Brandeis Innovation

2020 Year in Review

Dear Friend of Brandeis Innovation,

Many of us early await the end of 2020 in anticipation of better days to come. Like you, we here at Brandeis Innovation have experienced many transitions in this time of global challenges. I am amazed, however, with the persistence, resilience, and determination of our Brandeis innovators.

It has been an eventful year for Brandeis Innovation. Naturally, we pivoted online, as did the world, due to the COVID crisis, and have been supporting teams through the challenges of the pandemic and economic constraints. However, there were many other reasons why this year stands out as unique for our innovation programs. We launched new initiatives, reached a global audience with some of our existing events, and saw significant growth in the number of industries in which Brandeis entrepreneurs are making an impact.

I want to thank you for your support throughout the year, and wish you and yours a safe, happy, and healthy 2021.

Rebecca Menapace
Associate Provost for Innovation and Executive Director, Office of Technology Licensing and Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center

Highlights of 2020&


Sprout recipients and NSF I-Corps participants WorkingWell demo their app, which helps professionals with mental health challenges thrive at work, at the MassChallenge Healthtech Demo Day.


The annual SparkTank pitch competition in February saw teams from a wide range of sectors competing again for funding. Winners Embedded Helper, StudyEng, and Polify represented high tech, edtech, and consumer technologies with promising impact. Sprout and I-Corps alums GreenLabs Recycling marked a milestone with the majority of Boston-area research universities having signed up for their laboratory plastic recycling program.


The COVID-19 emergency meant that Brandeis, like universities around the world, had to move instruction online in record time. The Brandeis Innovation team quickly pivoted to supporting our startups virtually, which we were equipped to do thanks to having always been a virtual incubator that brings our programs to our participants. Our team, along with our volunteer speakers and mentors seamlessly moved to offering our innovation curriculum via Zoom.


With online instruction in full swing, students, faculty and staff with inventions continued to work on building their companies, pitching their ideas, and winning funding.


May is the end of the academic year for many, but it’s always a busy time for Brandeis Innovation.


TeamLift, led by Brandeis alumna and NSF I-Corps Instructor Bozhanka Vitanova MS ‘16, wins a coveted spot in the 2020 MassChallenge cohort.


HackMyPhD, our unique conference for exploring both academia and industry for emerging doctoral researchers, went month long with a series of workshops on career development, winning funding, and entrepreneurship. The event attracted over 600 participants from around the world, including leading universities such as the University of California, Berkeley, Cornell University, University of Florida and New York University.


Applications opened for the annual Spark program, our signature virtual incubator program (which includes virtual elements every year, not just 2020) for non-bench research. Submissions met or exceeded records for many categories.


The fall innovation programs kicked off with a new offering, a structured ideation session that helped students develop their ideas for new business ventures, creative programs, and social-impact projects with expert support and mentorship.


Training continued in entrepreneurship with weekly workshops, mentorship sessions, and meetings. Each Spark team worked with mentors on perfecting their business ideas while conducting customer discovery to identify business opportunities and social needs which they could address. The focus was on strengthening projects and getting them ready for next steps.


The 6th annual Innovation Showcase,  keynoted by Walter Mossberg, ‘69, brought together the year’s leading startups with alumni and members of the local and global community. Part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the event celebrated the year’s multitude of entrepreneurial activities.


Spark alumni GreenChoice won a spot among Google Play’s Best Apps of 2020. Final Spark applications, representing the culmination of the fall’s discovery and development, were submitted. An expert cohort of judges will provide final recommendations by January for the first round of Spark. Winners will go on to SparkTank, the annual Shark-Tank style startup competition, on Feb.7, 2021. 

We’re looking forward to seeing more of you in 2021. To receive information on our upcoming funding cycles and event invitations, there are a ton of ways to stay in the loop about entrepreneurial opportunities:

  • For updates on all of the above, plus in-depth analysis and news on technology licensing and innovation around Boston, connect with us on LinkedIn.