i-Teams combines multi-disciplinary teams of students with industry mentors and real University inventions to assess the commercial viability of new technologies and product designs.
Students gain real hands-on experience of investigating potential markets for a new technology, while researchers are given early feedback from potential partners and customers.
Teams of up to 7 students, selected from across all disciplines, work for a term (2 weeks for Taster projects) 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 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 run nearly 80 projects for over 70 research teams, involving over 500 students and 35 business mentors. Typically 2/3 of students are studying for PhDs and 1/3 are PostDocs or Masters students. The majority of students are from science and engineering backgrounds, and the rest are studying business and humanities subjects.
In Spring 2011, i-Teams also launched at the Centre for Creative Collaboration in London, focusing on projects from the creative disciplines.
30% of our projects 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, 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. Due to our successes so far, the Cambridge programme has been opened up to students and projects from any University in the East of England.