June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
11.361.1 - 11.361.8
Cooperatives as Means for Organizing Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Teams Abstract
This paper explores the application of the cooperative business model to student led product development efforts. Cooperatives allow for multiple generations of students in the iterative process of product development. It also enables participation and ownership by interdisciplinary participants. The authors have noted a number of different roles that need to be compensated in the ownership structure of an interdisciplinary student product development team. Examples of these roles include idea generator, team driver, product developer, market researcher and technical specialist. As explored in this paper, the cooperative structure allows for different degrees ownership based on an individual’s contribution to the project. The authors believe that the cooperative structure will increase entrepreneurial activity on campus by resolving ownership issues and enabling interdisciplinary teams.
Cooperatives are one the four forms of business that include sole proprietorship, partnerships and corporations. The cooperative business model allows a variety of members to contribute differing amounts of labor, resources and capital to a business venture. Although cooperatives have been traditionally used to develop agricultural distribution networks, today cooperatives are involved in products ranging from electricity to internet access. While in Nicaragua in 2005, the authors observed many application of the cooperative model to differing entrepreneurial endeavors. Groups of Nicaraguans pooled their resources to form cooperatives not only for traditional purposes but also to develop new products. New products under development by cooperatives in Nicaragua include water filters, construction materials, sanitation units and clothing apparel. If impoverished Nicaraguans can use cooperatives to develop product, why not college students with limited resources?
Challenges of Bringing Student Innovation to the Market
Students attempting to bring their ideas to the market face many challenges. Most students do not have the financial or time resources to complete such a large and complex project. Few students have adequate knowledge in all of the required fields. Engineering students with a new sports product know little about the business skills required. This is made even more difficult when students outside of the business or engineering fields have ideas for new product. Unfortunately recent research suggests that students outside of business and engineering have the ideas and tolerance of risk associated with entrepreneurship.1 The authors have witnessed many promising projects end because of these issues. Sometimes the idea originator can not entice people with the required skills to join the development team. The idea generator does not usually posses the financial resources to pay up front for the required expertise. Nor does the idea generator know how to split ownership of the proposed venture in an equitable manner. Moreover some students with great ideas do not have the desire or passion to pursue their ideas. These students are often willing to let others pursue their idea if they can retain some stake in the venture. Given these realities how can the business enterprise be organized to help students achieve their goals and to foster student led innovation? The next section reviews the four types of business ownership models. Proceedings of the 2006 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2006, American Society for Engineering Education
Lane, P., & Farris, J. (2006, June), Cooperatives As Means For Organizing Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Teams Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--788
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