The Penn Wharton Innovation Fund exists to fund creative and meaningfully innovative ventures from the Penn student community. Alberto Vitale WG’59, who endowed the Innovation Fund, hopes that it will be “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at the School and to surface the brainpower of its students.”

Fund Your Startup

Please note that the Innovation Fund is open only to currently enrolled students pursuing a degree-granting program (Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Note: that you can apply for one type of award (Validation or Implementation or Launch, if eligible) per application cycle. You should choose the award level that best suits your venture development stage.
September 19, 2023 01:24 PM
A $500 award to test key hypotheses critical to venture development
September 19, 2023 01:24 PM
A $2500 award to continue venture development after validating key assumptions.
September 19, 2023 01:24 PM
A $5000 award to support the launch of a venture.
Application Cycle Applications Open Application Deadline Applicants Notified (Validation & Implementation) Applicants Notified (Launch)
Cycle #1 Wed., Sept. 20 Sun., Oct. 8 Thu., Oct. 26 Thu., Nov. 2
Cycle #2 Wed., Oct 11 Sun., Nov. 5 Thu., Nov. 30 Thu., Dec. 7
Cycle #3 Wed., Nov 8 Sun., Jan. 21 Fri., Feb. 16 Fri., Feb. 16
Cycle #4 Wed., Jan 24 Sun., Feb. 18 Fri., Mar. 22 Fri., Mar. 22
Cycle #5 Wed., Feb 21 Sun., Mar. 24 Fri., Apr. 19 Fri., Apr. 19


What are the eligibility requirements for the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund award? There are general Innovation Fund eligibility requirements and requirements specific to each award type.
The Innovation Fund awards are for early-stage ventures founded and led by one or more Penn students. The venture should be a new venture founded while the team lead and/or team members are current Penn students.

The team leader must be a founder of the venture and a currently enrolled student in a degree-pursuing program at Penn. Students on a Leave of Absence and alumni are not eligible to be a team leader.

Ventures that have received more than $150k in institutional funding are not eligible, unless the funding was received while the Team Leader and team members were active students at the University of Pennsylvania.

All submitted materials must be the original work of the participating team. By submitting an application, a team and each of its individual members warrants that they do not infringe on any proprietary or other right of others.

An application will be disqualified if any of the following situations occur - 

  • A team member or the venture is in violation of the University’s Code of Student Conduct, Code of Academic Integrity, or other Penn policy
  • A team member or the venture is in violation of any local, state, and/or federal law
  • The application does not present sufficient content or material appropriate to merit review
  • A team member, the application, or the venture has not complied with applicable rules

Go to each specific award page for details about the Validation, Implementation, and Launch Innovation Fund Awards.

Are international students eligible?
International students are encouraged to meet with their advisor at Penn’s ISSS office, to ensure they are following all applicable student visa requirements. The Innovation Fund team cannot advise students on how their application, venture, or award could impact their student visa status.

International students currently enrolled in a Penn degree pursuing program are eligible to be a team lead or team member.

Exchange students or visiting students are not eligible to be a team lead, but can be a team member of a qualifying team.

Can alumni, faculty, staff, or individuals unaffiliated with Penn be on a team applying for the Innovation Fund?
Individuals who are not currently enrolled students in a degree pursuing program at Penn are eligible to be on a team. The team leader must be a founder of the venture and a currently enrolled student in a degree-pursuing program at Penn.
Do any of the awards have prerequisites or have to be received in a certain order? Can I apply for more than one award?
One application per venture can be submitted for one type of award (Validation, Implementation or Launch, if eligible) per application cycle. Applicants should choose the award level that best suits their venture development stage.

The Validation award and Implementation award do not have prerequisites.

To be eligible for the Launch award, an applicant must have received an Implementation award for that same venture.

An applicant or team can receive each type of award only once for a particular venture.

If an applicant or team wins an Implementation award for a venture, and had not previously received a Validation award, they are no longer eligible for a Validation award for that venture.

If an applicant or team wins a Launch award for a venture, they are no longer eligible for any additional Innovation Fund awards for that venture.
Are nonprofit ventures eligible?
Both for-profit and nonprofit ventures are eligible.

Note that to be eligible for an Implementation or Launch Innovation Fund Award, a venture must have a revenue model, regardless of entity type (for-profit or nonprofit).

Does the Innovation Fund take equity in a venture that receives an award? Are the awards taxed?
The Innovation Fund does not take equity in any student ventures.

Award funds are paid to an individual on the team or to the venture, if the venture is incorporated.

For all questions regarding tax forms, contact Penn's Accounts Payable office directly at 215-898-2626 or

  • The IRS does consider the award funds to be taxable income. It is the responsibility of all award recipients, regardless of the amount of the award, to report the award amount received to the IRS on their personal or business income tax returns.
  • US Citizens/Permanent Residents: In January of the year following your award, Penn will mail a 1099 form to the address you provide on the W9 you submit to receive your award.
  • For non-resident students: In March of the year following your award, Penn will mail a 1042-S form to the address you provide on the W9 you submit to receive your award. Note that the University is required to withhold 30% tax on the full amount of the prize unless the individual is exempt from taxation under a tax treaty. Contact Corporate Tax, Compliance, and Payroll at to determine treaty eligibility.
What are appropriate uses for an Innovation Fund award?
Funds should be used in a way that makes a direct impact on venture development.

Applicants are required to provide an itemized budget, and, if applying for the next level award, are required to explain how they used the funds from the previous award.

Examples of appropriate uses of funding include but are not limited to: building and testing prototypes, purchasing technical and legal resources, hiring employees or interns, conducting surveys or focus groups, running a pilot or beta test, website development.

Examples of inappropriate uses of funding include but are not limited to: reimbursing team members’ personal expenses, paying for a resource students could access free of charge, reimbursing for prior travel expenses, paying for an expense unrelated to venture development or that won’t make a meaningful impact on venture development.

What is the selection process?
All funding decisions are made by the Innovation Fund Investment Team, which is composed of current students from across the University of Pennsylvania.

Applicants are evaluated on criteria relevant to the specific Innovation Award, aligned with the venture’s development stage. See each Innovation Fund award webpage for details.

If I don’t win an award, can I reapply?
If you are not a selected recipient, you can reapply for the award as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria. Winners of a particular Innovation Fund award can submit a new application for a new venture, but cannot win another award of the same type for the same venture (ex. a venture cannot receive 2 Validation awards).
How can I get help with my venture? What resources are available to support my venture’s development?
Applicants are also encouraged to meet with an expert through Venture Lab’s Visiting Experts program. The program provides opportunities for students to meet with alumni founders, entrepreneurs, operators, subject matter experts, and other technical and industry experts in one-on-one or in small group AMA session formats. Visiting Experts are available to provide students with insights and guidance into the practical, conceptual, and personal challenges of launching, acquiring, or growing a venture.

Applicants to the Innovation Fund are encouraged to join Venture Lab’s Venture Initiation Program. The Venture Initiation Program (VIP) offers a suite of programs for founders, joiners, and navigators alike that are designed to engage and empower entrepreneurial teams at every stage of their journey.

How do I apply for an Innovation Fund award?
  • Log in to SurveyMonkey Apply with your PennKey login credentials
  • If this is your first time using Venture Lab’s Survey Monkey Apply platform, complete the Eligibility form.
  • Select ‘Programs’ in the top right corner
  • Navigate to the specific Innovation Fund award you wish to apply for
  • Applicants can apply for one type of Innovation Fund award per venture per application cycle
  • A venture must be awarded an Implementation award before an applicant can submit an application for that venture for a Launch award
  • If you do not receive an Innovation Fund award, you are welcome to reapply during the next application cycle, as long as your team and venture continue to meet the eligibility requirements.
Wharton Entrepreneurship played a huge role in Avisi's early days. As student entrepreneurs, we hardly knew where to start; but the community gave us the resources, support, and confidence to overcome countless challenges and create a medtech venture. If you're a student, I highly encourage you to explore Venture Lab and think about pursuing entrepreneurship to solve issues you're passionate about - if not now, when, and if not you, who?
Rui Jing Jiang, CEO & Co-Founder, Avisi Technologies Inc

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