Innovation Lab Grant

The WorkABILITY Innovation Lab at the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability in the ILR School at Cornell University is dedicated to advancing full integrated employment and inclusive workplaces for individuals with visible, invisible, and undisclosed barriers to employment.

The WorkABILITY advisory board defines innovation as:

  • a feasible and replicable intervention developed and implemented within the real-world environment of workforce development;
  • addressing the specific needs of job seekers, employers, and service providers; and
  • changing behavior, practice, or policy, in order to promote workplace inclusion, participation, retention, and long-term well-being of individuals with disabilities.

Applicants should construct their proposals with these principles in mind.

To see if your project is eligible for an Innovation Lab grant, read through the information below and click the button at the bottom of the page.


The Innovation Grant Program advances the mission of the WorkABILITY Innovation Lab by:

  • Preparing youth and adults for the world of work
  • Removing barriers and obstacles to meaningful employment unless part of an intervention
  • Creating supportive and inclusive workplace ecosystems
  • Implementing strategies to increase economic self-sufficiency
  • Strategizing effective individualized supports
  • Progressing contemporary disability and employment policies and practices
  • Promoting non-traditional employment strategies

The Innovation Grant Program does not support awards for the following:

  • Grants to individuals
  • Any equipment, vehicle or materials purchases
  • Any space rental, construction or building
  • Grants to underwrite fundraising events
  • Multiple applications in a given calendar year
  • Grants that supplant services and supports authorized under law, and/or
  • Grants that perpetuate segregated service delivery paradigms, and
  • Employment or service delivery practices that discriminate based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status or disability

Any organization focused on employment and disability issues may apply for funding. We encourage proposals that engage an array of stakeholders with a plan for sustainability and/or scalability.

The Innovation Grant Program accepts applications in three areas.

Type Description Award
Community Advancement Grants The purpose of the Community Advancement Grant (CAG) program is to identify, evaluate and promote employment, education and career development innovations for individuals with disabilities at the local level. Up to $40,000
Systems Enhancement Grants The purpose of the Systems Enhancement Grant (SEG) program is to identify and remove systems obstacles and barriers to the meaningful and full employment of individuals with disabilities, and to evaluate and promote promising practices. Up to $60,000
Business and Industry Engagement Grants The purpose of the Business and Industry Engagement Grant (BIEG) program is to identify, evaluate and promote those evidence-based workplace innovations that lead to full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Up to $75,000

Awards in each category do not require matching funds. Indirect cost recovery is not an allowed expense. Grants are typically awarded for a 12-18 month period, but not to exceed 24 months. Quarterly online progress reporting is required, along with an online end-of-project report. Proposals in each category should include a sustainability and/or scalability plan that defines return on investment.

Grant applications in each award category are currently being accepted online. All applications go through a multi-stage review:

  • The Lab staff decides whether the application aligns with the mission of the Innovation Grant Program.
  • If the proposal is determined to be eligible, the Grants Committee reviews and rates it, and shares it with the Board of Directors.
  • The applicant and the Lab staff engage in an iterative process to finalize the scope, evaluation, and sustainability/scalability of effort. This process may include a presentation to the Board of Directors.
  • The Grants Committee decides whether to recommend that the Board of Directors approve the proposal.
  • If the Grants Committee recommends that the proposal be approved, the Board of Directors decides whether to approve it.

The Grants Committee is comprised of representatives from the faculty of the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability and the WorkABILITY Innovation Lab Board of Directors.

Applications in each of the three grant categories are currently being accepted online. Award notifications will be sent electronically with notice also posted in your online account. All grants are awarded at the discretion of the WorkABILITY Innovation Lab.

Applications will be reviewed by the Board on a bi-annual basis on June 1st and December 1st annually. Other applications could be reviewed upon receipt and alignment with WorkABILITY Innovation Lab goals and mission.