Overview

The HHS Ventures Fund provides growth-stage funding and support to HHS employees with proven ideas for how to dramatically improve their Office, Agency, or the Department’s ability to carry out its mission. The Ventures Fund gives Department employees the opportunity to take a proven but still early-stage idea to the next level of implementation.

What you get with HHS Ventures:

  • Between 6 and 12 months of support (as defined by the proposal)
  • Between $50,000 and $150,000 to go towards your project (as defined by the proposal)
  • A suite of tools typically not available to staff; (e.g. Secure Cloud)
  • Guidance and technical support particular to project implementation (EPLC, PRA, Etc)

What HHS Ventures Requires:

  • 25-50% of your time. This is particularly true for the project lead. Other team members may be less depending on their role
  • Teams are generally able to operate freely on their own and manage their project through their own milestones. However, some regular check-ins and reporting requirements do exist to keep the IDEA Lab staff aware of progress.

Core Principles of the Ventures Fund

The Ventures Fund supports the scaling and/or operationalization of tried and tested innovations.

There are existing mechanisms within HHS that fund internal projects. The Ventures Fund is different from those in a couple ways:

  1. The types of projects we support tend to be more disruptive to internal operations; this is intentional.
  2. The Ventures Fund is not for new project ideas (see our Ignite Accelerator for that). All projects should have been tested in some capacity and garnered evidence that its a good idea worth investing in. Actually during your pitch, we will ask you to demo your beta product (if it’s a product) or walk us through the early version of the new service (if it’s a service you’re scalling).
  3. We require Ventures Funded projects to be managed and implemented using core principles and methodologies espoused by the IDEA Lab. These include: Iterative implementation, customer engagement throughout the process, and transparent task-tracking towards major milestones.
  4. We provide hands-on support to help projects through EPLC, PRA, and other complex internal government processes that are important but often very difficult for non-experts to navigate.

Types of Projects that the Ventures Fund might Support

The Ventures Fund supports the scaling and/or operationalization of tried and tested innovations. Projects may be internal- or external-facing. Types of projects include:

  • Implementing a new beta-tested workflow, policy, or internal procedure
  • Operationalizing a proven technology
  • Rolling out a new product or service being delivered
  • Scaling a new product or service
  • Transferring an innovation from one part of HHS to another

There are lots of ways within HHS for a project to get funded. The Ventures Fund seeks to play a unique role among the organizational funding mechanisms. Thus, priority will be given to the following projects that exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Replaces or dramatically modernizes an internal process or product
  • Contains a compelling cross-departmental collaboration
  • Increases Departmental transparency, participation, or collaboration with external stakeholders and/or the American people
  • Those that bring supporting resources (match-funding, contract support, organizational resources, etc)

History of HHS Ventures

In March of 2013, Secretary Sebelius announced the “beta” year of HHS Ignite. Launched as part-seed fund and part-incubator, HHS Ignite (beta) supported 13 teams in order to test the concept of direct investments into Departmental projects.

A number of recommendations to the HHS Innovation Council came from that “beta” year of HHS Ignite. One recommendation was for the creation of a competitive “Phase II” opportunity that would support the scaling of the best projects.

To broaden the funnel of potential projects, the eligibility was expanded beyond simply those participating in HHS Ignite. The first round of Ventures Funds went to 3 projects in June of 2014.


Eligible Participants

All HHS employees are eligible for HHS Ventures Funds.

Ventures teams can have up to 5 individuals. The project lead and at least 1 other individual must be full time employees (FTEs) of the Department. Other team members may be embedded contractors, federal employees outside of HHS, or individuals from academia, industry, or elsewhere in the private sector.

Eligible Projects

Projects are ultimately selected by a cross-HHS Council of senior individuals from the Agencies applying as well as from individuals at the HHS level.

Step 0 / Submit Your Project Abstract: Teams interested in receiving Ventures Fund submit online some basic information. This is meant to be very simple and easy for the interested parties. Information collected includes:

  • Info on the Project Team (Project Lead + Team members)
  • Info on the Executive Sponsor
  • Project Abstract (500 characters)

Step 1 / Give a Pre-Pitch: All teams that submit a project abstract pitch their idea to IDEA Lab staff. The point of this step is for staff provide feedback on the proposal (the business details) as well as on the presentation itself. The IDEA Lab staff will also determine if any shouldn’t go forward, though we anticipate most will go forward.

Stage 2 / Pitch Your Project: The teams then pitch to a cross-Departmental Council. Since the Fund supports efforts that have already demonstrated success, these pitches include demonstration of the prototype or tested technology or whatever the equivalent is for the particular project.

Step 3 / Deliberations and Negotiations: The Council deliberates until they reach consensus. They may seek additional advice from experts from across the Department if needed. There’s also an opportunity for back-and-forths with the team regarding the dollar amount, the team make-up, the project goals, and the project timeline.

Reviewing Criteria and Selection Process

Proposals submitted into Ventures will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers based on the following criteria:

  • Proposed project’s importance to and potential impact on OpDiv and HHS mission [35 points]
  • Demonstrability of the evidence/data supporting the proposed steps [25 points]
  • The feasibility of the project in terms of timeline, capital resources, personnel and program support. [25 points]
  • The novelty and disruptive nature of the innovation concept being tested [15 points]

In addition to paying attention to the evaluation criteria above, here are some things to consider when submitting your proposal:

  • Ventures supports “Phase II” efforts of proven projects. How are you defining “Phase II”? What was “Phase I” of your effort?
  • What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • Why is Ventures support needed?
  • What will you be using the funds for? You may request “up to” the maximum of $50,000. Please justify the requested amount by providing details on how the funds will be used. See Guidance on the Use of Funds (under the “more” tab) for more information on how the funding works.
  • Are there any additional resources that would supplement the Ventures resources?

Teams submitting the top proposals will be asked to present and discuss their project with members of the HHS Innovation Council. The Council which will make recommendations to the Secretary who will make the final selection.

Executive Sponsor

Each project being proposed must have an Executive Sponsor. This person’s position within the organization should coincide with the desired scope of the proposed project, so it might be a Division Director (if it’s a more targeted project) or an Agency head (if it’s a really big project).

How to Apply

We will be accepting project abstracts during the month of January. Please check back in that month and we’ll provide the link to where you can do that.


2014 Funding Cycle

  • March, 2014: Solicited Proposals
  • May, 2014: Announced Selected Projects
  • June, 2014: The Selected Projects Began

2015 Funding Cycle(s)

  • January 1, 2015: Begin Accepting Project Abstracts
  • January 30, 2015: Last day to Submit a Project Abstract
  • February 2-13, 2015: Give Pre-pitches to IDEA Lab staff
  • February 16-27, 2015: Pitch to cross-HHS Panel for Funding
  • March 15, 2015: Selected projects announced

Depending on the portfolio of projects supported in this first round, we may have another round of pitches later in the year. But it’s no guarantee at this point.


Contact Information

Read [dot] Holman @ hhs [dot] gov

Guidance on Use of Funds

Funds are transferred from OS GDM to the OpDivs via an Intradepartmental Delegation of Authority (IDDA) and are subject to the rules and requirements of the Public Health Service Act.

HHS Ventures funds cannot go towards FTE salary. HHS Ventures funds may be used for procurement of tools, technologies, and services through procurement and contracting vehicles available to the office awarded.

Selected teams are able to obligate funds through any mechanism available to them through their normal business practices. HHS Ventures funds do not allow for exceptions, exemptions, or any other means of operating outside of standard parameters.