Turning Good Ideas into Viable Products

Even brilliant technology ideas require a realistic commercialization plan before they can be turned to gold.

Steven Nichols is an engineering professor with a typically practical mindset, so I suspect he won’t delightedly be compared to an ancient alchemist. I’ll force the analogy anyway, because Nichols is in the business of turning base elements into gold. The substance with which he toils is the common idea, found in abundance around the University, with ample supply at the Cockrell School of Engineering where Nichols is Director of the Chair of Free Enterprise.

As an energetic ambassador of entrepreneurship (which he insists on pronouncing with its original French cadence) across UT Austin, Nichols advocates that even brilliant technology ideas require a realistic commercialization plan before they can be turned to gold. Ten years ago that perspective sparked a cross-campus effort called Idea to Product (I2P) that will convene its UT Competition this Friday and Saturday at the ACES building at The University of Texas at Austin.

This year, 16 student teams will present market opportunities for cutting edge technologies ranging from biotech, to clean energy, to meal planning using metabolic rates. Each team presents for 10 minutes with 15 minutes of Q&A from a judging panel consisting of faculty, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, engineers, and intellectual property attorneys. The event is free and open to the public, so drop by and see the best commercialization ideas from across campus as teams compete for development dollars plus the chance to compete in the Global I2P.

Or view by live webcast. (Must have plug-in.)

Luz Cristal Glangchai, PhD, director of I2P, sends along this background information on the competition:

The Idea to Product® UT Competition is an early-stage technology commercialization plan competition, hosted by the Murchison Chair of Free Enterprise, which was started at UT in 2001.

In the Idea to Product® Competition students create links between emerging technologies and market needs required to support later stages of commercialization. The I2P® Program educates students about creating viable products and services from technology, and has served as a stepping stone for entrepreneurship. Previous teams have produced work that has increased research funding, licensing of technology, and creation of new ventures.

The competition has also served as a commercialization forum for faculty and members of the community. Faculty have been able to consider societal needs of technology and members of the community have been given an early preview of cutting-edge technology.

The competition is sponsored by the Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, several engineering departments, along with several student organizations.  Supporters of the event include the National Science Foundation, NCIIA, MOOT CORP, the Austin Technology Incubator, the Office of Technology Commercialization, Fish & Richardson, P.C., and the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship.


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