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Welcome to the SPARK | REACH Colorado Program Application Portal!

SPARK | REACH Colorado program is now closed to new applicants. Information about the fifth cohort will be updated on this site.

The SPARK | REACH Program focuses on technologies addressing unmet medical needs to bridge the “translational gap” between the lab bench and the patient. By providing a community of industry advisors, investors, and product development experts, the program is successfully helping CU Anschutz faculty advance new diagnostics and drugs to the clinic and commercial sectors.

The SPARK | REACH Program at CU Anschutz includes funding, mentorship, education, and advising for promising product proposals, and is open to all faculty on the Anschutz campus. Faculty in other CU campuses are encouraged to participate, however they would need an Anschutz faculty to apply as the lead. The program will provide:

  • Funding: Up to $200,000 grant over two years for novel therapeutics, devices, and diagnostics for unmet medical needs           
  • Mentorship: Teams will have access to expert advisors with experience in biotech, startups, law, commercialization, etc.
  • Education: Bi-weekly educational seminars will be available to all and will include a variety of topics in research, science, and business development.

Since this is a proof of concept program and the major focus is on product development rather than scientific research, it will require active participation and time commitment of admitted faculty. Once you complete the program, the expectations are that you would have proof of concept data for your project and a broad understanding of key components and requirements of commercialization to take an idea from the lab bench to market.

The SPARK Colorado program, founded in 2018, became one of the NIH funded REACH hubs in 2019 and was awarded $4M to accelerate the commercialization of CU Anschutz Medical Campus technologies. Apart from funding, industry mentorship and education related to product development and commercialization, now through REACH, the program provides access to key federal partners including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO), relevant companies and organizations within industry, and angel and venture capital investment communities.

Who Should Apply and Who is Eligible

The applicant must be an eligible principal investigator. To check for eligibility, click here.

You should consider applying for the SPARK program if you meet any or all of the following criteria:

  • Developing a medical device technology
  • Developing a diagnostic technology
  • Developing a pharmaceutical product

Unfortunately, this program is not suitable for innovators working exclusively on digital health technologies at this time. If you fall into this category, we encourage you to explore the CCTSI NSF iCorps Program.

Connecting Leading Experts in Industry and Academia

The success of this program depends on the unique partnerships between the University and industry experts. This is a platform for both parties to exchange information and learn from each other. Faculty participating in the program are expected to engage in active learning as it will require experimenting in areas that are not part of the traditional academic curriculum. You will need to learn about and reflect on ways to get your drug or device through regulatory approval, you will have to find out how your ‘product’ would be paid. This is a program about product development and you will learn and practice key components of it. The program will bring in key expertise from industry to help you navigate your path.

Funding for SPARK | REACH Colorado projects comes from two main sources; the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade’s (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) program and the NIH. This combination of resources seeks to provide greater sustainability for the program as well as provide better stewardship over the state's AIA funding pool.

Applicants are encouraged to reach out to cigdem.benam@cuanschutz.edu or claire.mcdonald@cuanschutz.edu with any questions about eligibility, and/or to discuss ways in which their applications may be strengthened, especially with regards to the commercialization section of the application.

SPARK team will hold office hours and workshops to help you fill out your application and help you find out data about market research or regulatory pathway. There will be a virtual bootcamp in October organized in collaboration with the CU Denver Business School to introduce various concepts regarding commercialization and product development. We strongly encourage applicants to take advantage of these sessions in filling out their forms.


SPARK Office Hours - email claire.mcdonald@cuanschutz.edu to sign up for a 30min Zoom slot

  • Tuesday, October 6th – 2p-4p
  • Wednesday, October 7th – 8:30a-10:30a
  • **note - first come first serve but can find alternative times if necessary**


Guidelines and Key Deadlines

  • Download here a copy of the SPARK application to review questions.
  • Please fill out the application form online at the APPLY NOW link above
  • The required Budget and Timeline template document for your submission is available to download here.
  • The applications will close on October 21st, 2020 at 5:00pm.
  • The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of external industry experts. Selected projects will then be submitted to the NIH review panel comprised of representatives from NIH, USPTO, FDA, Kaiser Permanente, and CMS. The feedback received from both groups will be shared with applicants.
  • Investigators whose applications are selected for live pitch presentation will be notified by the end of December 2020. 
  • Presentations/Pitches will be held over two days in January 2021.
  • Final selected teams will be notified end of January 2021.
  • The SPARK | REACH Colorado team will assist selected investigators to complete a web-based questionnaire required by the State of Colorado
  • Please contact the SPARK team, cigdem.benam@cuanschutz.edu or claire.mcdonald@cuanschutz.edu with any questions. 


The SPARK | REACH Colorado Program is run internally at CU Innovations and, while it does benefit from AIA funding, is separate from the statewide AIA competition run by Colorado's OEDIT. The SPARK Colorado and statewide AIA programs have different timelines, funding amounts, and other details. To apply to SPARK Colorado, please only use the details provided on this page and within the application site. Please do not use the application guidelines on the OEDIT AIA website when applying for SPARK Colorado.

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