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Get Involved - Secretary's Ventures Fund

Eligible Participants

All HHS employees are eligible for Secretary's Ventures Funds.

The project lead and at least one 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.

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 an Institute or Division Director (if it’s a more targeted project) or an Agency head (if it’s a larger project).

Selection Process

Step 1 / Submit Your Project Abstract.

Teams interested in receiving Secretary's Ventures Funds complete an online application. This is meant to be very simple and easy for the interested parties.

Step 2 / Give a Pre-Pitch.

Select teams pitch their idea to IDEA Lab staff. This pitch should contain the following elements:

  • The short history and the story of your project
  • Evidence (quantitative and/or qualitative) supporting your desired next steps
  • An environmental scan of the other major players in the area. We’re looking for awareness of the larger ecosystem as we want to understand your role in it.
  • Information on the members of your team
  • Your project timeline
  • What you want to accomplish within your given timeline
  • Amount of money being requested with info on what you’re going to do with it (e.g. a simple budget)
  • A live demo of the solution you’d like to scale, if applicable

One goal of this step is for staff to provide feedback on the proposal (the business details) as well as on the presentation itself. The IDEA Lab staff will also determine which projects should go forward to the next step. We anticipate up to 10 projects going on to Step 3.

Teams have the opportunity for multiple pitches to the IDEA Lab.

Step 3 / Pitch Your Project.

The teams then pitch to a cross-Departmental Board. Because 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 4 / Deliberations and Negotiations.

The Board members deliberate 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-forth (negotiations) with the applicant team regarding the dollar amount, the team make-up, the project goals, and the project timeline.

Reviewing Criteria and Selection Process

Projects are selected by a cross-Departmental Board of senior individuals from Agencies providing funding as well as from individuals at the HHS level. In the end, the Board determines which projects to support. Proposals submitted into Secretary's Ventures will not be officially scored by weighted criteria. However, those involved in the selection process will probably be looking for the following elements:

  • What is the proposed project’s importance to and potential impact on OpDiv and HHS missions?
  • What’s the potential return (impact) on this investment?
  • Is the project idea ready for this level of investment? Or is more time needed for researching and testing first?
  • Is the team composition right?
  • Are there compelling partnerships, either across HHS or even outside the Department, that otherwise may not have come together?
  • What’s the feasibility of the project in terms of timeline, capital resources, and Agency support?
  • Is this just risky and disruptive enough for us to take on?

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

  • Secretary's Ventures Fund supports “Phase II” and “Phase III” efforts of proven projects. So a question you’ll need to answer: What was “Phase I” of your effort?
  • What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • Why is Secretary's Ventures Fund support needed?
  • What will you be using the funds for? You may request “up to” the maximum of $100,000. Please justify the requested amount by providing details on how the funds will be used.
  • Are there any additional resources, monetary or not, from you home office or partners that would supplement the Secretary's Ventures Fund resources?
Content created by Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Content last reviewed on October 3, 2018