The Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts

October 13, 2017 | 10:58 am


Every semester, students bring a wide range of innovative projects to life at Jacobs Hall and throughout Berkeley’s vibrant design ecosystem. The Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts, made possible by the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation, is a new student grant program that provides an avenue for these ambitious student innovators to unlock further potential in their projects.

Student with virtual reality projectBerkeley students are invited to propose projects that they aim to develop over the course of a semester. Selected grantees will work on their projects with the support of resources from the Jacobs Institute and CITRIS Invention Lab, and as part of a cohort of fellow student innovators.

Reflecting a focus on shared investment within the institute’s student design community, the Jacobs Institute Student Advisory Board (SAB) will play a key role in the grant selection process. SAB members, who represent diverse perspectives from the student community, will review and make recommendations on all grant submissions.

Program structure

The Innovation Catalysts are awarded on a biannual basis, in January and September; several grants will be awarded during each grant cycle.

Two types of grants are offered in the Innovation Catalysts program:

  • Ignite grants are for in-progress projects, with existing prototypes and demonstrated potential for impact. Up to $2000 will be awarded for each project. Are you working on a project that you can’t imagine stopping once the semester ends? Apply for an Ignite grant!
  • Spark grants are for early-stage projects or ideas. Up to $500 will be awarded for each project. Do you have a great idea and seek funding to make it a reality? Apply for a Spark grant!

The grantees in each grant cycle will form a cohort, with members serving as peers and resources for each other. In addition to the grant stipends, grantees will receive support from the Maker Pass ecosystem at Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab, including advising and mentorship from staff and access to fabrication equipment in both spaces (all UC Berkeley affiliate grantees receive complimentary Maker Passes during the grant cycle). Winners of Ignite grants will also receive support to develop audio/visual documentation of their work.

Grantees commit to:

  • Making significant progress on their project during the grant cycle
  • Having a majority of their team on UC Berkeley campus during the semester that the grant is awarded
  • Staying engaged with the Jacobs Institute and their grant cohort throughout the semester, including by attending a mid-semester check-in with the Jacobs Student Advisory Board
  • Publicly presenting their work as part of the Jacobs Design Showcase at the end of the semester, and providing visual and text material about their projects, to be featured in the Jacobs Institute’s marketing and communications

Students with assistive technology project

Eligibility and selection criteria

Applicant eligibility: Applicants can apply as individuals or in teams of up to five members. A majority of the applicant team must be comprised of UC Berkeley students during the grant cycle. Both undergraduate and graduate students, from all departments and programs, are eligible.

Project selection criteria: The Innovation Catalysts will support a wide range of projects, reflecting the diversity of talents and interests in the Jacobs student community. That being said, the Jacobs Student Advisory Board and leadership team will especially look for projects that have the potential for high impact, align with the Jacobs mission and values, could benefit from the resources at Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab, and have well-written proposals. 


Important dates and events for the fall 2018 grant cycle are as follow:

  • Summer 2018 (exact date TBD): Application deadline.
  • Early September 2018: Grantees are notified and announced.
  • September to December 2018: Grantees work on their projects. The cohort will have a kickoff event at the start of the semester as well as a mid-semester check-in meeting (exact dates TBD).
  • December 5-6, 2018: Grantees present their work at the Jacobs Design Showcase. End of grant cycle.

Students testing interactive device project

Application process

The application deadline for the spring 2018 cohort has closed. The application deadline for the fall 2018 cohort will be announced in the spring.

The application form requests basic information about your project and then ask you to upload a detailed proposal. The proposal should follow the general formatting and content guidelines below:

Formatting guidelines

  • No applicant names, as the review committee will do blind reviews of the proposals
  • Single PDF file, no larger than 10 MB
  • File name should be [Project]_[Ignite Grant or Spark Grant]_Spring 2018 (e.g., “Transmogrifier_Ignite Grant_Spring 2018″)
  • No minimum or maximum page limits, though we expect that 3-5 pages, not including supplemental materials, will be sufficient

Content guidelines

  1. Basic information
    • Name of your project
    • One paragraph summary about your project
  2. Detailed description
    • Current status of your project and what work has already been done for it
    • How your project fits with the Jacobs Institute mission and vision
    • How an Innovation Catalyst grant would help your project progress
  3. Project plan
    • Proposed project timeline for spring 2018
    • How you will track project progress (e.g., metrics and midway goals)
    • Expected deliverable in May 2018
  4. Budget
    • An itemized project budget that shows how you plan to use your stipend
    • Other funding that your project has received (e.g., other grants, funding from a principal investigator, etcetera)
  5. Supplemental media
    • Required for Ignite grant proposals and optional, but encouraged, for Spark grant proposals
    • Could include sketches, photos, video, etcetera
    • Could be interspersed throughout the proposal or included as appendices

Learn more

Read about the spring 2018 cohort here. The application deadline for the fall 2018 cohort will be announced in early summer 2018. Sign up to receive announcements related to the Innovation Catalysts program, including information about applications for the next cohort. Contact Amy Dinh, Student Services Advisor, at for questions.