Request for Information (RFI): Inviting comments and suggestions on the development of a healthy aging start-up challenge and bootcamp to foster diversity and accelerate innovation.
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

November 4, 2021

Response Date:
November 18, 2021

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Issued by

National Institute on Aging (NIA)


This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) inviting comments and guidance to be considered during the development of a start-up challenge and bootcamp to foster diversity in aging innovation and entrepreneurship and to enhance equity (as outlined in the recent executive action) in the National Institute on Aging’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR) program.


Individuals from diverse backgrounds can provide unique and valuable contributions in the research and development of life science innovations that prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health. However, various groups, such as women and individuals from racial/ethnic groups, remain underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical sciences and in the SBIR/STTR programs (please see: 2020 NSF Report; 2021 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Report; and the 2015 SBIR/STTR at the National Institutes of Health Report, Chapter 6, Participation of Women and Minorities). In recognition of this problem, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has a strong interest and commitment to enhancing diversity in research entrepreneurship and participation from underrepresented groups (NOT-OD-20-031) in the SBIR/STTR programs. The NIA Office of Small Business Research (OSBR), in partnership with Office of Special Populations (OSP), is seeking feedback to assist in the development of a potential start-up challenge and bootcamp that aims to stimulate aging innovation and entrepreneurship across a diverse set of innovators. The goal of the start-up challenge and bootcamp would be to support research entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for science-driven technologies and products that promote healthy aging and address age-related diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. An additional objective is to foster participation from underrepresented groups in the NIA SBIR/STTR programs. NIA anticipates that the resources provided through the bootcamp will include those that can be used to help eliminate barriers to the participation of underrepresented groups in the SBIR/STTR application process.. These resources may include entrepreneurial coaching, one-to-one mentorship, grant application skill building, and access to key industry networks, each of which have been identified as areas of need to foster diversity in the research entrepreneur community. At the conclusion of the bootcamp, five challenge finalists will be selected as challenge winners and receive a cash prize which could provide vital support to early development and fundraising efforts.

The NIA Office of Small Business Research, in partnership with the NIA Office of Special Populations, are considering conducting this start-up challenge and bootcamp using the statutory authority granted to federal agencies under Section 105 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010, P.L. 111-358, codified at 15 U.S.C. 3719 (the “America COMPETES Act”), as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, P.L. 114-329 (AICA).

Information Requested

This RFI seeks broad input from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community and the general public regarding the following topics:


  • Methods of communication and types of media that would be helpful to share information about the start-up challenge to researchers and entrepreneurs, from groups that are underrepresented in NIA-relevant scientific areas, who would be part of the applicant pool or a part of the challenge programming.

Structure of the Start-up Challenge

  • Feedback on the format and components of a six-month bootcamp for challenge finalists. Input is requested on the optimal length of the challenge and bootcamp offerings, prioritization of certain topics, and the time and/or participation requirements for challenge finalists.
  • Other suggestions for how the challenge and bootcamp could be structured to best meet the needs of early research entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups.

The Bootcamp Content and Resources

  • Feedback on anticipated bootcamp resources, which may include entrepreneurial coaching, one-to-one mentorship, grant application skill building, and access to key industry networks. Comments may address how much time should be dedicated to each type of resource.
  • Other suggestions on potential bootcamp content and resources and why they are critical to to foster participation from underrepresented groups in biomedical research the NIA SBIR/STTR programs..


  • Suggestions on the background and expertise of individuals to include as challenge judges. (For example, industry leaders, government officials, peers, etc.)
  • Input on the review criteria used to identify challenge winners.

Reasons and Potential Barriers in Applying and Participating

  • Identification of potential barriers or other factors that may influence an individual’s decision to apply or participate in the start-up challenge and bootcamp described in this request for information. Comments may reflect considerations about potential solutions to overcome such barriers.

Responses to this request must be submitted electronically to no later than 11:59PM (ET) on November 18, 2021.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, trade secret, or sensitive information in your response. The responses will be reviewed by NIH staff, and individual feedback will not be provided to any responder. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. The Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public NIH websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements.

This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and shall not be construed as a solicitation, grant, or cooperative agreement, or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the NIH, or individual NIH Institutes and Centers to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. The Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.

We look forward to your input and hope that you will share this RFI document with your colleagues.


1. NSF. National Science Foundation - Doctorate recipients from U.S. universities: 2020. 2020; Available from: .

2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. SBIR/STTR at the National Institutes of Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2015. Innovation, Diversity, and the SBIR/STTR Programs: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Saroj Regmi, Ph.D.
Office of Small Business Research (OSBR)

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