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In New UC San Diego Contest, Undergrad Research Teams Compete for Project Funds

A new proof-of-concept funding competition will pit UC San Diego undergraduate research teams against each other to develop projects or products with commercial potential.

It’s part of a renewed campus focus on innovation, entrepreneurism, and moving university problem-solving ideas into the marketplace.

“Our students regularly make the news for developing new approaches and new products that succeed in the modern business environment,” says Paul Roben, head of the new Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC). “From personal cameras to 3-D printed rocket engines to study-and-sleep-enhancing headphones, our students and alumni have been at the forefront of bringing ideas to the markets of America and the world. We want to encourage more of that.”

Sponsored by the OIC and The Basement, a collaborative space for student innovators, the competition allows teams (typically two to four students) of enrolled undergraduates to compete for the vital proof-of-concept funds. The teams need not be already accepted into The Basement program; and they need not have already founded a start-up. There are no restrictions on the industry or field of application for the research projects, and a single team may submit more than one proposal. Similar ideas presented by different teams will still be considered.

The application process consists of two phases: Phase 1, which involves an application describing the project and the proposed use of proof-of-concept funding, and any supplementary materials (a video, for example) needed for the pitch. Up to 10 projects can win funding, which includes automatic placement in The Basement.

Phase 2, which decides any follow-on funding, requires both written and spoken components. All applicants will have a table at Demo Day, and three winners will receive $2-3 thousand each in follow-on funds.

Applications will be evaluated by three experts in start-up creation, product development, venture capital, and product development, and evaluation sessions will be closed. Application information will be tightly restricted to members of the panel and, if necessary, leaders of the OIC and The Basement.

Winners will be selected based on level of innovation; commercial potential; competitive advantage; and proposed or actual use of the proof-of-concept funds.

The program was formally launched on Nov. 12– at an “Evening with an Expect” featuring Don Norman—with the first round concluding on December 23.

The judges will review eligible applications in January, and winners will be announced by Jan. 31.

Using proof-of-concept funds they’ve won, teams will spend February and March prototyping their ideas for presentation at Demo Day and for follow-on-funding competition, submitting proposals for follow-on funding by April 1 (no fooling).

Team expenditures that are eligible for funding include prototype development (design, testing, and field trials); raw materials and consumables; equipment or software necessary to the concept; and market analysis.

Expenditures not eligible include salaries; costs incurred before proof-of-concept award; costs of legal incorporation; purchase or rental of non-critical assets; commercial marketing costs; and infrastructure construction or utilities.

Details at a glance:


Teams of two to four currently enrolled undergrads

(current Basement teams also eligible to enter)


Proof of Concept (PoC) funds for new product ideas

  • Max. $2,000 cash prize for each Phase 1 winner (10 total)
  • Max. $3,000 cash prize for each Phase 2 winner (4 total)
  • Evaluated based on level of innovation, commercial potential, competitive advantage, and use of PoC funds.

Phase 1: Early PoC funds

  • Announcement of Competition at “Evening with an Expert” on Nov 12, 2015
  • Application period from 11/12 to 12/23
  • 10 PoC Proposal team winners announced 1/31/16.

Prototyping Period: (2/1/16 to 3/31/16)

Phase 2: Follow-on PoC funds

  • Application due from Phase 1 winning teams on 4/1/16
  • 3 PoC Project teams winners selected prior to Demo Day

The Basement Demo Day: April 28, 2016

In addition to the PoC competition, the Basement has a parallel competition

  • Exhibit tables for 10 PoC Phase 1 teams and Basement teams in a parallel competition
  • Presentations by Phase 2 winning teams
  • Audience Favorite awarded $2,000 (vote by text).

For more information about the competition or The Basement, visit

Media Contact

Paul K. Mueller, 858-534-8564, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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