging – Full Application: August 20, 2018 to August 22, 2018.
  • Verification of Winners: August 23, 2018.
  • Announcement of Winner(s): August 24, 2018.

NSF I-Corps Training for Winner(s): Winning team(s) will need to be available to travel to and attend one of the following NSF I-Corps training sessions with the following dates and locations:

Fall 2018 COHORTS:

Fall Cohort #1: Location TBD (Likely Detroit, MI)

  • Kickoff (on-site): September (arrive 25) 26-28, 2018.
  • Web sessions (online): Thursdays 1:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) – October 4, 11, 18, 25 and November 1, 2018.

Lessons Learned (on-site): November 8-9, 2018.

Fall Cohort #2: Location TBD (Likely Los Angeles or San Diego, CA)

  • Kickoff (on-site): September (arrive 30) to October 1-3, 2018.
  • Web sessions (online): Mondays 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET –October 10, 17, 24, 31 and November 7, 2018.

Lessons Learned (on-site): November 15-16, 2018.

The Pre-Application Phase Competition Submission Period begins July 13, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends August 3, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

 

The Full-Application Phase Competition Submission Period begins August 10, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends August 17, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Competition dates are subject to change. Entries submitted before or after the Competition Submission Period will not be reviewed or considered for award.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions about the Competition can be directed to Scott Dockum at sdockum@nifa.usda.gov, or phone 202-720-6346 or Olivia Moreno at Olivia.moreno@nifa.usda.gov, or 202-603-9186.

 

Judging Criteria

Government Cross Agency

Judging:
The information on the Competition will be provided via www.challenge.gov.
NIFA will screen all entries for eligibility and completeness. Entries from Teams that do not meet the eligibility requirements and/or that fail to include required submission elements will not be evaluated or considered for award. Eligible and complete entries will be judged by a fair and impartial panel of individuals from NIFA and NSF (the “Judging Panel”).
Pre-Application Evaluation: The Judging Panel will evaluate the pre-application to determine the following:
1) Did the technology proposed receive past NIFA funding within the specified timeframe?
2) Does the team have the required team members and are the roles of each team member clearly described and meet the noted responsibilities?
3) Does the commercialization plan provide a good understanding of the team’s knowledge of the current state of the art and how the technology could enter into a potential market?
4) Were the page limits met?
Following the evaluation, the Judging Panel will conduct a phone interview with each selected team. This will emphasize the time commitment and availability of the entire team to complete the NSF I-CORPS program during one of the fall 2018 cohorts.
Full-Application Evaluation: The Judging Panel will evaluate the Full-application to determine the following and approximately equal consideration will be given to each criterion except for item (3), which will receive twice the value of any of the other items:
1. I-Corps Team: Does the application clearly describe: the I-Corps team, the rationale for the team’s formation, members' entrepreneurial expertise, relevance to the innovation effort, and members' experience in collaborating?
2. Lineage of the Proposed Innovation: Does the application provide a table of previous NIFA awards and identify the original Principle Investigator (PI)? Does the application clearly describe how this research has led the Team to believe that a commercial opportunity exists for the effort moving forward?
3. Description of the Potential Commercial Impact: Does the application clearly describe the profile of a typical customer of the proposed innovation? Does the application describe the customer needs to be met by the proposed innovation? Does the application describe how the customer currently meets those needs with the current state of the art and does the customer believe this innovation is better than the current technology? Does the application clearly describe the proposed innovation and how it relates to the fundamental research already conducted under previous award(s)? Does the application describe how much a customer would pay for the solution?
4. Project plan: Does the project plan clearly describe the current status including the stage of development? Does the application provide a description of the proof-of-concept or technology demonstration that will be provided at the end of the project?
5. Page Limits: Did the application meet the required page limits?

How to Enter

Submission Process for Participants:

The Competition will have a two-phase selection process. Teams initially will submit a pre-application. From the pre-applications, USDA NIFA will select Teams that will be invited to submit full applications. From the full applications, USDA NIFA will select the winning Team(s).

Participants will register for the Competition and will submit the pre-application to the Competition via www.challenge.gov. Teams can enter the contest by submitting the pre-application through the “Submit Solution” function on Challenge.gov, and then send the pre-application, with name and contact info, to contest@nifa.usda.gov. The pre-application shall contain the following information:

Prepare a three-page Executive Summary that describes the following:

  • Composition of the Team and roles (EL, PI, Mentor) of the members proposing to undertake the commercialization feasibility research.
  • Point of Contact information for ALL of the members.
  • Relevant current/previous NIFA award(s) including award number, Title of the Project, and the NIFA program the award was funded under.
  • Brief description of the potential commercial impact.
  • Brief description of the current commercialization plans for the innovation.I-Corps Team (one page limit)
  • After the interviews, teams that are selected to submit a full application will provide the full application via challenge.gov through the “Enter a Submission” function, and then send the application with your name and contact info, to contest@nifa.usda.gov. The full application shall include the following project description information:
    1. Briefly describe the I-Corps team and provide rationale for its formation, focusing on members’ entrepreneurial expertise, relevance to the innovation effort, and members’ experience in collaborating on previous projects.
    2. Include point of contact information for all team members.

Lineage of the Proposed Innovation (one page limit)

    1. Provide the current/previous NIFA award(s) including award number, Title of Project and the NIFA program the award was funded under.
    2. Briefly describe how this research has led the Team to believe that a commercial opportunity exists for the effort moving forward.

Description of the Potential Commercial Impact (two page limit)

    1. Provide a brief profile of a typical customer of the proposed innovation.
    2. Describe the customer need that you believe will be met by the proposed innovation.
    3. Describe how the customer currently meets those needs.
    4. Your approach – What is the proposed innovation? How does it relate to the fundamental research already conducted under previous award(s)?
    5. How much do you think a customer would pay for your solution?

Brief description of the project plan (one page limit)

    1. Current Status – In what stage is the development: proof-of-principle, proof-of-concept, prototype (alpha, beta), etc…
    2. Provide a brief description of the proof-of-concept or technology demonstration that will be provided at the end of the project.

The total page limit for the project description full application is five (5) pages.

From the Teams submitting full applications, a maximum of eight Teams will be selected as winners to enter into the I-FAST Program.

DATES:

Pre-Application Open Period: July 13, 2018 to August 3, 2018

Pre-Application Evaluation and Interviews:  August 6, 2018 to August 9, 2018

Full Application Open Period: August 10, 2018 to August 17, 2018

Final Evaluation and Judging – Full Application Phase: August 20, 2018 to August 22, 2018

Verification of Winners: August 23, 2018

Announcement of Winner(s): August 24, 2018

NSF I-Corps Training for Winner(s): Winning team(s) will need to be available to travel to and attend one of the following NSF I-Corps training sessions with the following dates and locations:

DATES:

Pre-Application Open Period: July 13, 2018 to August 3, 2018

Pre-Application Evaluation and Interviews:  August 6, 2018 to August 9, 2018

Full Application Open Period: August 10, 2018 to August 17, 2018

Final Evaluation and Judging – Full Application Phase: August 20, 2018 to August 22, 2018

Verification of Winners: August 23, 2018

Announcement of Winner(s): August 24, 2018

NSF I-Corps Training for Winner(s): Winning team(s) will need to be available to travel to and attend one of the following NSF I-Corps training sessions with the following dates and locations:

Fall 2018 COHORTS:

Fall Cohort #1: Location TBD (Likely Detroit, MI)

  • Kickoff (on-site): September (arrive 25) 26-28, 2018
  • Web sessions (online): Thursdays 1-4pm ET – October 4, 11, 18, 25 and November 1, 2018
  • Lessons Learned (on-site): November 8-9, 2018
  • Fall Cohort #2: Location TBD (Likely Los Angeles or San Diego, CA)
  • Kickoff (on-site): September (arrive 30) to October 1-3, 2018
  • Web sessions (online): Mondays 1-4pm ET – October 10, 17, 24, 31 and November 7, 2018
  • Lessons Learned (on-site): November 15-16, 2018Pre-Application Interviews will take place August 6, 2018 to August 9, 2018.Competition dates are subject to change. Entries submitted before or after the Competition Submission Period will not be reviewed or considered for award.
  • The Full-Application Phase Competition Submission Period begins August 10, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends August 17, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET. USDA NIFA’s receiving computer set to Eastern Time is the official timekeeping device for the Competition.
  • The Pre-Application Phase Competition Submission Period begins July 13, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends August 3, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET. USDA NIFA’s receiving computer set to Eastern Time is the official time keeping device for the Competition.
Prizes
2018 Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Prize Competition Amount of the Prize: The NIFA I-FAST Competition Prize Purse will be a maximum of $250,000 which will be divided to provide $50,000 each to a maximum of five (5) teams. Prize Purse funds are required to be used by winning Teams to fully participate in the NSF I-Corps program curriculum. NIFA reserves the right to award less than the maximum number of available prizes. Payment of the Prize: Prizes awarded under this Competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer to the academic/university institution the Team(s) represent(s). Once prize winners are selected, NIFA will provide the winners with the forms and financial documents that must be completed and returned to NIFA to set up the electronic transfer. All Federal, state and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner(s).
Solutions
No solutions have been posted for this challenge yet.
Rules

Eligibility Rules for Participating in the Competition: 

The I-FAST Competition is open to teams (“Teams” or “Participants”) that are made up of individuals from academic/university institutions that have received a prior NIFA award in a scientific or engineering field relevant to the proposed innovation that is currently active or that has been active within five years from the closing date of the Pre-Application Open Period. The prior award could range from a modest single-investigator award to a large, distributed center and also includes awards involving students.

To be eligible to win a prize under the Competition, Teams:

  • Shall have registered to participate in the Competition under the rules;
  • Shall have complied with all the requirements of the Competition rules;
  • May not include a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment; and
  • In the case of a private entity Team member, the member shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. In the case of an individual Team member, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.

Makeup of I-FAST Competition Teams: Each Team shall consist of three members:

  • Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)
  • I-FAST Team Mentor
  • Principal Investigator (PI)

I-FAST teams are made up of individuals from an academic/university institution except for the Mentor who may reside with a non-academic institution as described below. Also described below, are the responsibilities of each team member should the Team be selected as a winner of the competition.

The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) could be a postdoctoral scholar, graduate, or other student with relevant knowledge of the technology located at the academic/university institution and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. The EL should also be capable and have the will to support the transition of the technology to commercial viability. The EL will be responsible for: 1) developing the team to include the mentor and PI, 2) leading the development of the pre-application, participating in the I-FAST interviews and developing the full application, if selected, 3) starting and completing all training activities in the Entrepreneurial Immersion course provided by the NSF I-Corps program, 4) communicating and coordinating with team members to achieve the goals of the team, 5) developing and monitoring team activity milestones from the Entrepreneurial Immersion course, 6) ensuring the team milestones are completed on time, and 7) ensuring the team is in communication with the NIFA I-FAST Competition Director and the NSF I-Corps Program Director as needed.

Ideally, the I-FAST Teams Mentor will be an experienced or emerging entrepreneur with proximity to the academic/university institution and have prior experience developing and commercializing other products within the broader technology space related to the specific project under development. The Mentor should be selected as a third-party resource, or may be a person that has an established relationship with the team (e.g., Board Member, consultant), but cannot be an employee nor directly involved with the technology development. The EL will need to identify a Mentor that has business expertise in the proposed technology sector and has entrepreneurial experience. A Mentor will be someone with appropriate contacts in the technology area of commercialization which are critical for propelling the technology towards commercialization. The EL of the team should seek input from their University Technology Transfer Office for potential Mentors. The I-FAST Team’s Mentor will be responsible for guiding the team forward using existing entrepreneurial experience and tracking the team’s progress through regular communication with the EL, PI, the NIFA I-FAST competition director, and the NSF I-Corps Program Director, as needed.

The PI is expected to have in-depth knowledge of the innovation developed under the prior NIFA Grant and, if selected, will be responsible for: 1) coordinating with the university on the transfer of prize funds from NIFA, 2) tracking of the prize funding for team activities, 3) reporting to NIFA on disbursements and obligations of the prize funding, 4) guiding the EL and Mentor on technical aspects of the innovation, 5) communicating as needed with the NIFA I-FAST Competition Director and the NSF I-Corps Program Director, 6) ensuring the EL meets the required milestones for the NSF I-CORP training, and 7) participating as a team member. The Principal Investigator who received the earlier NIFA grant for the technology is allowed to participate on the team, but cannot be the Entrepreneurial Lead.

During the I-Corps course, each participating team, including all its team members, must:

  • Attend, in person, an evening reception and 3-day kick-off Entrepreneurial Immersion course;
  • Conduct approximately 100 customer interviews over the 6-week program, and submit interview summary reports. This process of customer discovery includes in-person face to face meetings with potential customers and requires the team to be “outside the building” for these activities. It is expected that the team will not use telephone or online conferencing during the customer discovery process. It is expected the team will require a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week
  • Participate in 5 weekly webinar sessions and submit regular updates to the team’s business model canvas. In addition, it is expected that I-Corps teams will take advantage of instructor office hours; and
  • Attend, in person, the final 2-day course close out/lessons learned session (to be held in the same region as the kick-off course).

If one or more team members cannot meet these requirements, the team should not submit an application.

 

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