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1- What is the digiSPARK Program?

digiSPARK is funding program to support the development of digital health solutions and promising academic discoveries in digital health towards commercialization and/or entering into the clinic. The program specifically focuses on technologies addressing unmet clinical needs that can be solved with the application of digital health solutions (artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, software, healthcare IT, etc.)

If you have a drug, medical device, or diagnostic technology please reach out to CU Innovations or visit the SPARK|REACH Program.

2- What does a digiSPARK Award provide to accepted projects?

digiSPARK Awards provide funding, guidance, opportunities for networking and resources to further develop accepted projects. This is NOT a traditional grant mechanism, the aim of the program is product development and the evaluation of digital health technologies.

3- How many applications do you accept per year?

For our first cohort, digiSPARK intends to grant 4-5 awards.

4- How much funding is provided and how is it distributed?

Projects will receive up to $100,000 for no more than two years. Applicants will work with the digiSPARK team to develop a milestone-based funding plan. The program reserves the right to provide different dollar amounts to selected projects depending on their need for product development.

5- What is the source of funding? 

Funding for digiSPARK comes from the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade’s (COEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) program. The AIA program requires at least a minimum 1/3 matching support of the grant award. The digiSPARK program expects that these matching funds will come from industry partners, startups, or the PI. An 8% indirect rate on direct costs of the program will be applied to the overall project budget. For example, a $100K project could have total direct costs of $92,592.59 with $69,444.44 funded by the AIA grant and $23,148.15 funded by the matching funding source and allocate $7,407.41 to indirect F&A costs.

6- What is the application process?

  • The application period opens on September 1, 2021 and closes September 30, 2021 at 5pm
  • 2 Rounds of Review with cuts made after each round
    • Round 1: Initial Screening Review: November 2021
    • Round 2: Final Project Selection Review: January 2022
  • After the initial screening review, Track 1 proposals will go through a technology assessment review for further evaluation. The Track 2 proposals will be evaluated through a market landscape assessment to identify potential industry partners to pair with the applicant. In both tracks, additional engagement with the applicants may be required prior final project selection in Round 2.
  • OEDIT AIA Application Preparation: February and March 2022
  • Anticipated Award Start Date: May 1, 2022

7- Who will be evaluating the applications and pitch presentations?

The blended internal/external review board will be comprised of successful digital health entrepreneurs, industry experts, and CU Innovations’ Entrepreneurs in Residence.

8- Who is eligible for digiSPARK Awards?

The applicant must be an eligible principal investigator from CU Anschutz. To check for eligibility: https://research.cuanschutz.edu/ogc/home/award-lifecycle/pre-award/resources-/principal-investigator-eligibility

9-  Can a PI submit more than one application?

Yes, however only one of their projects will actually be admitted. Multiple technologies can be ‘packaged’ into single applications if it is logical for their development.

10- What are the expectations from digiSPARK Fellows?

Successful applicants will have a strong desire and willingness to innovate, work with industry partners, and commit the time necessary to lead a study of the digital health solution with funding from the digiSPARK program. The program will also require the faculty to work closely with the CU Innovations team, unlike a traditional grant.

digiSPARK recipients will:

  • Work with the CU Innovations team to develop and hit commercially relevant milestones,
  • Develop and implement a protocol/study for the evaluation of the digital health technology,
  • Provide at least quarterly updates to the digiSPARK team and
  • Commit time to commercial development activities, collateral development, and translational story building.

11- What elements are important for the application?

  • Does the proposal address a significant unmet need?
  • How solid is the scientific rationale (theory and available data)?
  • How well-differentiated is the proposed approach vs. standard of care and competition in industry and academia?
  • Is there a clear path forward to de-risk the proposal?
  • How engaged is the team behind the proposal?
  • Does the proposal have IP and commercial potential? If not, what would be a possible development path to make the product available to patients?
  • For Track 1:
    • Have matching funds been identified?
  • For Track 2:
    • Can a suitable technology partner be identified?

12- Who should I ask if I have questions?

For more information about digiSPARK at the University of Colorado Anschutz, reach out to Gali Baler or your CU Innovations case manager to discuss eligibility, program requirements, and application preparation.