Seasoned Entrepreneur:  A person who has founded a company relevant to the NASA technologies presented in this Challenge; raised dilutive and/or non-dilutive capital for that company and have exited either successfully or unsuccessfully.  CAI prefers entrepreneurs that have tenure of at least five (5) years in a start-up and also have had corporate experience.  If the entrepreneur had a successful exit (sold their company or had an IPO) in less than five years, this also qualifies as being a “seasoned entrepreneur.” Please note: an “entrepreneur in residence” typically does not meet these qualifications unless they meet the criteria outlined


Invention: means any invention or technologies currently owned by NASA and available for this Challenge.  Visit NASA's portfolio page in the navigation for more information and a searchable list of NASA technologies


Startup Licensing: To qualify for a license, please read the page on the NASA Technology Transfer Program


The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI): CAI is a global public-private partnership non-profit corporation. CAI’s mission is to support, accelerate and increase the volume of knowledge and technology transfer, translational research, commercialization and entrepreneurship in various fields of research, including biomedical research, to make more research available to the world for educational and innovation purposes and to improve the economy, create a virtuous circle of innovation and positively impact world health


Team Member Definitions


Team Leader: Accountable for deliverables and the Challenge's single point of contact


Core Team Member: Responsible for deliverables


Mentor: Person who has domain expertise who actively works with the team on a daily basis as the team needs


Advisor: Person who has domain expertise and the team uses for Q&A sessions only


Collaborator: Organization that agrees to help support the team by; these include but are not limited to: seed funding organization, service companies  (e.g., legal, financial, etc.)


Please find definitions for terms such as "responsible" and "accountable" here


   overall faq

What are the goals of the Challenge?  

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is launching “Startup NASA”, a new initiative to encourage the use of federally funded technologies by start-up companies.  “Startup NASA” includes the opportunity for new companies to license NASA technologies with no up-front payment and kicks off an effort with the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) to encourage more space technology spin-offs by entrepreneurs. Startup NASA helps address two of the biggest challenges faced by start-up companies: raising capital and securing intellectual property rights. By eliminating up-front licensing fees, NASA is letting new companies hold onto their cash while securing the intellectual property rights needed to secure their competitive market space. This benefit is available to companies formed to commercialize NASA technology.  In addition, to foster the creation of new start-up companies and encourage adoption of NASA technologies, NASA will work with the CAI to run a multi-phase business plan competition in 2016. CAI will review NASA’s portfolio of technologies and identify those that have near-term commercialization potential.  CAI will conduct outreach teams to explore the market potential of the technologies and write business plans.  The winners of the competition will be awarded a cash prize, provided by third-party venture capital investors, and will be encouraged to incorporate and pursue licensing the technologies from NASA, using their winnings as seed funding for the new business.


Will we have access to the inventors during the competition? 

Yes, via scheduled Q&A sessions hosted by CAI and NASA.  Q&A sessions will be conducted virtually via video conferencing or a join.me session.   If your team is unable to make the Q&A session, you may listen to the meeting afterwards.  CAI will provide a link to the Q&A sessions, to be accessed via CAI only.  These recordings will be confidential under the Challenge CDA.  Also, CAI will collect questions ahead of time and consolidate for the inventor.  The inventor will answer questions in the order he/she deems most important for the teams


How will the Challenge distinguish teams?

Challenge teams must create a team name following the template 'organization' - 'team leader's initials' where:

  • 'organization' - Organization of the Team Leader
  • 'team leader's initials' - Initials of the team leader.  This is to distinguish teams that are derived from the same organization

We also encourage but do not require teams to form unofficial team names to show their spirit and creativity


Can an Organization have more than one team? 

Yes, there is no limitation on the number of teams per organization


Can an Organization have more than one team per invention? 

Yes, there is no limitation. Please be aware that typically the Challenge judges will typically choose only one or two winners per invention


Can a team member participate on several invention teams? 

If the member is a Core team member, they may not participate on another team in any capacity.  However, Advisors, Mentors, and Collaborators may participate on any number of teams as long as there is a definitive role.  For example, CAI imagines that there may be some entrepreneurs that may participate on several teams from one Organization


Can we have more than three students on a team?  

Yes, there is no limit to how large your team can be, but must be a minimum of two undergraduates, or two graduate students, post-docs, and/or medical students, etc.


Can any team member fill the discipline requirements?

Yes, the core team as well as mentors, advisors, and collaborators can fill team requirements for the four disciplines.  However at least one of the two students must fill either the Business or Medical/Scientific discipline.  Keep in mind that by definition, mentors, advisors and collaborators will commit less time in terms of Challenge deliverables.  Challenge teams will be evaluated based on their application of each discipline and their collective ability to execute deliverables


Can we change a team member after we are accepted into the Challenge?  

Yes, however, if you are changing a core team member or the entrepreneur, you will need the new team member fill out the CDA form.  Also, you must indicate to the Challenge organizers that one of your members is being added/dropped out.


What assistance will the students receive from the Challenge facilitators?

CAI is facilitating and managing the Challenge and you will receive communications regarding the Challenge through CAI on behalf of NASA.  CAI's team will provide templates, tools and other resources.  CAI will also have an established mentoring methodology for the teams.  CAI will also serve as a mentor to the teams.  In addition to CAI’s team, CAI is also formulating a team of mentors that will be able to answer questions in different subject matter areas.  If you'd like to nominate a mentor or judge, please click here


Will the summary of the technologies be available for students to look at by December 18th, 2016?  



scope faq

What is the scope of the Challenge?

This Challenge has a unique focus on advanced manufacturing and other applications from the NASA portfolio


Is the Challenge limited to the US or is it international? 

International, however all startup entities and manufacturing for NASA technologies must be established within the United States


Is the Challenge limited to one state within the US? 

No.  This Challenge is global


How does this fit into iCorps program? 

Several Universities participating in the iCorps program will be participating in the Challenge.  They will use the guidelines specified by the iCorps program but adhere to CAI's timeline.  Other than this, there is no direct linkage to the iCorps program at present


invention faq

Who owns the inventions?  

NASA owns all of the inventions offered by the Challenge


Are there national and/or international patents on the NASA inventions in the Challenge?  

This varies by invention; however, the inventions either have patents granted on an international/US basis or patents applications have been filed



Are the winning teams guaranteed a license to their selected invention?

No.  Licenses are not guaranteed to teams and their selected invention.  Negotiations will need to occur in order to receive a licensing agreement


Will known risks/weaknesses and strengths for the NASA inventions be disclosed? 

Yes, they are part of the invention description

faq per phase

 Entering the Challenge - Team Formation and Requirements


How many teams are accepted into the Challenge per invention? 

Maximum of 10 per invention


Do students select the inventions for which they want to build a team? 

Yes.  CAI advises students to select an area of interest as well as an area in which they have some experience


Can we populate our LOI using the live system?

Yes, LOIs can be submitted here 


Is there a maximum number of LOIs that can be submitted per team? 

No, however, LOIs that put forth strong teams and meet CAI's criteria and minimally accepted team criteria will be immediately accepted into the Challenge so that the team can start to develop their business plan. CAI encourages teams to be prepared to submit their LOIearly so that they get considered first for a particular invention


What are the team requirements? 

Please see our Eligibility and Rules


Are co-inventors who are no longer employees of the NASA allowed to participate as part of a team? 

Yes, subject to any requirements of the co-inventor’s current employer and NASA post-employment restrictions


Do teams need to be formed all from individuals from within the same state? 

No, team members can be from any state and country.  There is a list of prohibited countries in the Additional section of Rules


Do the team members actually have to be part of the leadership team of the start-up? 

No, the team can put forth a management team that is separate and distinct from the team participating in the Challenge.  The management team, however, must be represented in the letters of incorporation for the start-up


Can new members of the team be added during the progression for the Challenge? 

Yes, as long as the CAI administrators are made aware of the additional team member, the role that they will play, etc.  Team members must be eligible as well, e.g., over 18 years old.  See eligibility requirements here.  Please contact Jonathan Lui at Jonathan@thecenterforadvancinginnovation.org for any additions to your team


Do post-docs and medical students in residency count as “graduate students”?  



Are there any tools provided to help the students form teams? 

Yes, you may post contact information for your teams and potential team members.  You can see this list here


How do I know how many teams have been accepted for each invention?

A "ticker" beside each invention description can be found here.  CAI will indicate when no more LOIs will be accepted


How will I know if I've been accepted into the business plan portion of the contest?

You will receive an email from CAI stating that you have been accepted into the business plan portion of the contest


Elevator Speech Phase


How many semi-finalists will move on to Phase 2? 

Maximum of five (5) semi-finalists will move on to Phase 2


Business Plan Phase


Can a business model canvas be created in lieu of the business plan? 



How many semi-finalists will move on to Phase 2? 

Maximum of two (2) finalists and one (1) winner  will move on to Phase 3


Start-up Phase


How many Start-up Phase teams will there be for each invention? 



What happens if there is no start-up? 

All teams in the start-up phase will be required to incorporate a company. So, all teams that agree to be in the start-up phase should be serious about creating a new company


What constitutes a “winner” in the start-up phase of the Challenge?  

A business entity that has successfully negotiated a license to a Challenge invention and has also secured dilutive and/or non-dilutive seed funding


Can there be more than one start-up winner per invention? 

Yes, technically if all teams in the start-up phase of the Challenge put forth licensing applications for different fields of use, there could be three start-ups per invention resulting in 15-40 start-ups


Are winning teams guaranteed licenses to their respective technologies?

No.  Winners of the Challenge will still need to submit a complete license application, which will be granted by the discretion of NASA


Can the start-ups also license other technology that might complement the invention they are using for the Challenge?  

Yes.  They should use whatever mechanism possible to allow them to have a high probability of a sustainable, successful start-up as long as they comply with the Challenge rules


How much will teams receive for winning Phase 3: Startup?

There is no prize other than the $2500 for winning Phase 2 provided by CAI.   no set number of prizes has been decided.  Teams may potentially receive additional funding from VC pitches organized through the Challenge


How will equity be allocated in the start-up? 

The management team or designated leaders of the management team will collectively make this decision.


Does the Challenge team absolutely have to create a start-up? 


faq for interested universities

 What would you like of the Universities?  

  • Advertise
  • Create Teams
  • Potentially identify a leader to spear head the effort for the University
  • Integrate the Challenge to the best of your ability into your curriculum
  • Proactively provide feedback regarding how we can improve the Challenge
  • Collaborate with our team and others using the social media platform

What’s “in it” for the Universities?  

Many Universities are seeking to expand their entrepreneurship offerings for students.  CAI hopes that this platform serves as a platform to further augment and enhance the current entrepreneurship programs offered by the University.  In addition, CAI sees this competition creating “built-in” jobs for students and spurring economic growth within the region.  Many Universities would see this as a benefit as well given this is one of the ways they are able to attract students to enroll in the University. Also, many Universities would love to have a start-up success story; we hope that there is this opportunity with the NASA inventions selected.  Finally, CAI anticipates that this Challenge will provide Universities a platform to create cross-disciplinary teams across their University and collaborations in their state to further strengthen ties within the University and state


prizes and funding

 What is the Prize for winning this Challenge?

The prize for winning the Space Race is $2,500 per winning team.  Winners will be decided by the Challenge judges.  The cash prize will be distributed to the Team Leader of each team


Is funding guaranteed for start-ups? 

No, CAI has connected with several potential funding organizations.  Seed funding is not guaranteed to the winning teams of the Challenge.  Funding will be awarded based on strict due diligence done by the supporting funding organizations