This information is subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and any resulting restrictions.
Due to exceptional circumstances, the deadline for applications for The Spinoff Prize has been extended to 14th December 2020 23:59 GMT. This is a firm deadline and there will be no further extension.
About the award
Applications are open for The Spinoff Prize — a new award for early stage university spinoff companies from around the world.
The Spinoff Prize aims to encourage and give visibility to academic entrepreneurs and their companies. The judging panel will look for spinoffs that translate original, high-quality scientific research into products and services that address market problems and are well positioned to make a positive impact on society.
In 2021, The Spinoff Prize will focus on spinoff companies founded on research in life sciences or physical sciences, both of which can include digital technology approaches i.e. including artificial intelligence, deep learning, neuromorphic computing and quantum computing. A shortlist will be profiled in a special report published in Nature, alongside the list of the companies deemed the ‘ones to watch’. Shortlisted spinoffs will pitch to the slam panels, after which one winner will receive a €30,000 cash prize.
We encourage applications from anywhere in the world, from applicants of all genders and company positions, including companies in early stages of establishment. Eligibility criteria shown below.
- The spinoff company must have been formed to commercially exploit the results of research activity.
- The organization from which the underpinning research originated must be a university or a research institute.
- The spinoff has to be a separate legal entity and not an extension or controlled body of the university or research institute, although the university of research institute may still own a controlling equity stake.
- The spinoff must have been registered as a separate legal entity on or after 10th August 2017.
- The spinoff can be based in any country, other than those prescribed in Article 2.5 of the Terms & Conditions.
- For the 2020/2021 call, applications are sought from spinoff companies founded on research in life sciences or physical sciences, both of which can include digital technology approaches e.g. including artificial intelligence, deep learning, neuromorphic computing and quantum computing.
- The applicant must be an employee of the spinoff.
- The applicant can be of any nationality and based in any country, other than those prescribed in Article 2.5 of the Terms & Conditions
- The applicant will need to provide the contact details of a member of the Technology Transfer Office or equivalent, or if no such office exists, a senior office holder from the institution within the university or research institute from which the underpinning research originated. This person cannot be an employee of the spinoff company, nor an academic founder.
- Nature will publish a special report featuring spinoff companies that the judging panel feel warrant particular attention. This will include the eight shortlisted companies, who will be profiled in detail. Applicants must be prepared to be interviewed by Nature’s reporters, and to provide imagery (company logos, photography, etc.).
- Applicants must be available to attend the Curious2021 Future Insight Conference 12th- 14th July 2021, as four finalists will be invited to participate in the slam competition.
- If the applicant is no longer able to attend, another representative of the spinoff may attend instead. They can either be an employee of the spinoff, a member of the Board of Directors, a member of an Advisory Board, or a member of the university or research institute’s Technology Transfer Office or equivalent.
- Travel expenses will be provided, but shortlisted candidates will be responsible for securing any visas or associated documents to enable them to attend the conference.
- There is no limit on the number of spinoffs entered from a given university or research institute.
- Companies which entered previous cycles of the Spinoff Prize may submit an entry for this cycle, provided that all eligibility criteria are met AND the company has not previously been included among the longlist/ones to watch, shortlist, finalist or winners.
Evaluation process and criteria
Submitted applications will be assessed by our judging panel consisting of editorial staff from Nature Research, experts from Merck and their corporate venture arm M Ventures, and independent experts. Panel members will review applications to select the best applications, creating a longlist that will be published online. From this selection, a shortlist of eight will be selected to pitch in a virtual slam event. Of these, four finalists will be invited to attend the Curious2021 Future Insight Conference from 12th - 14th July 2021, where the winner will be selected. Full details of the format for the slam stages will be provided to the shortlisted applicants in advance. Provisionally a pitch deck of slides will be required. Applicants will make a six minute pitch to the panel and that will be followed by a ten minute Q&A session. The judging panel is wholly responsible for the final decision. The chief judge will have a casting vote in the event of a tie.
Applications will be assessed against the following criteria. The applicant will have to answer questions that relate to each of the criteria and the numbers in brackets will be the maximum marks available for each section.
- The science (25) Clear demonstration of the originality and quality of the underpinning science.
- The opportunity (25) A precisely defined market problem or unmet need, as well as demonstration of the suitability and viability of the solution in the context of the competitive landscape.
- The plan & team (25) A demonstrably high-quality business plan, appropriately validated, and a management team with the necessary skills and experience
- The impact (25) An assessment of the significance of the problem or unmet need in terms of health burden or cost to society
The longlisted spinoffs, the ‘ones to watch’ will:
- Be listed in a special, digital report published in Nature.
- Have the right to use The Spinoff Prize 2021 mark on their website.
The 8 shortlisted spinoffs will:
- Be profiled in a special, digital report published in Nature.
- Receive a free license to use the profile of the spinoff written by expert science writers and any associated infographics.
- Have the right to use The Spinoff Prize 2021 mark on their website and pitch material.
- Be invited to participate in the virtual pitch slam.
The 4 finalists selected from the virtual slam will:
The overall winner of The Spinoff Prize will:
- Receive a cash prize of €30,000 to develop its research further. Prize money must be invested in research and development in the areas of life sciences or physical sciences, both of which can include digital technology approaches i.e. including artificial intelligence, deep learning, neuromorphic computing and quantum computing, with the ultimate goal of advancing science to make a positive impact on society.
- Present a plenary session at the Curious2021 – Future Insight Conference July 12-14th 2021 in Darmstadt, Germany**
- Have the right to use The Spinoff Prize 2021 winner mark on their website and pitch materials.
- Within one year of the prize announcement, there is an obligation to present via videoconference or in person to Nature Research and Merck on progress and how the prize has supported the development of science or research, plus in depth discussions with staff of these organizations.
- An agreement will be signed by the winner defining in more detail specific terms and conditions of the award. A copy of this agreement is available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Nature Research and Merck support the Sunshine Act and other initiatives that promote transparency in relationships with healthcare providers and are committed to meeting all transparency reporting requirements, including Open Payments. We are likewise committed to meeting similar state laws enacted by state authorities to require transparency reporting about payments and other transfers of value made to relevant healthcare providers. We may therefore require reporting actions from the eventual winner consistent with such legal requirements.
** subject to feasibility in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.