course and program grant

Commercialization Opportunities in Environmental Chemistry at Dominican University of California

Dominican University of California, 2012 - $29,050

This grant will provide a structured platform for Dominican University (DU) Chemistry majors and MBA students to collaborate on opportunities for research, development, and commercialization of “green chemistry”-related products. The new courses will encourage students to focus their chemistry research on sustainable solutions to environmental issues. The collaboration between science and MBA students will lead to the creation of E-Teams and business plans. The E-Teams will use the Venture Greenhouse, a DU business accelerator and incubator program, to learn how to take their projects out of the lab and into the market. An initial focal area of research for students will be the potential for biofuels derived from algae. If successful, the program will move to expand the focus to other topics in green chemistry. This program is also answering a demand from MBA students without a science background who want to engage with and gain experience working in the green sector.


Colorado State University, 2012 - $36,000

This grant supports the development of Sustainable Enterprise MBAs for Africa (SEMBAA), a joint educational venture of the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise (GSSE) MBA program at the College of Business at Colorado State University and the Chandria School of Business at United States International University in Kenya. SEMBAA will provide African students with a GSSE certificate to complement the USIU MBA and will also provide venture acceleration training at a cost they can afford. Student entrepreneurs will be taught and mentored by CSU/USIU faculty and other industry experts, with the ultimate goal of empowering African entrepreneurs to scale new enterprises and grow the economy.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Design of Energy Efficient Human-Powered Transportation Systems

Western Michigan University, 2011 - $8,000

With this proposed grant, Western Michigan University faculty will work toward two goals: incorporating into existing courses the concepts of innovative design and entrepreneurial process with an emphasis on energy efficiency, and creating a new capstone course for seniors in which they create human-powered transportation systems (HPTS) and work toward commercializing them.

WMU has participated for several years in two HPTS student competitions: the Sunseeker, a solar car competition, and the Chainless Challenge, in which students design chainless human-powered hydraulic bicycles. In the capstone course, the focus will be on designing cost effective human-powered land vehicles suitable for transporting loads in rural environments of the developing world.

NCIIA has awarded a planning grant to further develop this project concept.

Open-Source Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Capstone Course: Development and Implementation

Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2011 - $8,000

As proposed, this grant supports the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in integrating a capstone course into its fully online Sustainable Design Online program. The capstone course will be planned by an online committee of eight experts from a range fields, including business, design, online education, and technology. The committee’s progress will be shared through a public blog, with course development deliverables including curricula with learning outcomes, core content, teaching methodologies, and appropriate assessment frameworks.

The goal of the new course is to spur development of E-Teams and foster student entrepreneurship at MCAD. The plan is for online E-Teams consisting of students from around the world will move through the design process (ideation, concept, prototype, business and market plan) and receive entrepreneurship training and support. Ultimately their designs will be measured for their global, social, and environmental impact. The course will lay the foundation for the first fully online MA program in sustainable design in the world.

NCIIA has awarded a planning grant to further develop this project concept.

Medical Device Innovation Program (MDIP) of the Division of Plastic Surgery of Northwestern University

Northwestern University, 2011 - $30,000

This grant supports the creation of the Medical Device Innovation Program (MDIP) at Northwestern University. The program, a collaboration between the Division of Plastic Surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern, will pair up engineering students, postdoctoral fellows and medical residents in generating new medical devices in areas of unmet clinical needs in plastic surgery. The goal is to translate novel medical devices into businesses either through licensing or by forming start-up companies.

The MDIP program was successfully piloted in late 2010. NCIIA grant money will enable the MDIP team to expand the quantity and quality of student projects that are funded to develop prototypes.

Spark: A University-level Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Florida Atlantic University, 2011 - $36,000

This grant supports development of the Spark incubator program at Florida Atlantic University. The Spark program, initially developed with a spring 2010 NCIIA Course & Program planning grant, gives FAU students physical space in which to work, with dedicated basic hardware, software, and a small seed budget to help validate their early-stage ventures. Spark teams will attend biweekly speaker events; have a personal mentor and a centralized web portal; and at the end of the year a competition will be held, attended by seed investors and community leaders.

Students and faculty from across the university will be able to participate in the Spark program. The ultimate goals of the program are to provide an experiential learning experience for students and to connect the existing semi-scattered innovation/entrepreneurship activities on campus, improving communication and collaboration between colleges, centers, and institutes.

A Virtual Incubator at Penn State Berks (VIB) to Foster Student Innovations

Penn State Berks, 2011 - $19,372

Since its inception in 2009, students in Penn State Berks’ E-SHIP minor have developed new venture ideas involving information technology (IT), including mobile applications and cloud-based services. However, students have found it hard to prototype and test their ideas.

This grant will support the development of a Virtual Incubator (VIB) at Penn State Berks to help E-Teams get their IT ideas off the ground. The VIB is conceptualized as a virtual environment that provides E-Teams with high-end IT resources as well as technical and business support through partnerships with academic and industry experts. The VIB will consist of a host server, a sandbox (virtual IT resource pool) where students can develop and test their ideas, a software repository, and a website.

Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (TEC) Academy

Ohio State University, 2011 - $30,000

This grant supports the launch of an interdisciplinary graduate-level specialization at Ohio State University, referred to as the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (TEC) Academy. Led by the campus Center for Entrepreneurship, the specialization will integrate the graduate educational programs of science and technology with business, design and law. Central to the program will be the formation of E-Teams seeking to commercialize emerging OSU technologies.

This effort will include the creation of at least four new courses and numerous modifications to existing courses to accommodate interdisciplinary teams, live technology projects, participation of executive mentors, and engagement with university inventors. Through the TEC Academy, the center plans to train as many as fifty research faculty and more than 200 graduate students each year how to assess the commercial potential of new technologies.

The Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship Initiative

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, 2011 - $35,400

This grant supports a new collaboration between Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and Babson College titled "Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship." In the program, students will work in distributed teams with communities around the world to develop innovations in areas such as energy, water, health, agriculture, transportation and communication. An ideal student path would be to complete an internship with an initiative partner, take the course for two semesters, work for a mission-driven company or NGO as an intern, and be part of launching a new social venture. The plan is for projects to last 2-3 years, with dozens of students “getting on and off the (project) bus,” as the PI acknowledged that one course or one year is not enough time for this the necessary technology and business model development.

This grant will provide funds to cover community site visit expenses while the program becomes self-sustaining. The main objective is to give teams the funds they need to perform early-stage market and prototyping tests to advance their ventures forward.

Entrepreneurship Development for Rural Southeastern North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Pembroke, 2011 - $25,700

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) serves a diverse regional community of 38% Native Americans, 32% Caucasian, 25% African Americans, and 5% Hispanic and others. UNCP is located among the poorest counties in the nation, with unemployment over 12% and a poverty rate of 31.1%. In order to help the economy of this region, UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship promotes entrepreneurship education and provides free consulting for local entrepreneurs.

The goal of this grant is to enhance the entrepreneurship education activities on campus, providing quality offerings to UNCP students and forming the basis for a stronger entrepreneurial environment in the area. Originally supported by a 2010 NCIIA Course and Program planning grant, this grant will help UNCP faculty in developing new courses and programs for students and area entrepreneurs, including E-Team development, entrepreneurship-focused academic programs (certificate, minor, concentration, and MBA), competitions (elevator and business plan), and consulting for local entrepreneurs.

Interdisciplinary Design Studio (IDS)

New Jersey Institute of Technology, 2011 - $29,500

This grant supports the development of a new four-year research, design and entrepreneurship program for undergraduate honors students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The program, Interdisciplinary Design Studio (IDS), will recruit high-achieving honors students from all disciplines during their freshman year. They will form into multidisciplinary teams and develop innovative solutions in specific theme areas, including point-of-care healthcare technologies, sustainable infrastructure and architecture, green energy, and smart transportation systems.

IDS teams will also develop business, marketing and financial plans and will each be paired with a corporate partner. Projects will be further explored for incubation and potential commercialization through the NJIT Enterprise Development Center.

Social Entrepreneurship Course Development

Pennsylvania State University, 2011 - $29,000

In higher education today, courses in business planning are typically taught only in business schools and are focused on US-based for-profit ventures, rarely catering to the different challenges and dynamics encountered with social entrepreneurship endeavors. This course, developed initially with a spring 2010 NCIIA Course & Program planning grant, is dedicated to business planning for social ventures in the US and abroad. The course will cover the fundamental concepts of social entrepreneurship and use diverse case studies and experiential learning activities to help students develop an understanding of social problems and devise innovative solutions to address them.

The goal for this course is to eventually become a required class for the restructured certificate program in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at Penn State. HESE is leading several international technology-based social ventures, including infrastructure development, telemedicine, cell phone-based social networking, and a three-year degree program to train entrepreneurial secondary school science teachers.

Grantee news: Colorado-Boulder students launch Manna Energy

In 2004, NCIIA awarded a Course and Program grant to the University of Colorado at Boulder to support the development of a course now called Engineering for the Developing World. Recently, two students from the first offering of the course launched Manna Energy, LTD, a social venture that has as its first focus implementing an economically sustainable water treatment system in Rwanda. Manna Energy has already won $300,000 from two competitions. Read the press release.




New nonprofit started in MIT class


Over the past two years the Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries (WDDC) class has provided an opportunity for MIT students to use their technical skills to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the developing world. The class focuses on bettering the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles in the developing world.

A nonprofit organization has recently sprung from this project. Worldwide Mobility (WM) is an organization that was started in the class. The aim of WM is to channel donated funds directly to wheelchair organizations in developing countries. “The motivation behind this project,” says Amos Winter, primary investigator of the project,  “Is to compete with low-quality donated wheelchairs and to support the organizations that would not otherwise have access to foreign donors. “

Read about the project. Visit the course website.

Johns Hopkins’s student design teams seal a licensing deal


For the past two years, The Center for Bioengineering Design, a Course and Program Grant-funded initiative at Johns Hopkins University, has provided bioengineering graduate students the tools and support to develop new medical devices.

One of the Center’s team design projects was recently given a licensing deal with Seguro Surgical, a Maryland company specializing in the commercialization of surgical instrumentation.

“SeguroSurgical’s…product line (the Lap-Pak) was borne out of one of our design team projects,” says instructor Robert Allen. The Lap-Pak is a device that cleanly and quickly repositions the bowel during a surgery.

Read more about the project. Read more about Seguro Surgical.

Grantee News: BU launches new mentoring program

Boston University’s Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (ITEC) has announced the creation of the Kindle Student Mentoring Program at Boston University, which is funded by a $33,000 NCIIA Course and Program grant. Read more about this new program!


University of Rhode Island - Assistive Technology Devices

In 2002, NCIIA supported the creation of Assistive Technology Devices, a two-semester course at the University of Rhode Island. Within the course, interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students create a novel assistive technology device aimed at the community abroad. Teams work through the entrepreneurial process of product design and commercialization and present the results to a group of businessmen and engineering alumni. The course has impressed faculty around campus, and URI is soon to offer a university-wide course based on the sequence.

Program structure and goals

Assistive Technology Devices is a two-course sequence in which multidisciplinary E-Teams comprised of undergraduate senior engineering and business students design, prototype and attempt to commercialize assistive technology devices.

At the beginning of the fall semester, faculty members from two engineering departments and the college of business administration offer a list of general topics to student teams. The topics come from problems suggested by the Slater Hospital, special-education schools, nursing homes, and physical therapy centers. A broad range of assistive technology issues are addressed:

  • Mobility enhancement
  • Communication
  • Environmental control
  • Access aid
  • Ability switches
  • Voice activation
  • Specialized sensors
  • Human-computer interface

Teams are asked to:

  1. Propose a novel device from one of the general topics, or propose their own.
  2. Perform patent searches and a marketing study to help them design products that have a good chance of commercialization.
  3. Come up with a detailed product design, making realistic estimates of manufacturing cost.

At the end of the first semester, teams submit a proposal that includes a short business plan, a design, a budget and a plan to build a working prototype. Through a competitive process, extra funding is awarded to the teams whose products have the best chance at commercialization. This money supports their work in the following semester in building prototypes, creating more detailed business plans, and seeking commercialization opportunities. At the end of the spring semester, all teams make presentations detailing the results of their development and commercialization efforts to a group of businessmen and engineering alumni, with the idea of attracting further support for the teams’ activities.

The overall goal of the program is to give participating students first-hand experience in the entrepreneurial process, with a focus on socially beneficial assistive devices. This process includes:

  • Risk-taking
  • Setting high goals
  • Performing a marketing study
  • Product development
  • Prototype development
  • Writing a business plan
  • Seeking commercialization opportunities

History and context
Since 2000, the Assistive Technology Laboratory at URI and the Slater Internship program have involved students in the research and development of assistive technology devices for use in the Rhode Island Slater Hospital. The patient population at the Slater Hospital consists mostly of quadriplegic, paraplegic and cerebral palsy patients. Examples of student-developed devices are:

  • A single-switch environmental control unit
  • A voice-activated environmental control unit
  • A voice-activated nurse call bell
  • An ultrasonic remote door control
  • Wearable ability switches
  • Multi-port sip-and-puff switches

Over time, engineering faculty members at URI realized that, while certainly valuable, the Slater Internship program was limited in scope because the student-developed devices were aimed only at hospital settings. Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Musa Jouaneh re-developed the Assistive Technology Devices sequence to take the student innovations out of the hospital and apply them to the community at large. Says Dr. Jouaneh, “We wanted to open the program up to address the needs not only of the severely disabled, but also the elderly and moderately disabled individuals in the community at large.”

“Assistive device technology for everyday people in the community is not an area addressed much in industry. We wanted to come up with a way to help these people.”

E-Teams are required to be multidisciplinary, and must have engineers from at least two different engineering departments and one to two business students. In the first year of the course, four E-Teams formed from twenty-one students; in the second year, five teams formed from thirty-two students. Of those nine teams, four applied for Advanced E-Team funding, and though none were approved, one is resubmitting.

Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes
Some examples of innovative assistive technology devices the E-Teams have developed are:

  • Self-lowering shelf assembly
  • Easy window opener
  • Automatic page-turner
  • Improved manual wheelchair drive system

Thus far none of the E-Teams have successfully commercialized their product, but the team developing the automatic page-turner is headed in that direction.

Challenges and lessons learned
One of the primary difficulties faced in the sequence is getting students from different disciplines to communicate and work as a team. Says Dr. Jouaneh, “Engineering students bring a different perspective to the table than management or marketing students. Reconciling the two and ensuring effective communication between team members can be a challenge.”

A second challenge arises from the less structured, open-ended nature of the sequence. “It’s a different type of course,” says Dr. Jouaneh. “In a lot of courses, the goals are very clear and the course structure is rigid. In Assistive Technology Devices, it’s up to the students to create their own opportunities. Some students struggle with that.”

Future prospects
The innovative approach of the Assistive Technology Devices has impressed faculty around campus, and URI is soon to offer a university-wide course similar to the sequence. The sequence itself continues to grow and develop.

Supplementary materials
Course syllabus

Crazy mind, able hands - the third annual IDDS Summit

Most conferences feature a great deal of talk and little real-world action. But the third annual International Design and Development Summit (IDDS), funded by an NCIIA Course and Program grant and organized by MIT, does things the other way around, concentrating on hands-on work to develop real solutions to developing-world problems - in a limited amount of time. Lots of action, not so much talk. Find out what happened at the summit. And read more about IDDS.


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