What is the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

What are the benefits for faculty participating in the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

What are the expectations of the Signatures Innovation Fellows?

Who is eligible to apply?

When is the application deadline?

How do faculty, post-docs and graduate students apply for the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

How are the Signatures Innovation Fellows selected?

When does support start?

Who are the members of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Academic Advisory Committee?

Who are the members of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Industry Advisory Committee?


What is the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

The Signatures Innovation Fellows Program supports innovative entrepreneurial activities by UC Berkeley researchers in the data science and technology areas with a special focus on connecting research to projects that hold commercial promise. The Program is committed to the development of entrepreneurs, whether they be postdoctoral fellows or graduate student entrepreneurs who work in collaboration with faculty or faculty themselves, on a journey to building great companies. Our purpose is to support critical technology development, help develop skills, open pathways to market, and identify the most suitable business models, partners, and financing mechanisms

The Program was inaugurated in spring 2015, and awards are made on an annual basis with an application deadline during the spring term. We expect to make at least 3 awards each year.

In 2015/16, and 2016/17 awards were made to UC Berkeley faculty with a preference given to teams that included a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher. Since 2017/18 awards have been made to teams led by faculty, postdoctoral fellows and/or graduate students.


What are the benefits of participating in the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students selected as Signatures Innovation Fellows will each receive support of up to $75K/year for a maximum of two years. The funds may be used for

  • postdoctoral salary and graduate student fellowship support for entrepreneurial activities,
  • to assist with early stage development,
  • to obtain entrepreneurship training,
  • understanding market opportunities for technological developments,
  • developing intellectual property avenues,
  • incorporation of a start-up company,
  • networking with mentors and potential partners,
  • engagement with external partners and funders, or
  • other discretionary activities that enable entrepreneurial pathways.

Non-faculty Fellows are expected to work in partnership with a UC Berkeley faculty member.  In addition, the program seeks to have each Fellow become part of and contribute to an ecosystem that brings together post-docs, students, faculty, staff and alumni to form a strong network that assists researchers in introducing their discoveries to the market.  The program also seeks to build a relationship with the entrepreneurs it supports that allows them to “pay the good will forward” by participating in the university’s Founder’s Pledge Program.


What are the expectations of the Signatures Innovation Fellows?

Signatures Innovation Fellows are expected to provide regular updates on their research-to-market progress, identifying important developments, milestones achieved, unanticipated challenges encountered. They are expected to actively engage with the campus network that facilitates the commercialization of research. The progress of each Signatures Fellow will be reviewed at the end of the first year by the Program’s Academic and Industry Advisory Committees to determine continuation of the second year.

It is understood that as part of the early entrepreneurial journey, Fellows may change the direction of their research-to-market efforts as necessitated by scientific discovery, access to funding, market conditions etc. Signatures Innovation Fellows Program Advisory Committees encourage early notification of such developments so they can better support the Fellow in navigating such changes.


Who is eligible to apply?

The program seeks to support teams led by faculty, postdoctoral researchers and/or graduate students. Note that only postdoctoral fellows and/or graduate students who are already on the UC Berkeley campus at the time of application are eligible to apply. Successful applicants will be working in close collaboration with a UC Berkeley faculty member. A formal letter of support from the faculty member is required for the application. If you are a faculty member, please submit a letter of interest from the postdoctoral fellow and/or graduate student with whom you expect to work on this project.


When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for the 2018/19 cohort is midnight on Sunday, February 25, 2018.


How do faculty, post-docs and graduate students apply for the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program?

To apply, please complete the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program application.

How are the Signatures Innovation Fellows selected?

Awards are made on the basis of both the commercial potential and scientific and/or technical merit of the proposed project. The Program especially seeks to support teams that include a faculty member as well as a postdoctoral researcher and/or graduate student.

More specific selection criteria include the following:

  • The research-to-market opportunity must be novel and compelling in a reasonable timeframe, ideally bringing practical benefit to society.
  • The goal of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program is to catalyze the commercialization of innovative research results. Indicators of desirable outcomes of this program may include the filing of a patent application, licensing of intellectual property rights, new industry partnerships and/or the creation of a new company. Please describe how your proposed project could potentially lead to one or more of these indicators and how they relate to the desired outcome of bringing innovative research into the market to benefit some segment.
  • Applicants should provide specific milestones, including identification of potential points of risk and when they need to be overcome.  These will allow the Advisory Committees to better support the fellow and to assess at the year whether the program support is effective.
  • Proposals should demonstrate the benefit that the research and market transition will gain from support through the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program. Additional existing and pending sources of funding, matching grants and gifts-in-kind should be included.

The selection process involves two committees: (a) a three-member Academic Advisory Committee, and (b) a three-member Industry Advisory Committee. The Academic Advisory Committee will screen the initial applicants and the final candidates will be selected jointly by the two committees. 


When does support start?

Successful applicants to the third cohort of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program will be selected in spring 2018 with support starting July 1, 2018. 


Who are the members of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Academic Advisory Committee?

  • Joshua Bloom, Professor, Astronomy, UC Berkeley
  • David Culler, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, UC Berkeley
  • Joe Hellerstein, Professor,Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, UC Berkeley

Who are the members of the Signatures Innovation Fellows Industry Advisory Committee?