Announcing the Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts

September 5, 2017 | 5:04 pm

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.

Through the program, students will 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

Two types of grants will be awarded through 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 course project that you can’t imagine stopping once the semester ends? Do you have a prototype that needs additional resources to reach the next stage? Apply for an Ignite grant!
  • Spark grants are for early-stage or experimental project ideas. Up to $500 will be awarded for each project. Have you been dreaming of a new project to work on? 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

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: Proposals for both course and independent projects are accepted. 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 strong potential for impact, align with the Jacobs Institute’s mission and values, could benefit from the resources at Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab, and have well-written proposals.


Ignite and Spark grants are awarded on a biannual basis, in January and September. Important dates for the inaugural spring 2018 grant cycle are as follows:

  • Early October 2017: Application opens.
  • December 20, 2017: Application deadline.
  • January 31, 2018: Grantees are notified and announced.
  • Throughout spring 2018 semester: Grantees work on their projects, while utilizing resources at Jacobs Hall and CITRIS Invention Lab.
  • February 2018 (exact date TBD): Welcome and kickoff event for spring 2018 cohort.
  • March 2018 (exact date TBD): Grantees have a mid-semester check-in meeting with the Jacobs Student Advisory Board.
  • May 2-3, 2018: Grantees publicly present their work at the Jacobs Design Showcase. End of official grant cycle.

Application process

The application for the inaugural spring 2018 Innovation Catalysts cohort will be available in early October 2017 and due December 20, 2017. Sign up to receive an alert when the application opens and other announcements related to the Innovation Catalysts program.