The Philips Grand Challenge is designed to enhance opportunities for innovations developed at the University of Pittsburgh in areas of interest to Philips to advance towards commercialization. The Challenge, is intended to provide financial support that cannot typically be obtained from other traditional sources of funding (including the faculty member’s department/school or external government funding agencies).


Three awards of (1) $60,000, (1) $30,000 and (1) $10,000 will be made which will provide:

  • Seed funding to reduce technical and market risk associated with the innovation, moving it closer to market; and
  • Enhanced connections to resources on campus, in the region and beyond to aid in advancing the potential commercialization of the discovery.

Awards cannot be used to support or supplement faculty salaries but can be used for a wide variety of pre-commercialization activities, including technology de-risking, prototype development, market assessments, consulting support and seed-stage research for projects leading to the formation of new entities or licensing to existing companies.

Philips is a global leader in health technology with more than 40 years of leadership in sleep apnea management, oxygen therapy, noninvasive ventilation and respiratory drug delivery. Philips strives to create meaningful innovations that improve people’s lives, and is committed to discovering and developing novel solutions to help people sleep and breathe better. Offering localized support to their customers all over the world, Philips’ sleep and respiratory team includes more than 4,500 individuals across 34 countries – more than 1,700 of whom are located right here in Western PA.

Stephen Smagula is the grand prize Winner of the Phillips Grand Challenge, an innovation challenge sponsored by Phillips, during a reception held at the O'Hara Student Center, Wednesday, November 1, 2017. 1726

Stephen Smagula, PhD, Psychiatry, School of Medicine was the $60,000 winner of the Phillips Grand Challenge, an innovation challenge sponsored by Phillips.  The final results of the competition were announced during a reception held at the O’Hara Student Center, Wednesday, November 1, 2017.


Responses to this request must address at least one the following product/market topic areas:



1. Reduces sleep loss or improves sleep quality that affect emotional processing in the brain, ameliorating the impacts of mind/body disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mild Traumatic Brain Injury, concussion, depression, or addiction.

2. Better manages age-related physiological or homeostatic regulatory changes of sleep and circadian rhythms (e.g., endocrine, dietary, immune, disease states).

3. Helps improve quality of life of patients with chronic disease (e.g., obesity, chronic pain, respiratory disease, renal failure, spinal cord injury and heart disease).

4. Offers interventions that reduce impacts of interrupted sleep in menopausal women, parents, pregnant women, and their newborns.

5. Facilitates in-home nursing and other home healthcare worker tools and processes to improve patient sleep leading to improved quality of life and reduced hospital admissions and readmissions.

6. Improves sleep and, in turn, improves worker productivity and/or quality of life in employees with rotating shift schedules (often found in manufacturing, long-haul trucking, pilots, security guards, soldiers and first responders).

7. Monitor and control the interaction of an individual’s sleep environment to improve sleep quality or the sleep experience with emphasis on identifying and mitigating sources of sleep disruption.


1. Improves management of chronic respiratory disease and its acute symptoms (e.g., stranding, stress).

2. Provides assistive technologies for daily living for individuals with chronic respiratory challenges (e.g., COPD, asthma).


Evaluation Guidance

In Scope

  • Consumer oriented solutions
  • Out-patient and home care solution


Out of Scope

  • Pharmaceutical only solutions
  • Hospital only solutions
  • FDA Class II requiring a prescription or Class III


All full-time faculty at the Pittsburgh (Oakland) and regional campuses with a primary appointment in an academic department may apply. Only one proposal submission is permitted per investigator.


Proposal Submission

Coming soon.

Submissions will contain:

    • Name of principal investigator and all other team members that will be involved with the proposal
    • Title clearly and succinctly describing the innovation
    • Abstract of no more than 500 words that summarizes the innovation, market opportunity, value proposition, project purpose, goals and objectives and how by accomplishing them the project will move closer to commercialization.
    • Budget and justification covering all costs of the project including (where applicable) salaries and wages, equipment, supplies, other/misc.
    • Invention disclosure number (if one already exists)




It is important that this submission be written in terms such that a non-technical individual can understand the opportunity.

Please note that only responses to the required questions will be reviewed; additional materials and attachments are not permitted.


Review Procedures

Proposals must be the original work of the proposer and will be subject to review at the Innovation Institute and Philips. All entries will initially be reviewed based on the developmental status of the innovation, it’s responsiveness to the above product/market topic area, project feasibility, market potential and opportunity for licensing. Semifinalists will be notified by the week of September 18, 2017, at which time they will be invited for interviews on November 1, 2017. During this interview, each semifinalist will be required to make a 5 minute “pitch” presentation followed by 5 minutes of Q&A covering topics such as innovation value proposition, competitive landscape, path to market and how the award will be used to enhance the path to market for the discovery. All semifinal teams will be offered assistance by the Innovation Institute in preparing for these interviews. The judges for this presentation will include technical and business focused individuals from campus and in the community at large, as well as representatives from Philips. The presentations will take place in the afternoon of November 1, 2017 followed by a reception for all participants. Notification of funding will be made by November 20, 2017.


Award Period

The award period begins December 1, 2017, and runs through August 31, 2018. Awardees understand the award is to be used within the University for pre-commercialization and technology validation activities. The award funds will be transferred to a University account designated by awardee. Award funds must be expended in accordance with University policy. Line item budgets will be required and must be submitted and approved by the Innovation Institute prior to transfer of funds. Awardees agree to participate in the Innovation Institute Pitt Ventures First Gear Program during the award period as a contingency for obtaining full payment of the award. A final project and financial report is due at the end of the award period.

After completion of the development activities, the Innovation Institute will obtain Invention Disclosures to document, assess, and protect any new intellectual property developed by the investigator during the course of the award. If the University licenses or commercializes any intellectual property, the awardees considered to be inventors, creators, or developers will receive a share of proceeds consistent with the terms of the University of Pittsburgh Patent Rights and Technology Transfer Policy (11-02-01) or Copyright Policy (11-02-02), as applicable.


Philips Grand Challenge

BreathoMag: Biodegradable Nasal Stent for Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Innovators: Prashant Kumta, PhD; Puneeth Shridhar, MD MS, Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering
Phillips Grand Challenge, an innovation challenge sponsored by Phillips.