Got an idea for a technology project, but need a little help?


Innovation Grants provide students with small seed funding and one-on-one mentorship to help you develop your project, from zero to fully-realized idea.  

The Innovation Grant program supports:

  • Individual or team-based extracurricular or personal projects
  • Projects stemming from a faculty-supported Independent Study
  • Pre-entrepreneurial projects from zero to prototype or proof-of-concept

Application Process

Students  will complete an application outlining a project involving innovative use of technology. This could be a software project, hardware project, an art project, or something entirely different. As long as there's a technology component, we want to hear about it. This application will include  project timeline, team members, resources required, technical/expert assistance required, as well as a budget request. Budgets will be commensurate with project scope and complexity, experience, team size, materials cost, and project duration. 

Criteria for Acceptance

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, and reviewed by the Co-Lab. Proposals will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Right Team

Do you have the people on board to be able to carry out this project? What experience do the team members bring to this project idea? Do you have a cross-functional team that can handle the various aspects of this project?

Right Size 

Is this project achievable with this team in a reasonable amount of time? Do you have specific goals and milestones set that are realistic?

Right Budget

Is the Co-Lab seed fund the right fit for this project? Typically, we support projects that average under $1000. Is the funding request appropriate and sufficient for the project idea?

Right Idea

Does this project serve as a good educational / learning experience for the team members? How does this project improve the experience of the users who will interact with it? What are the innovative / creative / challenging ideas being presented in this project?

After review, we will typically set up an introductory meeting to discuss the project. Applications can either be accepted, returned for additional information or revisions, or declined.

On Acceptance

Once a project is accepted, the team member(s) will meet with a representative from the Co-Lab to establish a project plan at a Kickoff Meeting. We will discuss the budget and the best way to issue those funds (sometimes we provide it all up front, other times we do not). We'll set up a regular schedule to meet throughout the project timeline to overcome obstacles and celebrate successes. We’ll set up a page for you on our site to provide project information, updates, photos, and more. Grant recipients will also be invited and encouraged to participate in Co-Lab events that share the possibilities of our programs and resources to a broader audience. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Grant Program

No, applications are handled on a rolling basis throughout the year.  

Most of our grant funds are spent on materials, equipment, and components related to a project. This could include items like Arduinos, Raspberry Pi devices, wiring, electrical components in physical computing projects, raw materials like woods, metals, plastics, and hardware in more mechanical projects, and occasionally software or web resources in software projects. 

These funds are intended to be used on materials and supplies directly related to the completion of the project by the team. Grants may not be used to pay for stipends, housing, travel, consultants, contract labor, food, drink, or entertainment. Additionally, this program is intended for very early-stage prototyping and idea exploration, so in most cases we do not support funds explicitly intended for user acquisition, marketing, or growth of existing projects.  

In addition to the fundamental learning experiences provided by the technology challenges of the project, this program is also designed to allow students to learn about project and team management, budget responsibility, and stakeholder reporting. If you are awarded funds for your project, you are responsible for keeping accurate transaction records and ensuring the project can remain financially viable, even if materials or equipment needs change as the project progresses (this is normal and totally OK!). Please also be aware that financial awards are taxable. Duke considers these awards to be income – please consult Employee Travel and Reimbursement for more information. For efforts associated with a club or student organization, fund code transfers are available and preferred.

Featured Grant Projects

Bluetooth Bike Shifter

A universal electronic bike shifting system with Bluetooth and iOS components.