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Illinois IGB

Kleinmuntz Center Young Innovator Program Overview

The Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz Center for Genomics in Business and Society (The Kleinmuntz Center) is committed to supporting innovation at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB). The Kleinmuntz Center already provides career development programming for graduate and post-doctoral students via our Professional Skills for Careers in Biosciences Program (PSCB) and various other science communication programs. Our goal is to advance and continue specialized future programming to support our trainees in becoming the next innovative leaders through this program. Through discussions with IGB faculty, staff, and the Kleinmuntzes, the idea for the new Young Innovator Program was born.

The Kleinmuntz Center's Young Innovator Program aims to provide professional development for a select cohort of graduate students and post-doctoral associates. Three of the cohort's innovative projects that demonstrate potential help the projects succeed. The project proposals can be based on a current research project, but it is not required. Recipients will be awarded tiered awards of between $5,000 – $20,000.

The Kleinmuntz Center's Young Innovator Program applications will be open to all Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology graduate students and post-doctoral researchers upon gaining pre-approval from necessary PIs or faculty members. There will be a pre-registration period where nominations will be accepted before opening up to all applications.

Postdocs who are funded 100% on grants should indicate this in their application. The Kleinmuntz Center will pay 5% of post-doctoral researchers' salaries for the 10 weeks enrolled in the program to conform with federal uniform guidance. This compensation will also avoid any effort and compensation conflicts of sponsored projects.

Important Dates:

Application submissions open April 2nd, 2021, and close April 30th, 2021.  

A review board will review all applications and announce the program's cohort by May 14th, 2021.

The program will run for 10 weeks, from June 11th to August 13th, 2021. Class will meet virtually for an hour each week.

The final idea competition will take place during the last class on August 13th, 2021.

The application and review process are outlined on the following pages:


Guidelines for the Kleinmuntz Center Young Innovator Program

1.    Statement of Purpose
The Young Innovator Program is a 10-week summer program designed to teach trainees the skills necessary to become innovative leaders and bring science to society. Concepts covered in the course include, but are not limited to, learning about the process of innovation, protecting intellectual property, and developing your discoveries beyond the laboratory.  Upon completion of the program, participants will earn a certificate of completion. The Young Innovator Training Program is funded by the Kleinmuntz Center. It supports the goal of the IGB by facilitating the transformation of researchers' discoveries and technologies into useful products and services that benefit society.

The program's primary goals are to expose participants to the entrepreneurship ecosystem and a range of careers. A second goal to provide professional development as it applies to innovative scientific applications.

The IGB and the Kleinmuntz Center have already committed to helping students develop a range of skills.  This program will help those interested in research careers in academia, industry, and government labs.  Participants will also learn about careers in intellectual property/patent law, technology transfer, market research, science communications, entrepreneurship, and more. To build upon the work already being done in other programs (such as the Professional Skills for Careers in Biosciences), the Young Innovator Program will build on participants' career skills. Participants will gain subject matter experience and other career-focused skills more intensive boot camp. Participants will strengthen their critical and creative thinking. The Young Innovators program will help participants imagine how to translate their science in new ways.

Secondly, the final capstone assignment will consist of participants showcasing their innovative projects, highlighting the skills they have amplified during the 10-week training program. Judges will choose up to three innovative projects that show potential for further advancement. The project proposals can be based on a current research project, but it is not required. The Kleinmuntz Center will invest funds to support their development for up to one year after the training program.

The Young Innovator Awards are not intended to support basic research or existing start-up companies but rather will support the development of ideas, inventions, products, or services. The program's investment to advance novel innovations will only support participants as they move forward with further development.

Upon completion of the program, all participants who meet program qualifications will earn a certificate of completion. Regardless of whether participants are awarded funds, all participants will gain valuable career-focused skills. Participants will strengthen their critical and creative thinking skills to support them in imagining their science's impact in new translational ways.

2.    Eligibility for the Young Innovator Program
All IGB graduate students and post-doctoral associates of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology can apply to this program. Previous experience in proof-of-concept innovations is not expected of applicants and is not necessary.  Applicants should show a strong desire to participate in the program and to develop a proposal that will meet the program's goals and funding priorities outlined above. To be considered eligible for funding, the applicant must meet the following criteria:

Participant Eligibility

  • Graduate student or post-doctoral student who is either appointed on an IGB grant or spends at least 50% of their time doing research in the IGB
  • There is no citizenship or visa requirement to participate in this program
  • 500-word personal statement on interest in the program
  • Principal Investigator (PI) letter of support and disclaimer
  • CV

*Note funding awarded must be for work conducted at IGB. If students are less than a year from graduation, they should make plans to stay on at IGB as a postdoc with their current PI or another faculty collaborator at IGB.

** Post-doctoral students must indicate if they are currently funded 100% by sponsored grants or contracts. Appointments will be restructured during this 10-week program so that 5% of pay is covered to avoid effort and compensation conflicts.

Principal Investigator Eligibility

  • The trainee's PI must be a current, full-time IGB faculty member at Illinois or an emeritus faculty member who maintains an active research group.
  • The trainee's PI must sign a disclaimer form.

3.    Criteria for Training Program
The main criteria for acceptance in the training program will be based on a 500-word personal statement of interest in the program and a letter of support from the trainee's principal investigator. As part of IGB's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, candidates from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply. A review board will review all applications and announce the program's cohort by May 14th, 2021. The program will run for 10 weeks, from June 11th to August 13th, 2021.

4.    Award Funding Obligations and Limitations
The Kleinmuntz Center Young Innovator Award funding will be awarded to three winning projects in the amount of $5,000 – $20,000. The award is intended to provide support for project-related expenses. Funds cannot be used to provide salaries for principal investigators, purchase laptops or large equipment, travel (except when it directly supports project completion), for publications, or to subcontract work from other institutions.

For projects funded under the Kleinmuntz Center Young Innovator Awards, funds are expected to be released within two weeks of the award announcement. Participants must not spend any funds before their release.

5.    Post-award Funding Obligations and Reporting Requirements
In addition to meeting the specified milestones and deliverables in the project proposal, awardees will be required to participate in the following activities:

a.    Quarterly Check-ins – Awardees will be required to have informal check-ins with the program instructor, Cecilia Gentle, every three months. These check-ins will serve as an opportunity to review progress, address any project challenges, and for IGB to offer additional support.

b.    Project Completion Report – A Project Completion Report will need to be submitted six months after award distribution. The Completion Report will outline the milestones and any deliverables, if applicable, that were met or not met based on the initially proposed project timeline and describe the project's progress. The Completion Report will provide information back to the Kleinmuntz Center Young Innovator Awards Review Committee, including if there are any unused funds and general feedback on the project. A template will be provided to Young Innovator Award recipients.

c.    Final Project Presentations – Awardees will be required to present project findings and success to IGB community members and a committee of key parties and influencers after one year.  

6.    Contact
Please direct questions to Erin Louer (, Kleinmuntz Center Manager.

7.    Acknowledgments
The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology thanks Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz for their generous gift, which has supported this program. It is due to their continued support that we can provide this opportunity.