Inside UW-Madison’s Innovative Discovery to Product Service Program

Have you ever had an innovative idea, but you don’t know where to start? Then, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Discovery to Product can connect you to the resources you need to bring your ideas to life.

From discovery to product (D2P) is a program that provides funding, mentorship, and tools to any member of the UW-Madison community to help get their research or ideas off the ground.

D2P awards more than $1 million a year to campus innovators, according to Discovery to Product program director Andrew Richards. The program has helped launch and grow over 90 different startups since its inception in 2014.

“D2P’s focus is on the innovators of the UW-Madison campus. Instead of just focusing on one area of ​​innovation such as venture capital or licensing, our approach is holistic,” Richards told the Daily Cardinal. “We meet each individual wherever they are in their innovation journey and work with them to get them where they want to go.”

D2P was created through a partnership between UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, reporting to a unit of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Higher Education. D2P also coordinates the Innovate Networka collaborative group of campus-based and campus-affiliated member organizations working to build a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at UW.

D2P will provide services to those who are in the early stages of developing an idea, or someone who is further along in the process. This includes a startup, licensing deal, social impact business, or small business.

“In a recent cohort, we worked with innovators to develop everything from a new cold drip coffee machine, to a magnetic shield for spaceflight instrumentation, to a podcast and a platform social support on how to enjoy richer relationships,” said D2P mentor Dr. Jeffrey Snell. said.

“It’s wonderful to see the extent of creativity within the campus community – the participants of D2P’s entrepreneurship and commercialization programs,” Snell continued.

The program offers four different types of grants, each with distinct eligibility, goals, and funding levels. The Igniter and PRIME programs are open to UW-Madison students, faculty, and affiliated organizations, while TIF and PLANT are only open to university staff.

“The level of the award is specific to each program,” explained Richards. “For example, Igniter is capped at $5,000 and TIF at $50,000.”

The D2P program offers access to five mentors who have years of experience in industry, startups and academia, according to Richards.

“They help navigate university rules and processes, and have the knowledge and access to connect individuals and teams to campus and community resources,” he said.

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The D2P Mentor, Dr. Amar Anumakonda, has been a registered mentor for many years and enjoys guiding his students.

“It has been a rewarding experience working with faculty, staff and students and helping them turn their ideas into concrete, actionable innovations and business offerings,” he said.

In the D2P program, mentoring and guidance continues even after the scheduled training programs have ended.

“Over the years, they have always been there for advice, a short or longer check-in, orientation to new connections and teaching the entrepreneurial path,” said Guelay Bilen-Rosas, who has worked with D2P in 2020 as part of the Innovation to Market program. . “I will be eternally grateful.”

Going forward, there are still improvements that Richards would like to see made to D2P.

“We would like to be able to provide additional programs and resources for campus innovators, including our student entrepreneurs,” he said. “One way to do this is to create a dedicated center for entrepreneurship so that D2P and other members of the Innovate Network can continue to cultivate and support this growing demand at the university.”

Richards encourages anyone with an idea or research project in mind to try their hand at D2P.

“Come in,” he said. “We have many resources here at D2P, on campus with the Innovate Network, and in the community. There is an entire ecosystem that is ready to help support your efforts,”

“D2P is a gateway to many resources and we will work with you to make those connections,” concluded Richards.

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Ryan H. Bowman