Grants of up to $75,000 for technology and business model development.

About the Program

Horn Entrepreneurship, through a partnership with the College of Engineering, offers an innovative model for the Blue Hen Proof of Concept (BH-POC) Program.

All University of Delaware technologists, including students, faculty, post-docs and staff, are now able to build prototypes and prove their technology concepts as well as validate that the technology will meet customers’ needs and wants.

Through the integration of the National Science Foundation I-CorpsTM program, researchers will learn to identify the market opportunity and develop initial market penetration strategies that will ensure a successful path to commercialization. This unique approach decreases the probability of startup failure and increases the probability of follow-on funding from federal sources, such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR/STTR) grants.

Program Components

Training & Mentorship

The team will undergo an intensive training program to develop skills in business leadership and understanding of the market potential of the technology. The team will learn how to identify early evangelists, the technology’s value propositions, revenue models and more.

Market Exposure

The team will meet with many potential customers during their training to develop their business model. This necessary engagement will greatly increase the team’s network within their market sector which will lead to their first customers, letters of support for grants and recommendations.

Gap Funding

Depending upon which fund the team is eligible for, gap funds will be available at a maximum of $10,000 or $75,000. These funds should be used to build and test the validated minimum viable product or prototype for which customers would pay. These funds should also be used to drive towards the next funding opportunity, especially through SBIR/STTR grants, VentureWell E-Teams grants, or other gap funds/training programs.


  • Toolset to evaluate the societal impact and commercial relevance of the research or technology
  • Access to the $50,000 NSF I-Corps Teams or the $25,000 VentureWell E-Teams grant for additional business model development training
  • An increase in possibility of receiving a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) grant from the federal government
  • Access to resources, facilities, consulting and mentoring


All University of Delaware faculty, researchers, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are eligible to apply, regardless of their technology sector.

A team of 2-3 is ideal. One team member, the Entrepreneurial Lead (EL), should be able to move the project forward and start the company, if it is formed. The other team member, the Principal Investigator (PI), might be less able to join the company but could participate in an advisory role. Both team members should have an understanding of the technology and be willing to adapt it based on customer feedback. Lastly, if the team can identify a mentor who has industry or startup experience, they should be included on the application.

The technology should be at a Technology Readiness Level around 3. This means active R&D is initiated which includes analytical and laboratory studies to validate the predictions of separate elements of the technology. No products or prototypes should be made yet and no sales or investment should have been received at the point of application submission.

Award Tracks

Student Prototyping

A University-affiliated team working on a project, technology or idea that has no Intellectual Property owned by the University. This track primarily serves students and recent alumni who apply within 12 months of graduation. Each year a maximum of 10 awards of $10,000 maximum will be given.

Faculty/Graduate Student Proof of Concept

A University-affiliated team working on technology which has Intellectual Property owned by the University of Delaware. Applicants must have received a National Science Foundation grant in the past five years related to the proposed innovation. Alternatively, at least one of the applicants must have gone through the UD I-Corps Sites program ( Each year a maximum of 8 awards of $75,000 maximum will be given.

Post-Doctoral Innovation Fellowship

A University of Delaware post-doctoral fellow or Ph.D. candidate near graduation who is interested in commercializing his or her thesis research. The invention must be disclosed to the Technology Transfer Office. Each year a maximum of 4 awards of $75,000 maximum will be given.

Application Process

There are 4 submission cycles per year: January, April, July and October.

Step 1: Form team
Step 2: Submit online application
Step 3: Team presentation
Step 4: Notification

Questions about the BH-POC Program should be directed to Christina Pellicane, director of commercialization programs.