Program Spotlight: Partnership with UW System Funds New Business Ventures

In an effort to cultivate University of Wisconsin entrepreneurs’ ideas, WEDC has partnered with the UW-Extension and UW System to create the Ideadvance Seed Fund. The $2 million fund will be administered to entrepreneurs on UW campuses looking to take their ideas to commercialization.

“The world-class research and education at UW institutions result in groundbreaking innovations, which have enormous commercialization potential,” said Lisa Johnson, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at WEDC. “This new fund will provide the capital necessary to help entrepreneurs successfully turn these technologies and concepts into products or services.”

The Ideadvance Seed Fund, the first gap fund in UW history, provides up to $75,000 in two stages to support entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Ideadvance grants will not fund research. The grants fund the commercialization of ideas across disciplines, from sciences to humanities to liberal arts.

Along with financial support, Ideadvance will help grant recipients achieve commercialization milestones through mentorship from experienced business professionals at the UW-Extension’s Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (DEED). This fund also will serve as a gateway for entrepreneurs to collaborate with other organizations and tap into local and state resources.

Ideadvance will help create new businesses and foster business expansion, potentially adding jobs and retaining graduates of UW System schools.

“Faculty, staff and students will now have access to funding that can help them pursue their business dreams,” said Reed Hall, WEDC secretary. “This initiative also presents an opportunity to spur economic growth in the state and create quality home-grown jobs.”

UW-Extension is accepting applications in three rounds beginning in March, May and November 2014 and encourages applications from:

  • Part-time or full-time staff, faculty and students who are part of the UW System. (Note: Funding is not available for businesses affiliated with UW-Madison. However, there are specific programs available for UW-Madison students and staff such as D2P.)
  • Companies that license technology through the WiSys Technology Foundation.
  • Companies that license technology through the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation.

Awards will be determined by an Investment Committee with representatives from the UW System campuses, WEDC, WiSys Technology Foundation, UW-Extension and a local entrepreneur. Once the investment decision has been made and the recipient has developed their concept into a business or product, their success will be tracked with an annual report for up to five years.

Interested applicants should email Idella Yamben at for details and to receive one-on-one assistance with the preparation of a proposal.

(April 2014)