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TomKat Solutions Overview

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2021-2022 Challenges and application Funding and application overview   FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


Promote and enable the development of urgent solutions to urgent problems in energy and the environment.

Program Launch

Launch Fall 2021 with first round of awards made Jan 2022/Feb 2022. 


This program will support teams through up to 3 phases:

  • Phase I: Feasibility assessment and idea refinement (3 to 12 months)
  • Phase II: Development, minimum viable prototype, business plan, field testing, and launch (12 to 18 months)
  • Phase III: Additional support for deployment of promising impactful solutions  (post launch)


Support for Phase II would be contingent on the conclusions from Phase I and the level of commitment of the team - i.e. the Phase I/II transition is where this goes from being a project to a nascent venture. In most cases, our support would end naturally after Phase II because it would be in the team’s best interest to secure funding elsewhere (possibly even through the new Accelerator depending on how it is set up). But we will leave open the possibility of supporting a pilot if it makes sense for the team given the complexities of spending Stanford money, if the product is really compelling, and if we think it is necessary for generating follow-on investment.  


For Academic Year 2021-2022, we are requesting submissions for solutions that will address the direct and underlying causes and consequences of these two specific challenges:

  1. Tropical deforestation: Tropical forests contain more than half of the species of life on Earth and absorb billions of tons of CO2 each year. Despite decades of efforts to improve protection of these irreplaceable ecosystems, tropical deforestation continues to proceed at an alarming rate. This problem poses one of the greatest threats to the planet’s biodiversity and carbon stores. Tropical forests are typically cleared to create new agricultural and pasture land, but the specific drivers in any deforestation hotspot may be complex and rapidly evolving. There is an urgent need for new and better solutions that directly curtail deforestation or address the underlying causes. Opportunities include creating innovations that reduce farmland demand in tropical regions, change consumer preferences, improve the tracking of products from cleared forestland, or increase mechanisms for protecting forests.
  2. Greenhouse gases in the developing world: There is a direct, historical relationship between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. In the developing world the emissions originating from new construction and the heating, cooling and refrigeration associated with them are expected to dramatically rise if this dependency isn’t disrupted. To this end there is a pressing need and enormous opportunity to develop and deploy environmentally friendly solutions including building materials, high efficiency electrical appliances and fluorocarbon free refrigeration and cooling technologies. Key desirable attributes and challenges will be cost, performance, scalability and indigenization of technology. A number of advanced economies have been able to break the dependency –what asymmetric strategies can the developing world adopt to follow suit?

The goal of having these topic areas is to inspire the Stanford community to generate solutions to problems that require timely action to avoid irreversible consequences and may not have received the attention of other highly publicized problems. For people that are searching for opportunities to tackle around important problems in sustainability, this program gives an extra incentive to dive into the problems we highlight because they will have access to early resources and follow-on funding that can move them far if they develop something compelling.


The review of submissions will begin on January 7, 2022 (Funding is limited. Applications will be considered throughout the academic year on a rolling basis.). The application portal will open in December 2021. The application will request the following information: an executive summary, the opportunity, anticipated commercialization barriers and landscape, team information, goals and milestones, and budget. Awards are anticipated to be made as early as the end of January 2022 beginning of February 2022.


Projects can be initiated, lead and undertaken by faculty, staff, and students from any school or program. However, at least one faculty member must be associated with each team. We anticipate that teams will grow as they progress through the phases. The awards are University funds and will be distributed through established University accounts or systems or as newly created University Research grants awarded to and managed by eligible Stanford PIs.

Flexible Funding

Funding levels, tranche amounts, and milestone lengths will vary. Budgets should be detailed and provide convincing evidence that the applicants are keenly aware of the specific critical tasks (and related expenses) that are required for the success. Funding levels are based on milestones and goals as specified by the applicants.

Eligible Expenses

Reasonable and allowable expenses must be directly related to accomplishing the milestones of the phase the project is in. Eligible expenses can include:

  • Supplies, contracted services, equipment, testing and fabrication facilities
  • Limited travel and other expenses incurred for customer interviews, external collaboration development, identifying vendors and partners
  • Support students (for a limited time) during phases II and III

Other Resources

The TomKat Center will leverage its existing network and knowledge of the entrepreneurship, energy, and sustainability ecosystems on campus and beyond to advise and direct teams to relevant resources. The broader Stanford community, including Woods Institute experts, will be consulted and asked to advise and mentor on projects in their areas of expertise.

2021-2022 Challenges and application