Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MIN-Corps 2015 Year End Review

The mission of MIN-Corps is to accelerate technology commercialization across the University of Minnesota.  We have three objectives:
  • Increase the entrepreneurial mindset & skill set among U of MN STEM students, research staff and faculty.
  • Build the capabilities of science and engineering students, research staff and faculty to identify the commercial potential of their discoveries and inventions, and test those ideas in the marketplace.
  • Partner with relevant campus and local programs to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota.
2015 was our first full year as an NSF-funded National Innovations Corps site.  So how did we do?

We started the year with two types of programs:  a full-semester 2-credit course and single-session noncredit seminars. In mid-year, we “pivoted” as a result of an opportunity to develop a new faculty-oriented program in conjunction with our colleagues at MN-REACH (UMN is one of three NIH-funded Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs). After fine-tuning our “minimum viable products” with our program participants this fall, we are going into 2016 with a refreshed “theory of change” and a comprehensive slate of programs for all our constituents (faculty, research staff, graduate students and undergrads).  Thank you to all our collaborators and program participants!

STARTUP Course – A fourteen-week, 2-credit course that trains participants to apply the Lean Startup methodology to a specific business concept, and provides them with hands-on faculty and business mentor support, as well as mini-grants for prototyping and customer discovery/customer development.  
  • Spring 2015 – 13 STEM business concepts
  • Fall 2015 – 7 STEM business concepts (enrollment is typically higher in spring)
Students’ rating of readiness to assess market feasibility of a business concept increased:
  • Average pre-course readiness: 2.8 on a scale of 1 (“very low”) to 5 (“very high”)
  • Average post-course readiness: 3.9 with 0 students < 3, and 61% at 4 or 5
Examples of a few participant business concepts:
  • High-speed bearingless motor
  • Sickle cell anemia crisis treatment
  • Device to correct dog incontinence
  • Recycled plastic filament for 3D printers
Spring 2015 MIN-Corps Seminar Series – Noncredit seminars on innovation and entrepreneurship offered to the broad University community
  • 10 Types of Innovation – 145 registered participants
  • Securing Intellectual Property – 55
  • Funding Research and Innovation-Driven Ventures:  SBIR and STTR – 70
  • Lean Startup 101 – 120
  • 3D Printing and Bionics  - 127
  • Tapping the Potential of Plant Genomics – 55
Medical Technology Commercialization Bootcamps – One-day immersion into Lean Innovation principles and commercialization processes specific to diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and health care IT.  This program was designed and delivered in conjunction with MN-REACH.
  • Summer 2015 – 43 participants who had submitted pre-proposals for research commercialization grants from MN-REACH
  • Fall 2015 – 46 participants, including researchers intending to apply for MN-REACH grants as well as Fellows from the Medical Devices Center and Fellows from the MnDRIVE Brain Conditions Initiative fellows
Participant testimonials:
  • “The biggest issue I hadn’t thought of was working towards a target consumer so early…. I can see how this would help tailor the experiments to bring the technology to the market in a more streamlined fashion.”
  • “I was surprised by the requirement for fine tuning the first application of the technology.  This was a real reality check…”
Medical Technology Commercialization Value Proposition Design Workshops – Four half-day, hands-on workshops applying the Value Proposition Canvas and Customer Discovery methods to specific medical technology projects.  Targeted to researchers invited to submit proposals (essentially business cases) for MN-REACH commercialization funding.  Sessions included presentations and project-specific advice from industry experts.
  • Summer 2015 – 8 project teams
  • Fall 2015 – 8 project teams
  • "The Value Proposition Development series (all four parts) was also well attended and informative.  It was wonderful to watch the innovators start to grasp the key concepts of the Lean LaunchPad approach and also the manner by which understanding the customer and his or her needs can influence development of the technology….It was also great to see a strong positive response to all the external speakers that you brought in.  It was clear that the innovators benefitted from the perspective and experience of the external mentors." – Allison Hubel, Deputy Director for Skills Development, MN-REACH
  • "I learned a lot about the commercialization process that will be useful throughout my career. The class content and discussions with experts from industry have given me insight into how to design my next round of experiments to maximize the likelihood of translation to the clinic." (program participant)
As a result of our collaboration with MN-REACH (our own application of Customer Discovery), we’ve developed a more comprehensive “theory of change” that acknowledges the full journey to commercialization of academic research:

We now have a more comprehensive program design:

In 2016, we’re looking forward to continuing our STARTUP course and our collaboration with MN-REACH to provide education to researchers interested in medical technology commercialization.  We’ll also be adding: 
  • An Environment and BioTechnology Commercialization Bootcamp and Value Proposition Design Workshops series in collaboration with the MnDRIVE Environment Initiative and the UMN BioTechnology Institute
  • Strategy Clinics for researchers that have gone through Lean LaunchPad training and are now going through the tough slog of commercialization. 
  • Emerging Opportunities Forums on innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities in Agriculture and Consumer-Driven Health Care
  • Ecosystem Events to encourage greater interactions between UMN researchers seeking to commercialize their research with the Twin Cities business community
It promises to be an exciting year!