One Small Step Grant



Receive grants of up to $100k to develop and test your technology before spinning out or licensing. The One Small Step Grant serves as a beacon of hope, offering crucial support for experiments that pave the way for groundbreaking startups or the licensing of breakthrough technologies. The grant's objective is to provide gap funding to faculty engaged in promising projects with commercial potential. We are specifically interested in projects within 12-18 months of forming a spin-out or embarking on a licensing event.

Our program is flexible, accepting pre-screening submissions twice per year: once in April, once in September. The program provides up to 5 awards of up to $100,000 every year in financial support.

Applications open twice per year - come back again in April 2024!


What sort of projects are you looking for?

Projects must be affiliated with a faculty lab at Rice University, and can be within any school or department. The goal must be to run the final experiment or set of experiments that would create the fundable data, i.e. the data that would convince an independent investor to support a startup, or a company to license the technology. You can not have yet signed a license or raised external funding.

Who can apply?

Applications can be submitted by undergraduate or graduate students, postdocs, faculty or research staff. For non-faculty applicants, please make sure to list the faculty with whom you are applying. Applicants must be affiliated with a faculty lab at Rice University, and can be within any school or department.

How does the application work?

The application runs in four phases:

  1. Prescreening: Apply answering the 8 short questions of the Heilmeier Catechism for your project. Possible outcomes are (a) proceed to full application; (b) further work needed - we will advise you on what is needed; (c) not eligible.
  2. Full Application: If you're invited to submit a full application, we will send you a separate link to fill out 6 short questions regarding your project.
  3. Review: We will review your full application, and may reach out with questions as needed. Possible outcomes are (a) proceed to Investment Committee; (b) further work needed - we will advise you on what is needed; (c) not eligible.
  4. Investment Committee: Should your application proceed to the Investment Committee, the Investment Committee will review the proposal and make a decision on whether to grant the award or not. The Investment Committee convenes quarterly.
What's asked in the application?

Heilmeier Prescreening: In addition to your contact information, the prescreening asks eight questions based on the Heilmeier Catechism. Like the Heilmeier, answers are supposed to be short, single sentence answers without jargon, acronyms or other technical terms. All responses are limited to 200 characters.

  1. What are you trying to do and what problem are you trying to solve?
  2. What are the current solutions and their limitations? How do people solve this problem today?
  3. What is new about your proposed approach? Why do you think it would be successful and people would use it?
  4. Who cares? If you succeed, what would the impact be?
  5. What are the risks of your proposed solution and its commercialization? What could stop this from reaching the market?
  6. How long will your proposed experiments / studies take?
  7. How much do you estimate the experiments will cost? Roughly break down the budget into Equipment, Supplies, Personnel, Other.
  8. What are mid-term and final exams or endpoints to check for success or progress?

Full Application: The goal here is to really validate the commercial outlook of your project, and the intent to bring this research to market.

  1. What funding and other support have you and your team received on this project to date?
  2. Describe the opportunity and the potential impact of your project (1000 characters)
  3. Describe the proposed technology and approach and how it will work (1500 characters)
  4. Describe the technical steps needed to make your technology market-ready (1500 characters)
  5. Describe your target market(s) (1500 characters)
  6. Who or what will your innovation be competing with (1000 characters)
  7. Commercialization Pathway - what path(s) do you see to bring this technology to market? When will this happen? Who will you need on the team? (1500 characters)
  8. Describe the technical project plan. (3000 characters)
  9. How much money do you need and what for? Provide a brief itemized budget. (1000 characters)
  10. Milestones & Timeline - list 3-4 major technical milestones and the expected dates by which you expect to complete them within this grant (1000 characters)
Who is on the Investment Committee?

To ensure objectivity and funding of the projects with the highest commercial potential, the Investment Committee is composed of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate executives and one representative from Rice.

When will I find out about my application?

You will get a response on your application within the first week following the close of the prescreening applications. Should you be invited to apply, you will have one month to submit your full application, after which we will take up to 30 days to review and tell you whether your submission is advancing to the Investment Committee.

Where do I apply?

We accept Prescreening Applications in the months of April and September.