Innovation Fellows

The Rice Innovation Fellows program trains Ph.D. students and postdocs to translate research into real-world impact.

We bring the brightest minds from Rice’s research labs to learn, apply, and accelerate their knowledge of translating research into breakthrough solutions to real-world problems. Through the Rice Innovation Fellows, the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, along with Rice’s Office of Innovation, supports select Ph.D. students and postdocs to spend additional research time focusing on the practical aspects of applying their research to industry needs.

We know you want your research to go beyond the publication. We know you want to improve how we live, how we work, and how our world and society can meet the challenges of our future — this is the Rice way of doing it. The Rice Innovation Fellows will bet on you, the builders – the Ph.D. students, postdocs, and faculty from Engineering and Science related disciplines – to develop the next generation of world-changing technologies.

The Innovation Fellows program combines dedicated time and space at Lilie with personalized mentorship and equity-free funding to catalyze the next generation of world-changing, scientist-led companies.

  • For the student/postdoc’s supervisor/PI:
    • $10,000 for the PI’s lab to offset graduate student/postdoc stipends
  • For the student/postdoc participants:
    • $10,000 in translational research funding for the fellow’s project
    • Weekly startup-focused training and personalized mentorship from industry experts, startup founders, and investors
    • Free dedicated co-working space at Lilie
    • One day per week for 12 months to focus on translating research

As one of the top research universities in the world and the home of the #1 Ranked Entrepreneurship program in the country, Rice is positioned to address the world’s challenges in dealing with climate change and the energy transition, creating cutting-edge medical devices and therapeutics, discovering new materials and applications, and advancing computer science to influence bits and atoms. You will follow in the footsteps of other academic entrepreneurs from Rice, whether 3D printing blood tissues like Volumetric, electrifying chemical manufacturing like Syzygy, or developing cutting-edge AI systems like Rebellion Photonics.


  • Applications open on September 13th, 2023
  • Applications close on November 14th, 2023
  • Rolling interviews begin the week of October 30th, 2023
  • Innovation Fellows Cohort 3 selected the week of December 4th, 2023


The fellowship is open to current Ph.D. students and postdocs at Rice University. Candidates from all Rice Engineering and Science-related disciplines are encouraged to apply. If not a U.S. citizen, the Fellow needs to be on a visa appropriate for a student or Rice employee for the duration of the fellowship (typically 12 months). The Fellow needs to be working on university research at Rice, with a faculty PI or advisor providing a Letter of Support for their selection.

How it Works:

  • With a supportive PI, the Innovation Fellows program will ‘buy out’ one day per week of your time from the research lab, so you have the bandwidth to focus on commercialization efforts.
  • The Innovation Fellows program will provide funding to your PI to assist with covering the cost of your time out of the lab.
  • In addition, the Innovation Fellows program provides you with milestone-based, equity-free funding for your translational research to fuel your progress.
  • Innovation Fellows will receive weekly training and personalized mentorship from industry experts, fellow science-backed startup founders, and investors.
  • You will work side by side with the Lilie team in our space, surrounded by peers from other graduate degree programs to explore, analyze, and accelerate your research.


The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the home for everything entrepreneurship and innovation at Rice University. As the Center for Entrepreneurship for the campus, Lilie runs courses and co-curricular programs to help develop students, researchers, faculty, and alums into entrepreneurs for life.

Lilie runs the Innovation Fellows program, supported by President Reggie Desroches and the Office of Innovation, led by the Vice President for Innovation Paul Cherukuri, while partnering with organizations like the Technology Transfer Office and research institutes from around campus like the Institute for Bioengineering and the Biosciences, The Ken Kennedy Institute, the Smalley Curl Institute, and the Welch Institute.