Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the program?
NEXUS-NY aims to accelerate the commercialization of New York’s early stage, clean energy technologies. The program’s mission is to help translate research into commercial products. The research may emanate from universities, research labs, or from emerging technology companies. Commercialization is expected to come in the form of start-up companies or in commercial licensing agreements. NEXUS-NY is supported by a five year, $5M grant from NYSERDA.
How does the program work?
The program consists of several distinct phases, each of which results in an expected down-selecting of technology teams. Program participants receive increased assistance in each subsequent phase.
Phase 1 – Screening and initial technology/team selection. Interested teams submit an application and approximately 12 teams are selected for inclusion in an intensive, experiential program.
Phase 2 – Business model and minimally viable prototype (MVP) development. All teams participate as a cohort in a 12-week program modeled after the NSF Innovation-Corps “lean start-up” curriculum. NEXUS-NY will assist in matching teams with an outside business mentor at the start of this phase. The “lean start-up” curriculum emphasizes hands-on, customer-centric learning. Teams are expected to spend considerable time outside the laboratory engaging industry participants and potential collaborators. The curriculum requires full participation from each team member (attendance at lectures and workshops; considerable time performing customer discovery; commitment to present updates and presentations to other teams and outside advisors). All teams will receive funding to produce early, low fidelity prototypes and to travel to meet with customers. The primary objective of phase 2 is to determine whether the technology can solve a specific customer/industry/market problem in a compelling way. Phase 2 concludes with each team presenting its market opportunity assessments and business models to a panel of advisors. Approximately eight teams are expected to continue at the end of this phase.
Phase 3 – Prototype and prepare for commercialization. Remaining teams will spend approximately six months refining their product and business plans and developing advanced prototypes. Teams will develop a statement of work which defines their workplan and milestones. Additional funding will be provided for development of these second prototypes. Further financial support is available for performing an IP assessment, for investor due diligence reporting and for forming business entities. Phase 3 concludes with the submission of completed business plans and an investor or strategic partner presentation. Demo Day events will occur in Western NY and New York City to expose the technology teams to a wide audience of prospective collaborators and/or investors.
Who is eligible to apply?
NEXUS-NY is open to researchers from throughout New York State who have completed basic research within the field of clean energy and who have yet to commercialize the resulting technology. Awards will be granted on a competitive basis to the large community of academic researchers and individual inventors throughout New York State. Researchers will ideally apply to NEXUS-NY after forming a “technology team.” In some cases NEXUS-NY may assist researchers in finding additional members to help build out their team.
What is the expected makeup of a technology team?
Teams should be minimally composed of a Principal Investigator (PI), an Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) and a mentor. The EL might be a graduate student, a postdoctoral researcher, an MBA student, or someone from within the community who possesses entrepreneurial traits and who has a deep commitment to the commercialization of the technology. NEXUS-NY maintains a pool of mentors, most with significant executive experience with technology startups. We will provide introductions to facilitate the matching of mentors to accepted teams.
Which technologies are eligible?
The program is open to any technology that will generate clean energy or assist the end consumer to reduce the use of electricity. Clean energy is defined here to include energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon technologies. Examples include, but are not limited to: Biofuels, Biomass, Building Technology, Energy Storage, Fuel Cells, Photovoltaic, Smart Grid, Transportation and Wind. Applicants are encouraged to think broadly when considering the definition of clean energy.
How and when do I apply?
Applications will be available at NEXUS-NY.org starting October 23rd.
What is the schedule?
The TENTATIVE schedule for cohort 2 is as follows: 10/23/2014 – 11/10/2014 Applications accepted for cohort #2 12/1/2014 Teams notified of acceptance 12/1/2014 – 1/7/2015 Pre-work and mentor matching 1/7/2015 – 1/9/2015 3-day kickoff meeting in Rochester, NY 1/12/2015 – 4/3/2015 Phase 2 4/20/2015 – 10/30/2015 Phase 3
How much direct financial support is available to program participants?
There is approximately $65K nominally allocated for each team that makes it through to Phase 3. Roughly 2/3rd of this amount is in the form of cost-reimbursement for prototyping and customer discovery. Additional support is available for IP services, investor due diligence reporting, entity formation, travel, etc. It is expected that some teams may receive more than the nominal amount and some may receive less. In addition, Excell Partners, Inc., a state-supported seed fund, has committed up to $150K annually, based on availability of funds, to one or more companies emerging from NEXUS-NY.
Teams further receive significant non-monetary value in the form of mentoring, the experiential curriculum and in connections with cohort peers, industry participants and the investor community.
Are there any restrictions on the use of funds?
NEXUS-NY will generally fund activities related to customer travel, program travel and prototyping. We aim to limit spending on capital equipment (test instruments, manufacturing equipment, computers, etc.) except where a strong justification can be provided. We will not fund salaries for the Principal Investigator or the Entrepreneurial Lead during phase 2. We will consider nominal funding for graduate students during phase 3.
NEXUS-NY is affiliated with High Tech Rochester in Rochester, NY. What if I am not located nearby? Do I have to take up residence at the HTR incubator?
This program is targeted at teams throughout New York State. Participants will be required to attend weekly meetings, but most can be optionally joined through video conferencing. NEXUS-NY is an incubator-agnostic program. We are interested in providing financial, human and educational resources in order to improve outcomes regardless where a technology team is located and where they eventually take up residence.
What are the technology selection criteria and who will make the selections?
NEXUS-NY will convene an independent screening committee that will assess applications across a wide range of criteria, including: commercial potential, technology strength and novelty, strength of team, commitment to the experiential training process, and eventual commercialization of the technology, etc.
Does NEXUS-NY hope to retain any interest in my technology or company?
No. We are not asking for equity or royalties from technology teams that enter our program.
What are the intellectual property expectations?
NEXUS-NY has no specific IP requirements; however, invention disclosures, provisional patents and full-utility patents may be useful to the screening team when assessing technology strength. Also, not all NEXUS-NY advisors, mentors and technology/team screening committee members will be covered under non-disclosure agreements, so you should consult your IP attorney to determine what information you can disclose. If you are a researcher at a University, it is likely your technology transfer office may have additional requirements related to IP. Please consult with that office.
My company has been working on commercializing our technology for several years. Can we participate?
It is possible; however, NEXUS-NY is targeted at helping accelerate the translation of early stage technologies into tangible products and subsequently to scalable businesses. Technologies that are situated towards the start of the innovation to commercialization continuum are ideally suited for this program. NYSERDA has other programs that may be better suited for later-stage innovations.
How much time will I need to dedicate to this effort?
It will be different for each team, but experience with similar programs suggests 15 – 25 hours per week for the Entrepreneurial Lead. An equal commitment is desired from the Principal Investigator; however, teams will have some flexibility in determining how to divide the work.
How will I spend my time?
During the initial, 12-week curriculum, weekly on-line meetings will be held, lasting roughly 2-3 hours. These meetings will have several components including: formal progress updates from each team; an in-depth look at one or more business model component (ex. customer segments, value propositions, etc.); and an invited guest speaker who is an expert on one or more startup topic(s). Time between meetings will be used to test business model hypotheses through customer and collaborator interaction; to develop proof-of-concepts; and to make changes to the team’s business model based on recent learnings.