CFE conferences helps researchers market their discoveries

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 10:42pm

The Center for Entrepreneurship hosted an event Tuesday night designed to teach teams of researchers from across the nation how to market their ideas.  

The reception, held at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, welcomed 21 teams, including groups from the University, Georgetown University and Princeton University. The event was part of a seven-week training process, which has a goal of teaching the teams how to market their research and identify potential customers.

The conference marked the beginning of a three-day retreat at the hotel, where the teams will hear lectures hosted by I-Corps focusing on customer development and discovery.

The training program, Innovation Corps, was started by the National Science Foundation in 2012. The foundation chose the University and Georgia Institute of Technology as the first two universities to help with regional research marketability growth. Since then, the NSF has partnered with CFE to implement I-Corps in the Midwest. This week, faculty members from across the country will present research of specific interest to the University.

Jonathan Fay, director of commercialization programs for the CFE, said the University’s I-Corps has trained more than 1,500 people, about 1,000 of them Michigan residents, and created 34 jobs thus far.

“We’re probably training around five or six thousand people a year,” Fay said.

Each team gave a brief presentation on their research, informing guests of what they wanted to market. Research projects ranged from biological to mechanical, including inventions from piezoelectric tooth extraction to educational gaming software.

At the end of the retreat, the teams will return to their universities and watch online lectures for the next five weeks, learning more about how to market their research. They will return to the University duringf the seventh week and present what they discovered during that process.

Lauren Sheridan, commercialization manager for the CFE, said the teams will listen to a set lecture each week while they are at their home universities, with experienced entrepreneurs sharing their own successes and failures.

“They’re trying to teach these researchers and scientists to learn from the mistakes they’ve already made, and not to spend years and years and billions of dollars on research that may never go anywhere,” she said.

If participants realize their research has no potential customers, either because there is a previously unknown competitor or because no one is willing to pay for the technology, I-Corps trains them to adapt their research to other markets.

William Schneller, Iowa State University team member and creative director for Substrate Games, said he was looking forward to learning how to market his research and to seeing the real-world application of his work.

“We’ve been working on educational gaming technologies, and we think that we can figure out how to crack the code and make something genuinely fun and attractive to gamers and also have intrinsic educational value,” he said.