Students and Faculty Learn to Transform Research into Innovative Products

September 21, 2018

Masdar Institute hosted the second annual Academic Entrepreneurship Bootcamp last week, during which entrepreneurial experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) helped participants strengthen the technical skills needed to translate their academic research into commercial products.

MIT and Masdar Institute jointly organized the three-day Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, which was designed to teach academics how to strategically identify research that has potential market impact and construct a roadmap that leads to translation of those ideas into commercial ventures.

“Entrepreneurship for academics is different from the traditional view of entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Charles Cooney, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and Faculty Director Emeritus, Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, MIT.

“Traditional entrepreneurship starts with an idea to solve a problem, while academic-based entrepreneurship starts with early-stage research that could be a potential solution to the right problem – that problem just has to be carefully identified. This boot camp is designed to help academics direct their early-stage research toward a commercial venture that addresses a unique problem,” he told attendees.

Dr. Cooney headed the Bootcamp with Dr. Luis Perez-Breva, Lead Instructor and Director of MIT Innovation Teams Program and Lecturer and Research Scientist at MIT School of Engineering.

Based on similar workshops conducted at MIT and in Singapore, Dr. Perez-Breva and Dr. Cooney have been successfully teaching hands-on innovation for years. They shared their innovative technology translation approach with the boot camp participants – which included Masdar Institute faculty, students and members from Masdar Institute’s outreach program, the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) – through several modules designed to help the participants formulate and articulate a unique technology-based venture.

The event culminated in a competition of the participants’ commercial venture ideas, which they developed throughout the course of the Bootcamp. The winning team’s technology venture was a slow-release fertilizer that prevents water loss and helps deliver nutrients to plants slowly.

“If farmers in the UAE adopt this technology, the UAE could drastically improve water use efficiency while eliminating the need to apply significant amounts of fertilizer,” said Dr. Lina Yousef, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and member of the winning team. She added that the group’s strength was not only in the technology, but also their go-to-market strategy, which included action plans to develop strong relationships with individual farmers to build trust, and a long-term strategy to engage with policy makers who will mandate implementation of the technology.

Taking a short break from the intensive boot camp to address a larger audience at Masdar Institute, Dr. Cooney presented a lecture on the topic of “Accelerating Academic Research into Commercialization.” During his lecture, Dr. Cooney shared the model he developed that helps identify early-stage research and direct it towards its commercial potential.

The Academic Bootcamp is one of several ways in which Masdar Institute has been encouraging the development of commercial products based on its student- and faculty-led research. Other efforts to translate potential research to commercial products include the Masdar Institute-MIT Innovation Program (MMIP). This program awards grants to support faculty-led proof-of-concept research projects with commercial potential.

Masdar Institute looks forward to further supporting the budding entrepreneurs who attended this year’s boot camp, by continuing to provide a critical platform for translation of their technology research into innovative commercial products, services and processes.

Erica Solomon
25 November, 2015