University of Southern Indiana

Academic Venture Capital Fund

Academic Venture Capital Fund

The investment of substantial funds to incentivize the alignment of faculty priorities around large challenges that drive engagement, attract community-engaged partners, and produce outcomes related to the Living Wisely Signature Initiative.


The Academic Venture Capital Fund (AVCF) is a faculty-centered program that invests resources to support faculty in developing and expanding their research impact through collaboration, professional development, proposal development support, and funding opportunities.

Goals of the AVCF Program

The Academic Venture Capital Fund (AVCF) program is aligned with USI’s strategic goal of access and opportunity by design. The goals of the AVCF program are to:

  • Support faculty in developing impactful and sustainable multi-disciplinary research.
  • Leverage faculty members’ expertise and intrinsic motivation in multi-disciplinary research to address complex problems in our community.

* Multi-disciplinary here also includes interdisciplinary approaches.

Focus of the AVCF for 2017-2018

We currently seek proposals that focus on the social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age – that shape their overall well-being*. Proposals should describe the activities of a multi- or interdisciplinary effort that will interrogate a facet or facets of the social determinants of health in a defined community. Successful applicants to this initial round of the AVCF will focus on scholarship that identifies or validates factors or interventions that support well-being. The identification and validation of factors or interventions that support well-being offer the opportunity to enrich the university and surrounding communities.

*World Health Organization definition:


  • Phase 1:  All faculty at USI may submit a Phase 1 application
  • Phase 2:  Proposal teams must have at least 3 members from at least 2 colleges

Key Activities for Current Cycle (tentative dates)

  • Fall 2017: Phase 1 applications available
  • Fall 2017: Phase 1 notification to applicants
  • Spring 2018: Workshops for developing Phase 2 teams and proposals
  • End of Spring 2018: Phase 2 proposals deadline and AVCF grant awardees announced
  • Summer 2018: Funded Phase 2 projects begin

Program Overview

The Signature Initiative: Living Wisely program is comprised of multiple phases that build on each other to provide support to participants as they develop and refine their ideas and proposals.  Each phase provides participants the following:

  • Phase 1: Faculty members indicate their interest in participation, identify areas of expertise, and research preferences relevant to the program and the Signature Initiative. Selected Phase 1 applicants will be invited to participate in Phase 2 workshops.
  • Phase 2: Participants who engage in the Phase 2 workshops will have the opportunity to submit Phase 2 collaborative proposals.
  • Phase 2 Grants: Total number of each 2 year award is dependent upon the project and justification. The budget for each award will be up to $150,000.
  • Phase 3: Ongoing support for proposal development and research collaboration will be available for all Phase 2 teams, regardless of their Phase 2 proposal selection status.

Phase 1 Application Preparation

The Phase 1 application is submitted by individual applicants online. Application review begins immediately. Submission deadline is Monday, October 23, 2017. The application includes the following information:

  • Name, department, college/unit, title/role, email address
  • Community dimensions of interest (check boxes): behavioral health, education, environment, health promotion, housing, socioeconomic issues, innovation, nonprofits, public policy, social entrepreneurship, social justice, systems approach/thinking
  • Preferences in the research continuum (check boxes): literature review, research questions development, modeling/methodology, research and development, data analysis, extracting insights for policy development and applications, project management, communications/dissemination, interacting with community partners
  • Why are you interested in participating in the AVCF program? (up to 75 words)
  • What are your areas of expertise and experience related to the goals of the Signature Initiative? (up to 75 words)
  • How could you contribute to a multi-disciplinary team? (up to 75 words)
  • What experience do you have working with community partners on research/engagement projects?  Please list these community partners, if any.  (up to 75 words)
  • Provide an example of how you have developed or might create interactions/connections between your teaching, scholarship, and service activities to achieve desired outcomes.  (up to 75 words)
  • Please describe how your participation in the Signature Initiative could contribute to your professional growth and development? (up to 75 words)

Phase 1 Selection Criteria

Applications will be reviewed based on relevance to the goals of the Signature Initiative and responsiveness to the application questions.  Application information will be used to develop initial teams for Phase 2.

Phase 2 of the Program

In Phase 2, participants will engage in Key Activities that include participating in workshops and using resources that are designed to facilitate team formation, research collaborations, proposal development, and skill building.  During Phase 2 activities will be designed to facilitate connections with community partners and external experts.  These capacity building activities and resources are to support teams submitting Phase 2 proposals and pursuing external funding opportunities.  To be eligible to submit a Phase 2 proposal, teams must participate in the Phase 2 workshops and activities.

Phase 2 Proposal Preparation 

The project proposal includes the following items. Format is 11-point font, single-spaced, and 1-inch margins.

  1. Cover Page and Project Summary (1 page)
  2. Proposal (5 pages): Please be sure to address the Phase 2 Review Criteria. The proposal should describe all of the following components:
    • The identified need/problem and its significance o Goals, and measurable outcomes of the proposed project
    • Rationale, including a brief literature review, to describe how the proposed project builds upon and contributes to advancing knowledge
    • Relevant theories and approaches, with an emphasis on the inter/multi-disciplinary synergies and intersections
    • Project plan, including methodology or research design
    • Community impact
    • Scalability and/or transferability of project results or approach to other communities o Sustainability potential – the extent to which successful completion is aligned with project requirements of related external funding opportunities
    • Uniqueness or innovation of the proposed project
  3. Logic Model (1 page)
  4. Work plan (tasks, responsible individual(s), deliverables, and timeline) (1 page)
  5. Budget and justification (through CUYASE). Note that reassigned time may be requested if discussed with the dean and is in accordance with university and federal policies.
  6. Bio-sketch/brief CVs (1-2 pages per project team member)
  7. Current and pending awards/support for each team member (use template)

Proposal Instructions.pdf

Visual Proposal Instructions as a Trello board

Phase 2 Review Criteria

Submitted Phase 2 proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Significance/Need and Alignment: Does the proposed project clearly meet a relevant insight/need for the community? How does it align with the goals of the Signature Initiative?
  • Impact: How would the project positively impact to the identified community and the lives of their residents?
  • Advancing Knowledge: How would the project contribute to and advance knowledge in the focus area(s)?
  • Approach/Scope: Is the overall approach, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specified outcomes of the project? Does the proposal articulate a project plan that is feasible within the 2-year project duration?
  • Inter/multi-disciplinary Capacity Building: How would the project contribute to enhancing inter/multidisciplinary capabilities and processes at USI and in our community?
  • Scaling and Adaptation: To what extent would the project results or approach be scalable and/or transferable to other communities?
  • Sustainability Potential: Does the proposal articulate a project plan that is feasible within the 2-year project duration? To what extent would successful completion of the project lead to securing additional resources and/or external funding?

Promise Zone Social Determinants of Health

The Signature Initiative is employing a strategy to foster the interaction of faculty across disciplines to drive the identification and effective engagement of large, complex challenges that impact our community, region and world. Strategically aligning the Signature Initiative with the Evansville Promise Zone (EPZ) will maximize impact and complement existing efforts.

Background on Social Determinants of Health .pdf

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