Innovation Fellows

The Rice Innovation Fellows program trains graduate students and supports their faculty to translate research into real-world impact.

We’re bringing the brightest minds from Rice’s research labs together 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 and the Provost’s Office will support select graduate students 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 graduate students and their 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.

  • One day per week for 12 months to focus on translating research
  • Dedicated space at the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Equity free funding for the graduate student and the PI’s Lab
  • Personalized mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and investors

As one of the top research universities in the world, and the home of the #1 Ranked Entrepreneurship program in the country, Rice is uniquely 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’ll be following in the footsteps of other academic entrepreneurs from Rice, whether you’re 3D printing blood tissues like Volumetric, electrifying chemical manufacturing like Syzygy or developing cutting edge AI systems like Rebellion Photonics.


  • Applications open in late August
  • Applications close late September
  • Interviews held 1st week of October
  • Innovation Fellows selected 2nd week of October

The fellowship is open to current graduate and Ph.D. students or 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 $7500 in funding to your PI to assist with covering the cost of your time out of the lab
  • The Innovation Fellows program provides you with milestone based, equity-free funding of up to $7500 for your translational research to fuel your progress
  • Graduate Student Fellows will receive weekly training and personalized mentorship from industry experts, fellow science-backed startup founders, and investors
  • You’ll work side by side the Lilie team in our space, surrounded by peers from other graduate degree programs to explore, analyze, and accelerate your research

Who We Are:
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 alumni into entrepreneurs for life.

Lilie runs the Innovation Fellows program, supported by Provost Reggie Desroches’ Office, 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.