Climate Innovation Funds

The Climate Innovation Funds are a partnership between CNSI, the Bren School, and the Office of Research to provide funding to accelerate the development and deployment of innovations that promote climate resilience by reducing vulnerability and/or supporting adaptation at the local, state, and national level, with a particular focus on ensuring that innovations address environmental and climate justice concerns and are deployable by a diversity of users and communities.

The Climate Innovation Funds should enable one or more of the following:

  • The broad deployment and uptake of an impactful innovation under an ‘open access’ model
  • The commercialization of patentable or copyrightable technologies through a startup company, industry partnership, or traditional intellectual property out-licensing mechanisms
Funding Types

There are two types of grants available through the Climate Innovation Funds:

  1. User Discovery Grant. These grants enable customer discovery and market validation for the selected innovation. Grant funding can be used to meet with potential customers/users to gain a deep understanding of: (1) the problem/challenge an innovation addresses; (2) critical innovative features needed to assure maximum efficacy and accessibility for a diverse range of customers/users; (3) potential resource limitations that may affect the ability of users to adopt or purchase the innovation; and, (4) the key stakeholders that influence the decision to adopt solutions for that problem or market space. Funding can be used to support meetings (including travel) with representatives of critical user bases, market experts, or key state, regional or governmental agencies or stakeholders; as well as to attend symposia, workshops, or trade conferences. Please note that this funding cannot be used to attend academic conferences. These grants will support up to $10,000 in customer/user discovery activities over a period of up to 12 months. At least one representative from recipient project groups will be required to participate in a new Climate Innovation 360 Program, which provides series of workshops designed to teach researchers the characteristics that innovations must possess in order to be successfully deployed including marketing validation/customer discovery (based on the NSF I-Corps approach), manufacturing and scalability needs, market size analysis, and strong intellectual property protection (when applicable).
  2. Proof of Concept Grant. These grants support targeted projects designed to demonstrate the potential value, feasibility, efficacy, and impact of the target innovation as part of translation out of the academic sector. The goal of the proposed project should be to acquire critical data needed to facilitate commercialization (either through a new startup company or a commercial licensee), or, in the case of open access innovations, acquire the data to encourage adoption and deployment. This proof-of-concept funding is flexible and can be used to cover salaries, materials and supplies, field testing, testbedding, CRO, or foundry work. These grants will support up to $50,000 in proof-of-concept research activities over a period of up to 12 months.

It is anticipated that innovators will apply first for a customer discovery grant to gain a strong understanding of the innovation and commercial landscape, then apply for the proof-of-concept funding to support further development based on the feedback received during the customer discovery grant. However, if a particular innovator can evidence a strong understanding of the relevant market and customer base through previous customer discovery and outreach activities, a customer discovery grant may not be needed as a prerequisite to proof-of-concept funding.


Climate Innovation Funds are open to academic faculty researchers or UCSB-affiliated pre-seed and seed-stage startups engaged in addressing California’s goals for climate resilience.

Application Process

Applications are submitted online prior to the published deadline and should include the following components:

  1. Innovation Summary (online form). The innovation summary should include the following:
    • A brief description of the innovation and its novel features.
    • A brief description of how the innovation supports California’s climate resilience goals.
    • The innovation’s stage of development (e.g., conceptual, experimental, simulation, working prototype, etc.).
    • Whether the innovation has been disclosed to the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances (TIA).
    • Whether the innovation has been the subject of a publication or public conference presentation or will be within the next six months.
    • Identification of any individuals who are not affiliated with UCSB that contributed to the conception or development of the innovation.
    • For startup applications, a brief description of the affiliation with UCSB
  2. Project Summary and Description (up to two pages, to be uploaded as a PDF).
  3. One-Page Budget and Justification (to be uploaded as a PDF).
  4. Two-Page Resume/CV for the Project Lead(s).

Potential applicants for CNSI Challenge Grants are strongly encouraged to first consult with Tal Margalith (CNSI Executive Director for Scientific Initiatives and Innovations) or Sherylle Mills Englander (CNSI Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives and Operations) before preparing and submitting a proposal.

Review Criteria

Proposals are evaluated by a committee according to the following criteria:

  1. Commercial and technical merit
  2. Potential impact of the funding
  3. Capabilities of the Project Lead(s)
Reporting Requirements
  • A project update (up to 2 pages) will be due at the project midpoint.
  • A project summary (up to 3 pages) will be due at the completion of the project.
  • Project Leads will meet with the Climate Innovation Funds program managers at the midpoint and endpoint of each project to present on the progress, key learnings, and next steps.
  • Future funding is contingent upon the successful completion of proposed milestones and approval of required reports.

 Key Dates

  • Application open April 10, 2024
  • Application closes May 20, 2024
  • Funding Cycle: July 1, 2024 - February 28, 2025



Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives and Operations
Executive Director of Scientific Initiatives and Innovation