RLE Translational Fellows Program
Venture Mentoring Service
MIT Innovation Initiative

Essentials applications extended to July 20th
Revised Program dates; July 31, August 14th
and September 25, 2018


Translational Fellows Program

Whether you intend a career in academia or industry, it is important to understand and communicate the broader impact of your research and ideas. How might your contributions make impact?  How might you play a key role in maximizing the impact?

The Translational Fellows Program (TFP) will be starting its 4th year in February with a new program structure expanding participation and furthering the goals to accelerate the transfer of research-derived technologies into commercial products, create professional development opportunities and jobs for Postdoctoral associates.

Results have been excellent!  A few Highlights;

  • 48 Fellows completed the program
  • 14 secured professional positions
  • 1 attained faculty position (TFP experience was a factor)
  • 100% of TFPs reported learning new skills both professionally as well as in entrepreneurship
  • 95% report that TFP contributed to their current research
  • 8 Companies were formed, >$1.2M raised from investors
  • 10 projects received >$4M in grants to fund further technology development and commercialization
  • 2 Teams were selected for MIT Delta V (GFSA) accelerator

The TFP is a competitive, two part, Postdoc program that provides the opportunity for professional development and commercialization of a technology that originated in MIT research. The program provides professional development, mentoring resources and integrated conflict-of-interest (COI) management. The TFP empowers Postdocs to lead commercialization planning efforts, facilitating the launch of a commercial venture.

The TFP can be an excellent addition to your career development plans.  Please discuss the TFP opportunity with your PI/advisor. We suggest that together you incorporate this program into your MIT postdoctoral training program. The program has relevance to research problem selection and career development.


New Program Structure:

Part 1: Essentials – open to all Postdocs

Part 2: Product-Market Fit – space limited, competitive selection, day-a-week funding

Based on participant feedback and the high level of interest in TFP we are expanding the program by creating two parts; Essentials and Product-Market Fit.

Part 1: Essentials

Essentials is a 2-month short program providing introduction to the research-derived innovation process.  It is a group learning experience based on the NSF I-Corps curriculum delivered by certified instructors in partnership with MIT VMS. Essentials is open to all Postdocs via self-nomination. Space may be limited. No day-a-week time commitment or financial sponsorship is required for this part of TFP.

There are 3 evening lecture/workshop sessions augmented by reading, videos, VMS mentor-guided practice sessions, and instructor office hours.  You should expect to spend <25 hours over the 2-month period.

When you complete Essentials you will have an initial business model framework for your research-based technology outlining the value proposition, customer segments and a preliminary view of product-market fit.  You will also have completed 10 customer interviews to explore practical applications of the technology and test your market assumptions. Finally, you will receive certification demonstrating successful completion of the NSF I-Corps curriculum.  The certification may be helpful in future NSF grant requests. Interested?  Click HERE


Part 2: Product-Market Fit

Completion of Essentials provides you with significant knowledge of the value creation process and possibilities for commercializing your research.  It is also the prerequisite for the follow-on program, Product-Market Fit, that requires a day a week for a deep dive into customer discovery, technology application development and venture planning.

Product-Market Fit is an 8-month program, with a day-a-week funding, providing a deep dive into customer discovery and technology application development.  Space is limited and selection will be competitive. There will be a formal selection process requiring PI permission and selection by committee. The materials you developed during Part 1: Essentials will form the bulk of your application submission.

You should expect to spend your time in self-paced product-market-fit discovery augmented by individual instructor/mentor office hours, evening speaker series, VMS mentor team meetings, and periodic meetings with Marc Baldo, TFP Faculty Director and RLE Director.

Completion of Product-Market Fit provides you with detailed commercialization plans, a minimum of 25 customer interviews testing your hypotheses, personal plans going forward, and sharing of lessons learned with all TFPs. It will also be a great launch point to other venture development opportunities such as The Engine.


New Corporate Participation

Another exciting new element of the program this year is engagement with local corporations. The selected companies will be available to participate in customer discovery activities, help you understand the industry, the supply chain, potential partners and the regulatory environment.  You will have the opportunity to showcase your venture, and yourself, at several points during the 8-month Product-Market Fit program.


Program Flow Diagram 


Product-Market Fit


Overall Program Objectives:

  • Enhance professional skills
  • Explore the commercial possibilities and potential markets of a specific body of IP generated through research
  • Learn how to perform customer discovery, customer validation and the creation of a viable business model
  • Understand best path to market and timelines involved
  • Explore entrepreneurial career options
  • Connect with the entrepreneurship ecosystem at MIT (such as VMS, ILP, Martin Trust Center)
  • Engage the TLO on options for licensing the technology
  • Understand range of funding sources and their roles/optimal timing
  • Document & share lessons learned



Qualification, Application and Selection Process:

All types of project areas are welcomed, for example medical assays, point-of-care diagnostics and treatments, wearable fabrics and devices, pharmaceutical products and services, industrial IoT technology, machine analytics, smart agriculture, smart cities, energy harvesting and storage, autonomous driving, new drug delivery systems, etc.

To qualify for TFP all applicants must:

  • Be a current Postdoctoral associate at MIT in one of the affiliated departments/labs
  • Be a significant contributor to the technology that will be used in your product or service
  • Be highly motivated and have a strong interest in professional development and learning about commercialization
  • Commit to the effort required



Please discuss with your PI/advisor prior to applying for Essentials. We suggest that together you incorporate this program into your MIT postdoctoral training program. The program is relevant to research problem selection and career development.


The program is open to all MIT Postdocs via self-nomination.

We are planning sessions for 2018 now..  Please indicate your interest in the Essentials offering for March, June or September HERE.


Product-Market Fit

Product-Market Fit will be offered following Essentials.  The application has three components.

  1. Completion of the Essentials program: Proof of completion – MIT VMS I-Corps certificate.
  2. PI Permission: Applicants and their projects must have permission of their research advisor which is made via the application form. Detailed nomination is not required.
  3. Presentation: The applicant must provide a PowerPoint presentation, based on your work in in Essentials, providing explanation of the technology, potential applications, path to market, risks and expected plan forward.

 Selection Criteria:

Applications will be reviewed by the TFP Selection Committee which is comprised of MIT faculty, alumni and industry experts. Postdocs and their venture proposals will be evaluated on the following:

  • Completion of the Essentials program
  • Quality of participation in the Essentials program
  • Project based on MIT research-derived technology
  • Genuine interest in, and commitment to, further commercialization exploration
  • Permission of research advisor