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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Discovery to Product seeks fall Igniter program cohort to grow entrepreneurship at UW–Madison

Ignite: to heat, set in motion, catch fire.

Sometimes that spark comes from an idea over coffee at the student union or during a brainstorm with friends in a campus dorm. Other times it develops in a petri dish in a lab, in a practice room at the School of Music, or on a white board in a classroom.

At UW-Madison — a hub of learning, networking, mentorship and creativity — one can find all of the ingredients to spark entrepreneurship. It can happen anytime and anywhere.

“Igniting ideas is exciting, and UW-Madison is stronger when it broadens entrepreneurial opportunity — when students, faculty and staff alike can test their ideas for marketplace readiness, and when the best innovations can rise to the top and be successful,” says Andy Richards, interim director of D2P. “Discovery to Product (D2P), located within the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, strives to catalyze more entrepreneurial activity on campus. One way of doing that is D2P’s Igniter program.”

D2P is offering a fall cohort of the Igniter program, building on the past success of Igniter rounds that helped start up 17 companies over the past three years.

The deadline for fall Igniter program applications is Oct. 6 and the program begins on Oct. 17.

To apply to the fall Igniter cohort:

The program begins with an intensive five-week sprint that includes a weekly series of three-hour workshops running from 9 a.m. to noon. During this portion of the program, project teams focus on identifying their value propositions and target customer segments. In a group setting, teams learn to incorporate tools and techniques such as the Business Model Canvas, customer development, lean startup methodologies, desk research, in-depth customer interviews, and value proposition design.

Igniter Calendar (classes run from 9 a.m. to noon)

Class Date
Week 1 October 17, 2017
Week 2 October 24, 2017
Week 3 October 31, 2017
Week 4 November 7, 2017
Week 5 November 14, 2017


Igniter project teams will also work one-on-one with D2P innovation and commercialization specialists to address issues and challenges associated with the specific innovation and business opportunity. D2P staff are experienced entrepreneurs, start-up executives, product development managers and technologists with specific industry experiences. D2P works with the project team for as long as needed to achieve commercialization — a depth of commitment not typical of startup accelerators.

For teams that successfully emerge from the initial Igniter program with a compelling “product/market fit,” limited funding may be available from D2P through Igniter grants to pay for initial commercialization tasks. D2P does not receive any equity in your company as consideration for Igniter funding nor for the help rendered by the D2P team.

The goal of D2P and the Igniter program is to mature projects on campus so that they are ready to receive equity, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards or other types of funding needed to form a startup. D2P adds market readiness to your idea or invention.

“Through entrepreneurship support and programs such as Igniter, UW-Madison is finding new ways to contribute long-term societal benefits from the novel application of learning and technology, to translating research results into practical knowledge and technological innovations,” says Marsha Mailick, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Igniter puts the Wisconsin Idea in action — helping move the innovation and expertise found at UW-Madison to the public marketplace.”