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Rose-Hulman, IU Working Together on High-Tech Prototypes

February 22, 2017

Lisa Lillis

Lisa Lillis, a recent mechanical engineering graduate, tested the prototype of a lower-cost alternative to prefilled saline bottles used in emergency rooms. The original design came from an Indiana University researcher who took it to the university’s Research and Technology Corp. Lillis and project managers at Rose-Hulman Ventures developed the prototype.

Rose-Hulman Ventures and Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. have been partnering since 2010 to develop prototypes of high-tech inventions that can be commercialized by industry. The partnership facilitated work on a record eight projects during the 2016 calendar year, bringing the overall total to 11 since the relationship was forged.

The collaboration makes it possible for engineering students and project managers at Rose-Hulman to create prototypes of devices invented by researchers at Indiana University. Students receive practical experience, and, as is the practice, the client retains any intellectual property rights.

The 2016 projects were:

Jennifer Finefield, senior technology manager at IURTC, says IU researchers are skilled at envisioning devices to address specific needs. But sometimes their designs have features that make manufacturing impractical. The design and engineering expertise of project managers and student interns at Rose-Hulman Ventures plays a valuable role in the product development process, she says. Having a prototype can strengthen the value proposition when Finefield and her colleagues meet business leaders who may have an interest in licensing and commercializing the technology.

"Not only does a quality prototype allow us to have something in hand to show to others, but it can also be used to collect preliminary data to show the results from using it," she says. "Having a prototype makes it easier to show the device's features and benefits to a company and the eventual end user."

Lilly Endowment Inc. support to IURTC and Ventures helped offset development costs associated with the projects completed in 2016.

Mitch Landess

Mitch Landess

Mitch Landess, director of business development and operations at Ventures, notes that not all innovations follow the same road map to success, and in many cases Ventures engineers have enhanced a device's functionality and design characteristics through the process of working with the client from concept to tangible prototype.

"When working with inventors, the biggest challenges are almost invariably trying to figure out how to work on the right things in the right order,” he remarks. “IU inventors are extremely fortunate to have the expertise and insights of IURTC in that regard. Then, Rose-Hulman Ventures engineers and student interns help bring those exciting ideas to the marketplace in order to help others. After all, solving problems is what engineers do."

Finefield praises Ventures for providing engineering students with real-world experiences. "These aren't random projects to be worked on and then shelved once a semester ends," she says. "The students are working on devices that could become products sold on the market and improve people's lives. The collaboration is providing these students with early-stage manufacturing, developing and engineering experience."