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A Manufacturing Grant for Great Ideas

The Cool Idea Award is your opportunity to shout to the industry about how great your new product idea is. This is the chance to bring your product to life with the support of Protolabs’ Cool Idea Award service grant.

Each year, the program awards an aggregate of up to $250,000 in Protolabs manufacturing services to innovative thinkers who can use their grant towards building prototypes or even an initial production run.

In addition to getting quality parts quickly (so you can bring your amazing, game-changing product to market fast), we’ll work with you to tell your story, generating buzz around your company and new product!


Rezzi SmartCan

Rezzi has developed an autonomous motorized garbage can attachment and corresponding smartphone app that eliminates the need to drag your garbage cans out to the curb. Similar to how robot vacuum cleaners work, SmartCan aids in the recurring chore of taking out the trash. The Massachusetts-based company expects to launch the product to market in late 2020. Protolabs’ Cool Idea Award manufacturing grant included in-kind sheet metal fabrication and 3D printing services.

Recent Cool Idea Award Winners

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Up to $250,000 in manufacturing service grants for innovative ideas


How to Apply

Applying for a Cool Idea Award is pretty painless. Just tell us a bit about yourself and your innovative product idea. You can apply four times throughout the year, and winners are chosen by a team of experts across various industries. If selected for a Cool Idea Award, you must use the manufacturing services within 90 days and should be at a stage in your project that allows you to begin executing immediately.

Easy Application

  1. Fill out the initial application–it's only a few questions.
  2. Finalists will be selected based on the initial application.
  3. Finalists will submit additional product details, including the Protolabs quotes obtained by uploading the 3D CAD model(s) of their part(s).
  4. Judges will review the finalists and select a winner(s).

When to Apply

  • January 1–February 28
  • April 1–May 31
  • July 1–August 31
  • October 1–November 30 

Rules & Regulations

The Cool Idea Award is intended to help early-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Product ideas that have been thoroughly vetted (business plan, competitive analysis, initial prototyping, etc.) are most well-received. Read through the terms and conditions for additional requirements, and if you’re ready to accelerate your innovation, apply now!

What to Know

  • Products should have an established business plan.
  • A 3D CAD model(s) must accompany the round 2 application form. CAD files will not be requested in round 1.
  • If you are granted an award, Protolabs will actively promote your project in print, press releases, case studies, etc.
  • Cool Idea Award recipients have 90 days to use their award.
  • If your project is related to a government contract or grant, it is ineligible for an award.
  • Protolabs employees and families are ineligible for an award.
  • Applicant must have reached the age of majority in their state of residence and at least eighteen (18) years old.

Cool Idea Award Programs

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Healthcare Grant

Our Healthcare Grant, which is powered by Cleveland Clinic Innovations, is an extension of the flagship award program to foster new life-improving medical devices. Application periods are open twice a year and applicants must be a part of the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Innovations Alliance.


healthcare student reviewing medical documents on laptop in lab

University Grant

Some of today’s most revolutionary ideas were hatched inside university walls—Facebook and Google, to name a few. The Cool Idea Award for universities is for college-enrolled students with innovative product ideas that need manufacturing services for prototyping or low-volume production. If you’re a university student who has a cool idea, let us see what you're working on!


What to Know

  • Must be a permanent legal resident of the U.S. or the District of Columbia.
  • Must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. secondary education institution at the time of application.
  • Need backing by a secondary education institution.
  • Apply by Friday, June 14th (judging in June) or July 1–November 30 (judging in December).


Stay Informed

Thank you!
cool idea contestant on phone at desk