NIFA Invests Over $2 Million in Antimicrobial Resistance Research

USDA Award Announcements

NIFA Invests Over $2 Million in Antimicrobial Resistance Research

NIFA recently announced that will lead to a better understanding of antimicrobial resistance in food and agricultural systems. This knowledge will identify opportunities and strategies to make agricultural antimicrobial resistance less persistent; identify innovative alternatives to control farm animal diseases, which could also affect humans; and help understand how drug resistance occurs. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

Wondering what else USDA funds?  Find out on our May 30th webinar featuring USDA Program Specialist, Elden Hawkes.  Learn more and register .

Will it work? What is Feasibility?

Feasibility is often a loosely defined term that might be difficult to pin down.  Phase I proposals are designed to ‘prove feasibility;’ i.e. show that your idea actually could work. Showing feasibility lays the groundwork necessary to be successful with a Phase II proposal and ultimately commercializing a product. The extent of proving feasibility will certainly vary depending on your project, your goals, how far along your technology is, and what key technical problems remain to be solved.

In we help guide you in determining what makes a good Phase I project to demonstrate your idea is feasible.  Fortunately, you are in control of how feasibility is defined. In your proposal, you can clearly state that the proposed efforts will show feasibility. 

How do I figure out how to show feasibility?  Work backwards from your intended commercial product.  If you know what your product is supposed to look like, you should ask what you need to accomplish in a Phase II proposal to get to commercialization.  With the Phase II project in mind, you should ask yourself what you need to do in order to be prepared to complete this.  The efforts necessary to be prepared for a Phase II project are what you can propose for your Phase I feasibility work. 

Details and discussion on determining a Phase I feasibility study will be a key component of the program.

Ideadvance Testimonials

'Why ?' 

That's what we asked past awardees -- the UW System faculty, staff, students and alumni who found it "critical" to advancing their businesses. The following videos are their answers. 


- "Thoughtfully build your business with Ideadvance"


- "You don't know what you don't know"



ERbin - "What did we learn through the process? .... A LOT"


Arbuda - Ideadvance "helped us think through the business in its entireity"


- "Ideadvance was critical for my business" - UW-River Falls faculty testimonial

Lean Startup Doesn’t Work

Did I get you?! 

Lean Startup has been part of the business lexicon for several years. The other day, I was explaining the basics to our intern who was obviously bored and quickly commented that he knew all about it. I think that is the challenge and opportunity with Lean Startup. It’s become a common idea where its execution is defined simply by business model canvas, MVP and pivot. Unfortunately, these key WORDS mask the nuance and sometimes difficulty of the key ACTIONS.

What is Lean Startup? The general idea is that you consider assumptions or key ideas about your business.  Instead of focusing on execution, you focus on feedback & experimentation to inform HOW you execute.

Feedback and experimentation is developed through customer discovery and minimum viable products (MVPs).  You release some low fidelity, but functioning version of the product to gain insight from the market. But often, the outcomes of your Lean Startup activity are muddied as teams get hung up on the words vs. actions.

Words vs Action Mishaps:

Customer Discovery:  The word customer is not limited to the person(s) who buy the product. It’s a chance to explore the ecosystem, channel partners and EVEN key barriers that might include policy and regulation. 

MVP:  MVP suggests you always have some tangible product for a customer.  But often, putting out a product can impact the IP strategy, competitive advantage or just may be prohibited because of regulation.  But the action of MVP learning can still happen at most stages.  While it might not be a product to buy, there is very often some version of value you can test with customers, ecosystem partners, regulatory entities and so on.  Leverage your team of trusted advisors to help your company identify actionable learning steps.

Pivot: I think I dislike pivot most of all as it is often overused. Lean Startup tends to celebrate the pivot and thus most teams glorify a quick change.  But the action of a pivot is a result of learning that could take years. Quick changes may result in your company missing key insights.  While we may champion “failing fast,” I think the aim is to learn and learn effectively.

Learning: Learning is the ultimate action of Lean Startup. Sometimes, learning in Lean Startup is limited to a finite time. Oh, we already took a Lean Startup course. I think of Lean Startup learning as a skill you continue to develop with time. Similar to a musician, the basics are only the beginning. It takes skill to see detail and harmony when your learning is diverse, disjointed and qualitative. I think the action of learning is the hardest part about Lean Startup, but I’ll save that for another post. 

All-in-all, I champion Lean Startup because it gives access, process and customization for anyone to engage in the entrepreneurial ecosystem whether they are experienced or not.  With a trusted team of advisors, mentors and a willingness to be curious maybe your startup grows using Lean Startup actions.

If you are in Wisconsin, consider learning more about Lean Startup through the   Applications are being accepted now for the April 19, 2019 deadline.  Contact to learn more. 


Written by Idella Yamben, CTC Business Development Consultant


Why Ideadvance?

Thanks to continued support from WEDC and UW System, the Ideadvance Seed Fund is in its 3rd round of funding supporting Wisconsin innovations through 2020.  Each year, applicants are thrilled for the prospect of up to $25,000 in grants to support their new or growing idea.  But less obvious is the impact of the training. 
Past participants are answering the question, Why Ideadvance? 
If you want to understand how the program can help, consider the following quotes:

  • Ideadvance was helpful in preparing IFT for real world business dynamics.Unless the startups come from a business background, you end up having a longer growth curve to overcome without the aid of Ideadvance.  ­– Dan McGuire, Innovative Foundry Technologies
  • Ideadvance was a stepping stone in our company….it is a tool that you can use to take the idea to the next level.  But it is up to the person/team to utilize this tool to achieve success. Tom Burden, CEO,
  • Without Ideadvance, we would have never been able to start this company.Since launching, we have impacted tens of thousands of children across the U.S. – Jordan Rhodes, CEO,
  • This program is one of the best experiences of my career.The techniques I learned to scope opportunities, evaluate markets, and refine problems statements through customer discovery are skills I use each and every day as I work to build a new startup. –
    , Tali Payments
  • This has been an incredible learning experience.The guidance and process make starting a business less risky and terrifying.  – , Mobile Transit Solutions
  • If you think your startup or idea would benefit from programming and accountability Ideadvance offers, please reach out today to discuss how to prepare a competitive application for the April 19 deadline.

  Contact the to discuss your idea.

NSF Project Pitch

NSF Project Pitch

The required Project Pitch allows startups and small businesses to get quick feedback at the start of their application for Phase I funding from America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch* will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. They will also get additional guidance and feedback from NSF staff.

If your Project Pitch is a good fit for the program, you will receive an official invitation from NSF to submit a full proposal. If you’re not invited to submit, you’ll be told why your project is not appropriate for the program.

Along with your company information, you’ll have to outline four key elements in your Project Pitch:

1. The Technology Innovation. (Up to 500 words)

Describe the technical innovation that would be the focus of a Phase I project, including a brief discussion of the origins of the innovation as well as explanation as to why it meets the program’s mandate to focus on supporting research and development (R&D) of unproven, high-impact innovations.

What is the problem being addressed? 

What is your solution?

What approaches have been used before?  How is it done today?  What alternatives have been tried before?

What are the shortfalls of state of the art and other alternative approaches?

How do you overcome the shortfalls?

What makes your approach unique, different?

What is your secret sauce, what is the innovation that makes your approach workable?

How do you know it will work?

What is the benefit of your approach, qualitative and quantitative?

What are the key technical for your technology that must be overcome to demonstrate both technical and commercial feasibility?

2. The Technical Objectives and Challenges. (Up to 500 words)

Describe the R&D or technical work to be done in a Phase I project, including a discussion of how and why the proposed work will help prove that the product or service is technically feasible and/or significantly reduce technical risk. Discuss how, ultimately, this work could contribute to making the new product, service, or process commercially viable and impactful. This section should also convey that the proposed work meets the definition of R&D, rather than straightforward engineering or incremental product development tasks.

What are the outstanding issues today that must be researched, developed and demonstrated to show this is feasible?

What are the 2-3 key questions that must be answered in Phase 1 to show feasibility?

What are the performance requirements for Phase 2 that are necessary for technical and commercial success?

How will you study the 3 key questions in Phase 1?  What is your technical approach?  What is your test plan?  How do you know your test plan will adequately address the 3 key questions in a demonstrably measurable way?  What facilities and expertise do you need to adequately answer the questions?

If Phase 1 successfully demonstrates feasibility, what will be necessary to do in phase 2 to develop and test a "near commercial" version of the technology?

3. The Market Opportunity. (Up to 250 words)

Describe the customer profile and pain point(s) that will be the near-term commercial focus related to this technical project.

What are the shortfalls of state of the art and other alternative approaches?

What is the size of the problem and opportunity?

What makes your approach unique, different?  In what measurable way does your technology product meet an unmet customer need better than the competition?

What is the benefit of your approach, qualitative and quantitative?

What is the value to the user/customer?  Quantify when it is commercialized broadly, what will be total impact for users, for military? For USA economy (5 E's - economy, employment, energy, environment, exports)?

Who are the actual users/customers and where/how do they buy the current solution?

Who are potential users that will be major customers and could be reviewers now and test sites in Phase 2?

4. The Company and Team. (Up to 250 words)

Describe the background and current status of the applicant small business, including key team members who will lead the technical and/or commercial efforts discussed in this Project Pitch.

Who is the principal investigator?  Research team?  Test facilities?  Technical advisers?  Commercial advisers?

What are their key roles and qualifications to fulfill these roles in the proposed project?

Visit the online form to submit your Project Pitch or to preview the required fields. More details about the NSF’s new process and eligibility requirements are on our Apply page.

*Each small business can only submit one Project Pitch at a time and up to two Project Pitches per submission window. (The submission windows for 2019 are March 4-June 13 and June 14-December 12). Any small business with a pending Project Pitch must wait for a response before submitting another Project Pitch. Any small business that has received an invitation to submit a full proposal must wait for a resolution of the full proposal before submitting a new or revised Project Pitch.


Tips from a Lean Start Up Pro

I was recently honored to participate as a business mentor for an I-Corps team and learned some valuable lessons.  We at the CTC are big advocates for the Lean Startup methodology but serving on a team at the federal level was certainly eye opening and educational.  Here are some thoughts to consider for those wanting to be involved in the I-Corps programs or do Lean Startup activities at a more local level:

  1. The people that lead the company have to lead this process.  Its fine to rely on team members to help in scheduling interviews or digesting information, but only the decision makers in the company will have the authority to recognize and lead the company away from a failing idea.
  2. Identify your business hypotheses early
  3. Don’t be afraid of being initially wrong on your hypothesis….just guess even if you don’t have good solid evidence.  The whole point of the process is to be able to make pivots early and quickly.
  4. Write down the hypothesis you want to validate and some questions to lead you to the information BEFORE you walk into an interview.  It does little good to have a conversation without keeping in mind what you are trying to learn.
  5. Talk to your interviewees like you are a journalist or a student…..because that is what you are.  You are there to learn from them.
  6. DON’T pitch your idea/product to your interviewees, you aren’t there to teach them about your idea, you are there as a student to learn from them.
  7. Use your networks to find more people to talk to; ask your interviewees who else you should visit with.
  8. Focus on a particular concept, instead of several.  Its common to try to have several products that you are trying to learn about and validate market fit; but in the words of my I-Corps teaching team member; “Focus, or die!”
  9. It really does take more work than you think, but …
  10. …Its totally worth it to learn what problems the market is looking to solve

- Dr. Todd Strother, CTC

 If you are interested in putting Lean Start Up methodologies towards your business...and get some funding along the way...consider reading more about UW's Seed Fund, (applications due April 19th).

Wanted: Innovative business ideas for 2019 Ideadvance Seed Fund





MADISON, Wis. – Ideadvance Seed Fund is inviting innovators with current or past ties to the UW System to apply to the program with business ideas that could contribute to Wisconsin’s “knowledge economy.” 

The Ideadvance program provides business funding and mentoring toward a scalable, profitable business model. Grant dollars are earned by teams after they demonstrate key learnings toward their commercialization goals.  

Last year’s awards went to a range of ideas, from scaled-up specialty food businesses to fledgling smarter recycling programs.

The deadline to apply is April 19. Diverse teams from all parts of Wisconsin are invited to connect early to take advantage of resources that can guide them through the application process. An introductory  video and hands-on assistance from Ideadvance consultants are available. 

The program is open to UW System staff, faculty, students and alumni. At this time, teams consisting of only UW-Madison founders are not able to apply. However, hybrid teams with founders that include key members from eligible UW System schools are welcome to compete.   

Ideadvance, launched in 2014, has awarded grants to 56 Stage 1 teams and 19 Stage 2 teams, totaling over $2.4 million in funding. Stage 1, with funding up to $25,000, focuses on achieving commercialization milestones to reduce risk and determine need in the marketplace to solve a problem. Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $50,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to deliver customer solutions and attract investors.  

“More than the idea, Ideadvance focuses on learning and execution strategies,” Ideadvance New Idea Concierge Idella Yamben said.“From a team with a new idea to an existing startup with sales, Ideadvance meets awardees where they are and helps them identify actionable milestones to take the next step.” 












Luis Rivera, founder and CEO of  (TAHPI), credits the Ideavance program for his company’s success. TAHPI has taken a new approach to first responders’ safety and continues to grow and create new product lines. “TAHPI would definitely not be where it’s at now had we not won that grant, had I not learned the process,” Rivera said.  

Awards are determined by an Investment Committee with representatives from UW System, WiSys Technology Foundation, the Center for Technology Commercialization, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and an entrepreneur affiliated with an eligible UW campus. The committee selects proposals with a compelling case for a significant solution to a market problem and a dedicated team focused on learning about risks to their business model. The committee also focuses on the skills and preparedness of the team. 

Although high-tech ideas are welcome, entrepreneurs do not need to present a biotech or information technology. The types of eligible businesses are very broad, including ideas in agriculture, manufacturing, music production, textiles, art or business. The only restrictions are that the business cannot be in real estate, direct consumer retail or hospitality, including restaurants.  

Ideadvance is part of WEDC’s effort to expand collaboration with the UW System, business leaders and others throughout the state. Through their special S3 initiative, WEDC is removing commercialization barriers by providing financial and operational assistance for business startup and seed-funding challenges.  

“Ideadvance is a critical tool for moving ideas from the academic setting and into the business world,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Many of the participants are students, faculty and staff that don’t have business experience or training necessary to successfully capitalize on their innovations and creativity. The academic environment is very different from the world of startups, and Ideadvance helps to bridge the gap that often prevents good ideas from becoming successful businesses.” 

To apply, go to . For more information, contact Idella Yamben, New Idea Concierge, at  or 608-263-3315. 


About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state by providing resources, operational support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in Wisconsin. Working with more than 600 partners across the state, including regional economic development organizations, academic institutions and industry clusters, WEDC develops and delivers solutions that help businesses, communities and people maximize their potential In Wisconsin. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

$875,000 in state matching grants advance 10 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Ten small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Five businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive up to $75,000 each, and five Phase II businesses will receive up to $100,000.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the . This is the 13th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the began in 2014.

Since 2014, 88 awards have been given, equaling nearly $6.7 million throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 180 employees and obtaining over $29.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients:

  •  of Madison develops cell culture microplates and assays that support cell-to-cell communications for the drug development and toxicity testing markets;
  • Protein Foundry, LLC of Milwaukee manufactures proteins for use in biomedical research and preclinical drug development. Their mission is to provide the highest quality recombinant proteins in terms of chemical purity, structural homogeneity and functional potency;
  • Pyran, LLC of Madison manufactures 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO), a key chemical used to make paints and plastics. Pyran’s patented process uses renewable wood and crop waste resources to make 1,5-PDO at less than 50 percent of the costs of competing oil-based processes;
  • of Fitchburg offers unique biomaterials for cell and tissue manufacturing. Applications include medical devices for drug discovery, cell therapy and regenerative medicine; and
  • Universal Real Time Power Conversion, LLC of New Berlin is developing a multi-functional power conversion solution with high frequency and bandwidth to support power hardware in loop simulation and to achieve compact low-cost energy-efficient power systems in aircraft/shipboard/micro grid applications.

Phase II recipients:

  • of Madison. Provides high-throughput, high-performance computing software solutions in computer-aided engineering;
  • of Milwaukee provides advanced technology to reduce the size and cost of energy storage systems;
  • of Madison specializes in engineering and optimizing new diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings for improving new applications across many industries, including medical device, aerospace, defense and oil/gas;
  •  of Middleton is an agricultural biotechnology company that has created a method of advanced protein and antibody manufacturing in plants by engineering leaf structures, called glandular secreting trichomes, to produce, purify, and deliver target proteins directly to leaf surfaces for easy and economical harvests; and
  • of Pewaukee, which is developing low-cost, high-efficiency window glass.

“SBIR Advance is an important tool to help young technology-focused businesses move from the pure research phase into business development, sales, and growth,” said Aaron Hagar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Wisconsin is one of the top states for companies securing SBIR funding, and we are excited to provide this needed assistance to capitalize on the federal dollars coming into the state.”

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization.

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“SBIR Advance continues to be an integral part of success for our Wisconsin companies. Our programming for Phase I companies allows them to better prepare a Phase II application, and our winning Phase II companies are able to address critical business issues that lead them to earlier commercialization. We are seeing this being recognized at the national level, where Wisconsin is highly ranked in SBIR grant success,” said Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail . The next solicitation is expected in late summer.

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.




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