The i-Teams innovation programme combines multi-disciplinary teams of students with industry mentors and real University inventions to assess the commercial viability of new technologies and product designs.
Participants gain real hands-on experience of investigating potential markets for a new innovation, while researchers are given early feedback from potential partners and customers.
Teams of up to 7 people, selected from across all disciplines, work with the support of their team mentor, their researchers and the i-Teams Programme Director (Amy Weatherup). Teams present their final conclusions to an audience of business and academic experts, and have the opportunity to present their projects as posters at the annual CUTEC Technology Ventures Conference.
Teams are asked to brainstorm possible real-world applications of their invention, and investigate their ideas by contacting external industry experts. In the process, they gain a taste of the processes needed to turn a lab technology or new product concept into a commercially-viable product, as well as learning a wide range of new skills.
Originally adapted from the successful MIT i-Teams programme, since 2006 i-Teams Cambridge has worked on over 200 technologies, involving over 1250 students and 60 business mentors. A full case study of the i-Teams story was written by Zurina Moktar in 2018, and was awarded first prize at the 3rd Innovative Youth Incubator Awards in Washington DC.
90 of our projects so far have gone on to create spin-out companies, several of which have received significant investment funding. Some of the spin-outs have involved original members of the student i-Team or the original project mentor, and other projects continue to be actively commercialised at a pre-spin-out stage. In other cases, the i-Team has helped to make a rapid decision to stop commercialising a technology, allowing the researchers to re-focus their efforts onto projects with greater potential.
i-Teams runs projects in Cambridge during each Cambridge University term.
There are now three different i-Teams courses:
- Innovation i-Teams – in every term, on Monday evenings for 10 sessions – looking at the best commercialisation route for a new invention, in partnership with the Institute for Manufacturing, open to all post-graduates (previously called Technology i-Teams)
- Development i-Teams – every Michaelmas and Easter term, on Tuesday evenings for 6 sessions – looking at how to take new technologies into the developing world, in partnership with the Centre for Global Equality, open to all undergraduates and post-graduates
- Medical i-Teams – in Lent term, on every Tuesday evening of Full Term – looking at the best commercialisation route for new medical technologies, including treatments, diagnostics and research tools, in partnership with the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences, open to all post-doctoral researchers and post-graduate students