June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
In this paper, we describe a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) focused on Entrepreneurship and Technical Innovation at an R1 research University in the Northeast. The summer of 2018 was the second year out of a three-year grant in which approximately 10 students participated in both a structured entrepreneurship program as well as a ten-week research program. Since entrepreneurship and technical innovation occurs in all disciplines, our REU program is somewhat unique in that it does not have a specific technical thrust. Instead, we solicited projects from faculty across all disciplines in the school of engineering, with the main criteria being that the projects should have some degree of commercializable potential. Our aim is to expose students to the process by which academic research can be translated into working prototypes, and eventually onto commercial products and start-up companies through the tech-transfer process. We have had a national recruiting effort with a focus on diversity, as well as local recruiting effort with the local community college (CC) network with a focus on providing CC students with authentic research opportunities.
The Entrepreneurial REU is led by two co-PIs, one of whom oversees the research portion of the program and deals with student recruitment and matching, logistics and planning, and assessment, and another co-PI who is the school’s entrepreneur-in-residence and professor-of-practice, has extensive experience in tech transfer and start-ups, and leads the structured entrepreneurship program. For the Summer 2018 program, topics included: Industry 4.0 and new ideas about innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership and emotional intelligence, an Idea Generation Workshop, impact of simulation and manufacturing in prototyping, opportunity assessment, business model generation and hypothesis testing, a trip to a major tech incubator, intellectual property (IP) and start-up legal structures, market size analysis, value proposition, elevator pitches, and startup management and cost control.
As part of the assessment of the program, an external evaluator has been retained to do extensive pre- and post-surveys of the student participants, with a focus on determining their level of knowledge with regards to technical entrepreneurship, as well as changes in their attitudes and level of comfort with entrepreneurship and their own interest and willingness to engage in entrepreneurial behavior in the future. In data from Year 1 of the program (summer 2017), student participants showed significant gains in their self-reported knowledge regarding the steps they would need to take to commercialize a product or start a business (11% very or moderately knowledgeable pre-program, to 88% very or moderately knowledgeable post-program), and also had significant gains in their confidence regarding the same (11% very or moderately confident pre-program, to 89% very or moderately confident post-program). Lastly, students in Year 1 reported an increase (from 0% pre- to 33%-post) in their interest in starting a business or self-employment immediately following their undergraduate degree, and interest in commercializing a product or starting a business increased as well (33% very or extremely interested pre- to 66% very or extremely likely post-). Data from Year 2 of the program is currently being evaluated and will be included in the full paper, but this preliminary evaluation shows that the program is successful in increasing both student knowledge and confidence regarding entrepreneurship and technical innovation. A goal of the evaluation after the completion of the final year is the documentation of the entrepreneurship curriculum that can be disseminated broadly to other universities seeking to incorporate these topics into their programs.
Burkey, D. D., & Bozorgmanesh, H., & Srivastava, M., & Mendes, R. (2019, June), Entrepreneurial Engineering Education – A Research Experience for Undergraduates Focused on Entrepreneurship and Technical Innovation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32754
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