A scheme which provides budding entrepreneurs with a real-life experience of turning ideas into business opportunities is expanding to other universities.
Cambridge University’s i-Teams was set up in Cambridge in 2006 by Amy Mokady, a local entrepreneur and business angel, and is a collaboration between the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and the Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club.
Now the project has just completed its first ever inter-university course. The latest taster course was a joint presentation between the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University and marked the first time i-Teams was delivered at another institution.
As well as students from the University of Cambridge the course also attracted participants from Anglia Ruskin University and the University of East Anglia. They joined forces to help analyse the commercial potential of emerging, breakthrough technologies.
Amy Mokady, i-Teams Director said the collaboration was a breakthrough for the business programme: “It is very rare for students from different universities to work together on the same projects in this way, so for us to attract students from two other universities demonstrates how i-Teams is growing.”
“Earlier this year we had our first non-Cambridge project and now we are beginning to attract business-minded students from beyond our traditional base.
“The other exciting development was the number of non-science based students. We had participants with a wide range of backgrounds including film studies, management, computing and publishing. It really emphasised the multi-disciplinary nature of the scheme.
“We’ve come a long way in just four years, but it highlights the power of the programme.”
Terry Mughan, of Anglia Ruskin’s Ashcroft International Business School, was delighted with the outcome of the project; “This gave our students the chance to tackle a real-life business problem and work in partnership with students from other universities and experienced business mentors.
“We are pleased that our students, who came from a range of faculties, had the opportunity to work on emerging technologies and I think they brought a fresh perspective to the project.”
Liz Wallace, studying for a Masters in Publishing at Anglia Ruskin, commented, “i-Teams has given me, as a Humanities student, an excellent opportunity to work on a technology business project. The experience of working with students from the University of Cambridge, many of whom have come from different countries and cultures, has been stimulating and enjoyable. As a team we have all been able to bring something unique to the project and I am delighted to have been part of the process.”
The programme, based on the successful programme created in the US at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses multi-disciplinary teams of students to evaluate the best opportunities for breakthrough technologies.
The projects the students from the three institutions tackled included:
– A method to cost-effectively capture and sequester CO2 from fossil fuel power generation which would lock CO2 away permanently from the atmosphere without risk of dangerous release.
– Exploring possible markets for new low-cost computer box design, to ensure the greatest possible success.
– A new technique to enable rapid and direct detection of bacteria using an all-electronic device.
Amy said: “We think i-Teams offers something unique to hi-tech start-ups and we are hopeful that this initial inter-university effort will just be the start.”
Notes for Editors
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The Institute for Manufacturing (www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk)
The University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), is a division of the Department of Engineering. The IfM brings together expertise in management, economics and technology to address the full spectrum of industrial issues. Its activities integrate research and education with practical application in companies, providing a unique environment for the creation of new ideas and approaches to modern industrial practice. The IfM works closely with industry, at a regional, national and international level, providing strategic, technical and operational expertise to help companies to grow and to become more competitive.
Running since 2006, i-Teams allows entrepreneurial post-graduate students to work with real inventions to determine the best route for their commercialization.
Each i-Team consists of up to 7 students from different disciplines and experience, who work with a nominated research project selected from several University departments. The i-Team assesses the commercial prospects for the technology, by discussing the technology with real target customers in relevant industries.
The teams are guided by the researchers, the i-Teams Programme Director (Amy Mokady), and mentors from the local business community. Together the teams identify suitable product markets, and define directions for future technology development, helping to drive the use of lab research in real-world applications.
i-Teams sponsors include the Hauser Forum IdeaSpace (which is funded by the East of England Development Agency), the EPSRC, the CIKC (Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre), the Isaac Newton Trust, Taylor Vinters, Marks & Clerk, Cambridge Enterprise and CUTEC.