Course and Program Guidelines

NCIIA Course and Program Grant Guidelines – Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the entire guidelines prior to submitting.

Introduction | Who May Apply | Selection Criteria | Institutional Support | Intellectual Property Policies | How to Apply | The Proposal: Required and Optional Components | The NCIIA Review and Notification Process | If Your Proposal is Approved


Course and Program grants are awarded to colleges and universities for the purpose of strengthening existing curricular programs and/or building new programs in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Through these grant funds, NCIIA supports creative pedagogical approaches that generate student teams (E-Teams*) working on technology solutions to solve real-world problems.

*What’s an E-Team?
NCIIA defines an E-Team as a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty, and industry mentors working together to bring a technology-based invention (product or service) to market. The "E" stands for entrepreneurship.

Note: If you have a proposal for a course and/or program that focuses on the development and dissemination of technology-based inventions and innovations for the benefit of people living in poverty, you should consider applying for a Sustainable Vision grant instead of a Course and Program grant. Learn more about the Sustainable Vision grants program here.  

Please note that applicants may not submit both a Sustainable Vision proposal and a Course and Program proposal for the same idea during the same grant cycle.

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Who May Apply

NCIIA grant funds are awarded to US-based colleges and universities. Faculty and staff from NCIIA member colleges and universities may apply for a Course and Program grant.

If you have questions about the status of your institution's NCIIA membership, please contact us.

Selection Criteria

The more SPECIFIC, CLEAR and COMPELLING your proposal is, the more competitive your proposal will be. Typically, proposals have a 16-25% chance of getting funded. 

Course and Program grants are awarded to NCIIA member institutions for the purpose of strengthening existing curricular programs or building new programs in technology-based invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Proposals may request support for a single course, a course sequence, a certificate program, a minor or major, extracurricular programs or a combination of these. Successful Course and Program grant proposals include these elements:
  • The formation of (preferably multidisciplinary) student teams focused on technology invention, innovation and entrepreneurship with a positive social/environmental impact.
  • A focus on entrepreneurship and support for promising student teams (connections to people and resources on campus and beyond to support commercialization) who want to continue to develop their technology and business model after participation in the proposed course/program.
  • A plan for continuation (and financial sustainability) of the course or program post NCIIA funding.
  • Experiential learning by doing and creative pedagogical approaches to solving real world problems. 
NCIIA encourages proposals that involve students and advisors from engineering, science, business, design, and liberal arts disciplines, as well as groups traditionally underrepresented in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship, including women and minorities. 

What will NOT be funded?
Here are some examples of projects that are NOT strong candidates for Course and Program grant funding:

  • Pure research projects.
  • Courses or programs that are unlikely to continue beyond the grant period.
  • Existing programs where there is little change or improvement proposed.
  • Courses and/or programs without a focus on technology innovation and/or entrepreneurship.
  • Courses or programs that do not lead to the creation of student E-Teams.
  • Proposals that do not demonstrate that the most promising student teams and technologies will be supported beyond the classroom.

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Institutional Support

NCIIA requires evidence of support from your college or university, which we believe is critical to the success of your course or program. The following institutional representatives must verify their support (online) of your proposal by responding to an automated email request from the online proposal prior to final submission. They need to virtually “sign off” by responding to the email generated within the online proposal process and enter their initials.

Applicants should contact their Office of Sponsored Programs/Research or the equivalent well ahead (2+ weeks) of the grant deadline to inform them they want to submit a proposal. Many colleges and universities require a full proposal for administrative review and approval before it can be submitted to NCIIA.
Principal Investigator (PI)
The Principal Investigator takes primary responsibility for the proposal and will have overall responsibility for the grant and reporting. Ideally, a tenured or tenure-track faculty and/or staff member serves as the Principal Investigator. Co-PIs are allowed but 1 lead PI must be identified. Students may not serve as Principal Investigators.
Administrative Contact (AC)
The NCIIA defines the Administrative Contact as a grants administrator or fiscal officer authorized to commit the institution to the terms of the grant. Often, the AC is someone in your institution's Office of Sponsored Programs/Research or an administrator able to manage grant funding within a department or school. Principal Investigators, other faculty, and students may not serve as the AC.
Note: NCIIA strongly encourages that you contact your Office of Sponsored Programs/Research or the equivalent well ahead (2+ weeks) of the submission deadline to inform them of your intention to submit a proposal. Many colleges and universities require a full proposal for administrative review and approval before it can be submitted.
Department Chair (DC)
The Department Chair (or equivalent) will need to indicate his/her awareness of and support for your proposal as a demonstration of institutional commitment to the proposed program or project.
Dean of Faculty (DF)
The Dean of Faculty (or equivalent) will need to indicate his/her awareness of and support for your proposal as a demonstration of institutional commitment to the proposed program or project.

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Intellectual Property Policies

The NCIIA supports courses and/or programs that lead to the creation of E-Teams as they work toward commercialization of their inventions. Ownership of discoveries or inventions resulting from activities financed by NCIIA grant funds will be governed by grantee institutions’ intellectual property policies. If a school does not have an intellectual property policy, then the institution must develop an E-Team agreement that establishes ownership of ideas resulting from E-Team work. The NCIIA takes no financial or ownership interest in the projects funded by these grants.

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How to Apply

All program applications must be submitted online. Anyone on the team may serve as the applicant. ALL proposal deadlines end at 11:59pm eastern time on the specified due date unless otherwise indicated.

To start, you’ll need to have an NCIIA account. Creating an account is easy, and anyone can do it. To access an existing account or to create a new one, click here. You may start, save, stop, and return to your online proposal at anytime before submitting.
You may preview a PDF of the online application here. This PDF includes screen shots of NCIIA's five-step proposal process. This PDF is for preview purposes only.

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The Proposal: Required and Optional Components

As part of the online application process, you will be prompted to upload the following into your proposal:

Details on each component are provided below.

Required Proposal Components
The following documents are required as part of your proposal and must be included in the following order, combined together into a single PDF:
  1. Proposal narrative
  2. Proposed budget (in the NCIIA template, which should be downloaded here or directly from the online proposal application)
  3. Letter(s) of support (at least 1 required, maximum of 3 accepted)
  4. Team member resumes (4 resumes maximum, each limited to 3 pages per resume)

1) REQUIRED: Proposal Narrative
Your proposal narrative may not exceed 5 pages in length using 12-point Times font and 1-inch margins. Again, the more SPECIFIC, CLEAR, and COMPELLING your narrative is, the more competitive your proposal will be. We recommend that the following information is included in your narrative. 

Proposed course and/or program description
  • What are you proposing? Be specific in the first paragraph; for example, is it a course or a program?  Is it new or an expansion of existing courses/programs? Is it is a certificate program, a major or minor, or an extracurricular opportunity or a combination? It is important to differentiate between program elements that exist and anything new that you are proposing. If you choose, you may use a chart or a map identifying what exists vs. the new elements you are proposing in the appendix.
  • What is the technology invention/innovation area of focus?
  • How will the proposed course or program lead to the creation of student E-Teams? Will resulting teams be multidisciplinary (encouraged but not required)?
  • Explain the process: how will teams be formed, how many (approximately) per year, where will the ideas come from (students/faculty, university research, a combination, etc.), and how will any resulting IP be handled?
  • Is there an experiential learning opportunity for students?
  • Is there potential for educational, social and/or environmental impact?
History and context
  • What gap(s) are you addressing on your campus; what do you feel is missing?
  • Provide a 1-2 paragraph background of how the program or project began and what has been accomplished so far (if anything).
  • What institutional and financial support have you received for your work?
Team and partners
  • Describe the role of each key individual involved with delivering and supporting the proposed course and/or program. Keep each description to 1-2 sentences. 
  • Have you identified partners on campus or beyond who will help promising teams commercialize any resulting technologies? Describe the "entrepreneurial ecosystem" on your campus and in your community that teams can access* (other faculty members, departments, entrepreneurship centers, incubators, accelerators, mentors etc.). 
*Note: Proposals should go beyond listing entrepreneurial support resources and demonstrate that a structured path is available for some teams to further develop a path to market. 
Work plan and outcomes: create a table in the narrative
  • What are the milestones that you hope to achieve during the grant period? 
  • How many E-Teams will be formed/supported each year? How many students?
Beyond the grant 
  • How will you evaluate your course/program beyond student evaluations?
  • Will the course or program continue beyond the end of the grant period? If so, how do you anticipate that it will be funded? Is your program replicable?

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2. REQUIRED: Proposed Budget
Your budget demonstrates to reviewers how you intend to achieve the objectives proposed in your 5-page narrative. NCIIA requires you to use the provided Course and Program budget template which you can download here

Justify your proposed budget
Including specific budget justifications is a critical piece in helping reviewers understand how you intend to spend grant funds. Provide your justifications in the "justifications" section in the budget template or in a separate sheet; the more detail in the justifications the better.
Grant funds may be proposed for expenses related to curricular development and course or program realization. Equipment and other resources purchased with grant funds become the property of the institution.

Note: Course and Program grant funds cannot cover institutional overhead but can provide personnel costs of up to $5,000; the $5,000 maximum includes any applicable cost of fringe benefits.

Eligible expenses examples:

  • Equipment expenses (NCIIA will typically not fund the purchase of equipment that is considered part of college or university infrastructure. Equipment expenses should be less than 1/3 the total proposed budget).
  • Personnel costs up to $5,000 (may be divided or proposed for 1 person, and includes the cost of any applicable fringe benefits).
  • Expenses related to early implementation of program, including materials & supplies, prototyping, technical services, and testing.
  • Travel.
  • Expenses related to students’ performing patent searches or creating marketing analyses, or business plans.

Ineligible expenses examples:

  • Overhead: NCIIA does not cover institutional overhead.
  • Personnel costs over the $5,000 maximum.
  • Equipment expenses totaling more than 1/3 the total proposed budget.
  • Speaker honoraria over $200.
  • Wages for students during the academic year.
  • Legal and other expenses of business formation or operation.
  • Publicity expenses.

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3. REQUIRED: Letter(s) of Support
Letters of support should demonstrate to reviewers that there is ongoing institutional support for your project and/or technical competence and market opportunity in the proposed work. Letters can also serve to verify partnerships discussed in your proposal narrative or verify additional funding to complement the proposed budget. At least 1 letter is required, up to 3 will be accepted. 

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4. REQUIRED: Resumes
Include resumes from the Principal Investigator and any other key collaborators. We do not need resumes for the Administrative Contact or non-key team members/collaborators. Up to 4 resumes are allowed and they should be no more than 3 pages each.

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Optional: Additional Appendices
Up to 5 additional (optional) supporting documents may be combined into 1 PDF file and uploaded as an appendix item. Relevant supporting materials including curricula, photographs, and syllabi are welcome. 

Note: Sheer volume of material is not an asset. Reviewers are directed to use supporting materials only to supplement the 5-page narrative. Therefore, key information should be included in the narrative.
Optional: Weblinks and/or Videos
In addition to supporting documents, applicants may upload up to 4 links to websites, online articles, videos and/or other relevant online data that will inform and provide context for the proposed program.  

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The NCIIA Review and Notification Process

  • Submitted proposals are screened internally and reviewed by external panels of reviewers made up of individuals from academia, industry, nonprofits, and content experts from the US and around the world.
  • NCIIA strives to notify applicants of the status of their proposals via email within 90 days of the submission deadline.  In some cases, NCIIA may ask for additional information and/or clarification after the proposal has been submitted.
  • All applicants and PIs will receive notification via email as to whether or not their proposal has been selected for funding. If your proposal is not accepted, detailed reviewer comments are not shared in writing but applicants may schedule a call with NCIIA to receive a verbal summary of reviewer feedback.
  • Occasionally, reviewers invite a team to resubmit their proposal in a future cycle for re-consideration, after certain concerns or questions are addressed. Applicants invited by reviewers to resubmit should contact NCIIA to discuss the reviewer feedback in detail and make sure they understand the questions and concerns raised. Resubmitted proposals must specify how previous concerns have been addressed. Resubmissions should clearly mark a section of the narrative "Addressing Previous Reviewer Concerns."

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If Your Proposal is Approved

  • Funds are awarded to US-based colleges and universities.
  • The Principal Investigator will receive a notification letter and approved budget via email.
  • NCIIA will send an award letter agreement for signature to the Administrative Contact identified in the proposal. Once this award letter is signed and returned to NCIIA, funds can be disbursed.

Reporting for Grantees
Reporting requirements will be outlined in the award letter. Principal Investigators for NCIIA grants are prompted via email (usually once each year) to complete reports online. Failure to submit reports may jeopardize your institution’s eligibility for future grants and pending payments. If you receive a grant, reporting deadlines will be detailed in your award letter. Click here to preview sample interim and final reports. 

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Congratulations, you read the guidelines! If you are still unsure about whether your idea is a fit, email a 1 paragraph abstract for feedback to or call the grants team at (413) 587-2172.

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