Georgia Research Alliance Ventures

Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Ventures provides expertise to establish clear pathways from innovation to the marketplace. Through GRA Ventures, faculty researchers can connect with experienced business and technical experts who assist with innovation evaluation in the context of the business opportunity, business planning and capitalization requirements.

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The GRA Ventures’ parent organization, the Georgia Research Alliance, coordinates seed grant activities for the program that are intended to stimulate economic growth within Georgia’s biotechnology and life sciences sectors.

The philosophy behind the GRA Ventures seed grant program is that maximum benefit of University of Georgia-based research can be extracted when the technologies developed within the University result in economic opportunities within the state of Georgia. The goal of the program is to provide faculty entrepreneurs the resources necessary to start companies based upon their research and ultimately assist them to become residents of the University of Georgia Innovation Gateway Incubator. The resulting companies provide high-wage jobs for the skilled workforce that is being produced by the University’s academic programs and add to the economic vitality of the state as a whole.

Grants are used to fund the technology assessments and the development of early-stage business strategies, but considerable flexibility exists in how resources can be distributed. Increasingly, seed grant funds have been used by companies to pursue proof of concept experiments and prototype development. Such flexibility allows Georgia Research Alliance Ventures’ resources to be directed toward areas in which they could have the greatest impact.

Georgia Research Alliance Ventures awards are subdivided into phases designed to change as growing companies’ needs evolve:

  • Phase Zero grants are small grants of no more than $25,000 and are intended to help companies refine their proof of concept experiments. In many cases, a Phase Zero grant is the first outside capital that a company based upon UGA research obtains.
  • Phase One Technology Validation grants are up to $50,000 per year, and are primarily used to determine market demand and customer interest. It is during this time that companies formulate their initial business strategy and create their initial product specifications in response to preliminary market research.
  • Phase Two awards can be up to $100,000 per year, and are designed to help companies solidify their IP position, develop working prototypes, and/or prepare the company’s business plan for raising venture capital from professional investors. Phase Two grants require matching outside investment that demonstrates an external validation of the company’s strategy and market opportunity.
  • Phase Three GRA Ventures funding is in the form of a loan rather than a grant, and awards are limited to $250,000 per year. Phase Three loans are awarded with attractive interest and repayment terms, and are designed to encourage the most promising early stage companies to grow in Georgia.
  1. Contact Stefan Schulze, Associate Director of the Innovation Gateway. Stefan will guide you through the entire process, beginning with your concept, incorporation and Phase I proposal development.
  2. Develop your GRA Ventures Proposal. The application should include a standardized cover page followed by the following 11 sections. Proposals should not exceed 10 pages in 12-point font or larger and must be submitted as Word documents (PDF documents will not be accepted).
    1. Executive Summary. One page or less describing the company’s overall objectives, technological developments to date, market needs, founder’s experience, summary of the results from previous VentureLab projects, and a summary of the expected outcomes of the current GRA Ventures proposal.
    2. Market Need. A description of the current need in the marketplace and the anticipated target market should be included. Specific descriptions of the target market and quantitative estimates of the market size are key elements of a compelling GRA Ventures proposal.
    3. Technology. The technology should be clearly described and the way in which the technology will satisfy the market needs presented in section 2. Visions for the future of the technology as well as planned developments should be included.
    4. Value Proposition. This section should include a review of how the technology will address the market needs and a review of the competitive landscape. Questions that should be answered include: What is distinctive and compelling about the technology, product, and/or business you are proposing? How does this compare with competition currently on the market or in development?
    5. Expected Commercialization Risks and Hurdles. Every new venture will face a unique set of challenges and obstacles to success. A description of the challenges that the business will face in bringing its technology to market will demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the challenges ahead.
    6. Intellectual Property. Although a strong Intellectual Property position is not absolutely necessary for a new venture to be successful, it is always helpful in protecting the company from outside competition. Intellectual Property protection is particularly important in large competitive markets where the product development costs are high. Most technology based businesses fall into this category.
    7. Team. It is often said that investors invest in people rather than technology. The formulation of a strong management team with expertise in both the technology and the business side of the venture is critical to a company’s success. A brief outline of each team member’s relevant experience is necessary to demonstrate the company has the correct people in place to make it successful.
    8. Results from previous GRA Ventures projects. If previous GRA Ventures (or VentureLab) funding was awarded to a company, a clear outline of how those funds were effectively used must be included. Specific results backed by quantitative data provide compelling evidence of success.
    9. Goals and Deliverables. A clear description of the proposed projects’ expected deliverables should be presented for each GRA Ventures investment period. Although there is considerable flexibility in the types of projects that VentureLab funds can be used to support, the award must be used for its intended purpose upon receipt.
    10. Proposed Schedule. A timeline for completion of each stage and goal/major task is a part of every successful GRA Ventures proposal. A standardized Budget and Timeline Form (available from Stefan Schulze) facilitates effective project planning and management.
    11. Proposed Budget. The standardized Budget Form should be accompanied by a brief narrative about the investment request. Phase II applications should include a description of matching company expenditures.
  3. Submission. Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis.
  4. Review and Notification. Proposals are reviewed by an external panel of industry experts who will provide both recommendations for funding as well as valuable feedback on each proposal. Companies are notified of GRA Ventures awards by the GRA Ventures coordinator.
Antimicrobial CoatingsJason LocklinDeveloping a non-leachable antimicrobial polymer effective against several strains of bacteria, as well as against biofouling on aquaculture nets. The polymeric material attaches to many differenet surfaces, including plastics, textiles, stainless steel, concrete, stone, and other metals.
Hypercell TechnologiesBruno JactelDeveloping high-affinity monoclonal antibodies (MAb) that offer new therapeutic solutions against serious infectious diseases where vaccination has been proven non-efficacious in the animal health market.
Infrared RxJonathan MurrowDeveloping improved assessments of tissue oxygenation during exercise.
JenPatBrian CummingsDeveloping lipid biomarkers to predict the likelihood of relapse into cocaine addiction.
Nitrogen GeneticsDusty BrownDeveloping genetic technologies that increase nitrogen production and biomass in symbiotic plants by modifying gene regulation in the appropriate symbiotic Rhizobia species.
ParaVaxBiao HeDeveloping vaccines using parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) as a vector for animals.
PartikulaDavid KolbDeveloping a mitochondrial-targeting nanoparticle platform to access high-value biological targets. Initial focus is on cancer where mitochondria are essential for continued tumor survival and growth.
Proventis (formerly VacCell)John SwarotskyEnhancing vaccine production through genetic engineering of current manufacturing cell lines.
SciStemLinda BlackDeveloping regenerative medicine products for the human and veterinary marketplace, including "Bone Putty," which dramatically accelerates bone healing.
Sustainable SolutionsKC DasDeveloping biomass energy and organic waste management technologies.
VacSimDonald HarnDeveloping VacSIM™ (Vaccine Self-assembling Immune Matrix), a vaccine delivery method incorporating an inert biopolymer with unique biophysical properties.
Viamune Alex HarveyDeveloping compounds that stimulate the body's own immune system to combat difficult to treat cancers.