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new inventor-targeted program looks at what’s coming out of the tech transfer office and other places around the university and tries to make a judgement about which ideas are worthy of turning into a full-scale business.
Kinnear says that the first semester involves vetting the ideas and putting teams together behind each of the ideas chosen, along with customer validation work. During the second semester, students take leadership and fundraising classes while getting down to the nitty gritty of product development and refining a business model. Finally, in the third semester, the students launch the companies they have created.
Students have already listened to dozens of faculty pitches and have chosen five technologies to work on commercializing during the course of the program: an inkless, color-changing fluid to be used in camouflaging applications; a nano-etching process that can make transparent electrodes; an electronic “nose” that is actually a gas sensor that can be used to detect the presence of chemical weapons or disease on a patient’s breath; a reusable heat pack; and a tiny, sub-millimeter wireless sensor.
The new program seems to be just the latest push from a university that has demonstrated a commitment to helping its faculty become entrepreneurs and turning its research into successful startups. Kinnear says the difference between this program and the iCorps program announced a few months ago is that, rather than helping researchers to think entrepreneurially, this program is for people who want to be entrepreneurs, not researchers. “These people have advanced engineering degrees—they just want to understand markets better,” he adds. “They’re working backwards and turning inventions into businesses.”