“This partnership with CIE is absolutely unique,” said Jim Roberts, the business development officer for UW TechTransfer’s LaunchPad. “We create teams of three: an entrepreneurship MBA, a UW inventor and a TechTransfer manager. The job for the team is to assess potential applications for very early-stage technologies and develop strategies for taking them to market. The results have been invaluable.”
The teams of three work very well. It all begins with the UW tech managers identifying research faculty/inventors who have developed technologies that could well move quickly into the marketplace. The descriptions of these projects are sent over to the CIE, which in turn advertises the 2-credit ENTRE 600 internship to second-year MBAs and other graduate students who have taken the entrepreneurship core courses. There are multiple deliverables for the internships, and CIE is very clear about the personality requirement: “fearless in conducting market research, talking with potential customers, making findings/recommendations presentations.” Students must apply to specific technologies, relating their experience and interest in that specific project. Not every project gets a student, not every student comes away with a project.
Once the pairings are complete, the real work gets underway. “What we’re seeing is that these teams have become very skilled at communicating the details and are developing trust in each other’s knowledge and experience,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, CIE director. “The results have been impressive—more commercialization licenses and start-up companies. It’s a great practical experience.” The program launched in Fall 2008 with 14 teams and ramped up to 32 teams in Fall 2009.