AWARE Proof of Concept Application

AWARE Proof of Concept Application

AWARE Proof of Concept Application

Summary: The AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs) program is seeking to aid women and underrepresented entrepreneurs through a proof-of-concept award. The AWARE program is administered by the EnterpriseWorks incubator at the University of Illinois Research Park and is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Proof-of-Concept award applications consist of a brief questionnaire.

Dates: The deadline for applications is Monday, December 2 at 5 pm. Applicants will be notified regarding the award on Friday, December 13.

More information: For questions and more information, contact Research Park director of communications and external engagement, Laura Weisskopf Bleill at


Award Details

The AWARE proof-of-concept award provides funding to potential SBIR/STTR applicants to enable prototype development and accelerate the path toward commercialization. Awardees may receive up to $1,500 in proof-of-concept funds. The University of Illinois assumes no equity or rights to intellectual property in association with this award.


  1. Eligible applicants include individuals and teams with a scientific or technological idea with commercial potential.
  2. Applicants must be a member of an underrepresented group, and/or teams must be led by a PI from an underrepresented group (women and underrepresented entrepreneurs).
    1. Note: According to 13 CFR 124.103, the SBA’s description of these groups includes those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of their identities as members of groups and without regard to their individual qualities. The social disadvantage must stem from circumstances beyond their control.
  3. Applicants do not need to be incorporated.
  4. Applicants must have a University of Illinois affiliation (faculty, staff, student, alumnus). 
  5. Applicants must demonstrate the following:
    1. a need for proof-of-concept funding
    2. true commercial potential of the technology
    3. potential the project can be completed within the project timeframe


 Applications will be evaluated based on:

  1. The project’s ability to successfully prepare the technology for an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) proposal; and
  2. The project's ability to be executed within the requested budget and timeframe.
  3. Priority will be given to applicants who have not previously applied for or been awarded an SBIR grant.


Awardee Guidelines

If awarded proof-of-concept funds, recipients will be required to follow University guidelines and meet specific expectations.

Recipient Requirements

  • Awardees must comply with University rules
  • Awardees must complete their project within 3 months of notification of this award.
  • Awardees must submit a detailed budget within 2 weeks of award notification. (A template will be provided).
  • Award recipients will deliver a one-page final report on their project within 1 month of project completion. (A template will be provided).
  • Award recipients will be required to give a final presentation, in person, within 1 month of project completion.
  • Awardees will be required to meet with an EnterpriseWorks Entrepreneur-in-Residence a minimum of 2 times during the three-month project to ensure that they are meeting milestones.


Spending Parameters

  • Award money must be used for project-related activities that further commercial development.
  • Award money may be used for but not limited to items such as materials, software, hardware, and fabrication.
  • Award money must be spent within 3 months from budget approval.
  • Award money cannot be used for salaries, stipends and/or honorariums.
  • Award money cannot be used for permanent equipment.
  • Award expenditures are subject to approval by Research Park staff.