Purpose and Aim

The Washington University Gap Fund provides funding for translational work that will increase the quality and value of promising medical (i.e., MedTech*), engineering, and physical science technologies created by WashU researchers.

The aim of the Gap Fund is to increase the chances of these technologies attracting the necessary industry partners to commercialize them into products and services that benefit society.

The Gap Fund is agnostic regarding the commercialization pathway (i.e., new venture or traditional out-licensing).

*MedTech broadly comprises medical devices as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and includes diagnostics, software, digital health, and other non-therapeutic technologies.


Office Hours Appointments Available

Questions? Interested in discussing a potential project?

Schedule an office hours appointment here.



Must have a WashU appointment that is captured under the IP policy.

The technology must fit into the categories of MedTech, physical sciences, or engineering.

The technology must be disclosed to the WashU Office of Technology Management (OTM) and must be properly assigned to WashU prior to submission of an application. OTM can help you in fulfilling these requirements. Reach out to the OTM team for assistance.

Application Process

Investigators may submit an application for a proposed project themselves or or be nominated by an OTM staff member.

Applications and nominations may be submitted at any time.

How to Apply: Step by Step

  1. Make sure the invention disclosure for the technology has been processed by OTM.
  2. Contact the OTM case manager for the technology to discuss the commercialization strategy and what needs to be done to sufficiently de-risk and mature the technology.
  3. Complete the Gap Fund project pitch deck template.
  4. Either the primary investigator or the OTM case manager submits the online application/nomination form and attaches the pitch deck document.
  5. The Evaluation Committee reviews the application/nomination.
  6. If the technology was not recently presented to a Domain Expert Program (DEP) panel, the primary investigator presents to the Evaluation Committee and answers questions about the proposed Gap Fund project
  7. The Evaluation Committee makes a funding decision.


  • The maximum amount per award is $55,000.
  • Investigators should only request the minimum amount that is needed to achieve the project objectives.
  • Projects to de-risk and mature a technology for a given application may be considered for multiple rounds of funding (i.e., multiple consecutive awards) without the need to submit a new application.
  • Funding will be disbursed in tranches linked to milestones.

Project Selection, Oversight, and Support

Input from external advisors is an important part of the project selection process for the WashU Gap Fund. OTM relies heavily on the Domain Expert Program (DEP) to obtain such input and evaluate proposed Gap Fund projects. By conducting DEP panels several times a year, OTM provides principal investigators and technology case managers with advice and recommendations regarding the continued development and commercialization of technologies. Although it is not necessary to present a technology to a DEP panel prior to submitting a Gap Fund application, doing so provides the applying principal investigator with the opportunity to obtain valuable insights that can strengthen their applications. Principal investigators who submit applications for technologies that will not be presented to a DEP panel are required to present to an ad hoc review panel or record a presentation to enable external advisors to view it asynchronously and provide input.

Once a decision has been made to fund a project, the OTM innovation fund manager and principal investigator will develop a detailed scope of work (SOW) for the project. OTM uses this SOW to monitor and track the progress of the project. Additionally, the principal investigator is required to periodically report on the progress of the project against the SOW.

Tools and Templates

Recommended Resources

Conducting Customer Discovery
  • Austin, J. (2021). Customer discovery basics. Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School.
  • Blank, S. (2013). Customer discovery. In S. Blank, Four steps to the epiphany: Successful strategies for products that win (5th edition)(pp. 40-103). Wiley.
  • Blank, S., & Dorf, B. (2012). Chapter 3: An introduction to customer discovery. In S. Blank & B. Dorf, The startup owner’s manual: The step-by-step guide for building a great company (pp. 53-68). K&S Ranch.
  • Blank, S., & Dorf, B. (2012). Chapter 5: Customer discovery, phase two: “Get out of the building” to test the problem: “Do people care?”. In S. Blank & B. Dorf, The startup owner’s manual: The step-by-step guide for building a great company (pp. 189-226). K&S Ranch.
  • Blank, S., & Dorf, B. (2012). Chapter 6: Customer discovery, phase three: “Get out of the building” to test the product solution. In S. Blank & B. Dorf, The startup owner’s manual: The step-by-step guide for building a great company (pp. 227-256). K&S Ranch.
  • VentureWell. (2023, October 5). Customer discovery: Assumptions & Interviews [Video].
  • Wilcox, J. (2017, January 4). How to interview your customers. Customer Development Labs.
  • Wilcox, J. (2017, January 12). Customer discovery: What do you ask? [Video]. YouTube.
Formulating Effective Value Propositions
Medical Device Development
Medical Device Regulation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is the WashU Gap Fund different from the LEAP program?

The Gap Fund is an integrated component of OTM’s workflow to move promising technologies from the laboratory to commercial use. The objective of the Gap Fund is to strategically deploy capital to help OTM accomplish its mission of transferring technologies created from the research conducted at WashU to the marketplace so that they can be used to benefit society.

Is the WashU Gap Fund a competition program?

In operating the Gap Fund, OTM has made a conscious decision to move away from the open competition model to make better use of its limited resources. The new model enables OTM to provide much better support to those technologies that are funded as well as technologies that are not yet ready for gap fund assistance. In the end, the new model holds promise to enable more WashU technologies to be successfully commercialized than the previous funding programs.

Does the WashU Gap Fund provide funding to university start-up companies?

No, the Gap Fund does not provide funding to university start-up companies. The funding that the Gap Fund provides is directed to the laboratories of WashU researchers, who use the established WashU processes and procedures for contracting services and making purchases. As such, WashU owns any additional intellectual property (whether patentable or non-patentable) that is developed from gap funded projects.

Who is eligible to receive WashU Gap Fund support?

Any WashU researcher in good standing who has properly assigned their intellectual property rights for inventions and creations to the university is eligible to receive Gap Fund support.

Can an investigator submit multiple applications for more than one project?

A person may submit multiple technologies for consideration. Because the WashU Gap Fund has very limited resources to support the maturation and de-risking of all non-therapeutic technologies across the entire university, an individual is generally limited to serving as principal investigator (PI) for only one active Gap Fund award at any given time. However, an individual may be allowed to serve as PI on more than one active Gap Fund award if there is compelling justification. When deciding whether to provide multiple simultaneous awards to a single PI, the status of the PI’s current active Gap Fund awards will also be taken into consideration.  There is no limit to how many projects on which a person may be a non-PI team member.

When are applications for the Gap Fund accepted?

Applications and nominations for the Gap Fund are accepted at any time.

Can an investigator request more than $55,000 for a project?

The limit for a single Gap Fund award is $55,000 under current guidelines. Proposed projects with budgets significantly greater than this will be broken down into sequential sub-projects with budgets up to the $55,000 limit per award. A stage-gate approach will be used but the Gap Fund will only commit to providing $55,000 in funding at a time. Subsequent awards may be given if the results of the prior sub-projects warrant it.

For what can the funding be used?

The financial support provided by the WashU Gap Fund can only be used for direct Project costs. Funds are intended to cover costs directly related to achieving the objectives of the Project scope of work (SOW) including, but not limited to, the following:

· Services from contract research organizations (CROs)

· Consulting or professional service fees

· Materials and supplies

· Specialized equipment not capable of being obtained through partnerships, renting, or leasing

· Testing services

Funds cannot be used for university overhead or new venture start-up costs including, but not limited to, the following:

· Facilities and administration (i.e., overhead) costs

· Employee salaries and fringe benefits (except in rare instances on a case-by-case basis)

· Student tuition remission, fellowships, and grants

· Consulting or professional service fees for preparing organizational registrations documents

· Organization registration filing fees (e.g., incorporation filing fees, attorney’s fees)

· Fees associated with licensing intellectual property

· Office expenses

· Marketing and advertising expenses

Can undergraduate students work on a Gap Fund project?

Because of intellectual property rights issues, undergraduate students cannot work on a Gap Fund project without prior notice to and agreement by OTM.

Can graduate students work on a Gap Fund project?

There are several types of students that fall under the term “graduate student”.  The only graduate students who can work on Gap Fund projects are those who are subject to the requirements and obligations specified in the WashU Intellectual Property Policy or those who are being compensated for their work on the project and agree to assign their intellectual property rights to WashU as part of the compensation agreement.

How are projects selected to receive Gap Fund awards?

Decisions about which projects receive Gap Fund awards are made by an evaluation committee with input from external domain experts. Several factors are considered such as:

· Satisfaction of eligibility criteria

· Primary innovator contribution to commercialization and out-licensing efforts

· Project leader commercialization aptitude

· Primary innovator or project leader relationship with OTM

· Anticipated increase in technology maturity level

· Anticipated increase in the value of the technology

· Anticipated strength of intellectual property protection

· Alignment of the research and development plan with the market need

· Anticipated impact of the technology if it is commercialized

· Breadth of value creation

· Estimated size and growth of the target market

Are there any other guidelines that investigators should be aware?

Other guidelines of which investigators should be aware include the following:

· WashU must be the lead institution if the technology has collaborators from other institutions

· The maturity level of the technology must be at least the equivalent of TRL-3 but no higher than the equivalent of TRL-6 on the NASA technology readiness level (TRL) scale

· There must not be any unresolved compliance issues with the technology

· The technology must not yet be licensed or otherwise encumbered

· There must be no apparent conflicts of interest that appear unmanageable or unresolvable

· The investigator must be in “good standing” with WashU

· There must be no serious unresolved issues with the investigator’s laboratory

· Technologies previously denied funding but not determined to be unviable may be reconsidered during a later selection cycle after sufficient actions have been taken to address deficiencies

What is the technology readiness level scale?

The technology readiness level (TRL) scale is an ordinal scale that was developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is used to characterize and describe the maturity level of a technology. The NASA TRL scale ranges from 1 (least mature) to 9 (most mature). OTM uses an adaption of the NASA TRL scale which ranges from 0 (least mature) to 9 (most mature).

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