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New I2C Fellowship Gives Northwestern Students a Closer Look at Innovation

Inaugural group of I2C fellows

We all know, more or less, how breakthroughs happen: in a lab, through a lengthy process of research, hypothesizing, testing, and repeating. But how do these innovations get from the lab to the consumer?

Commercialization – the process of taking a product or idea from invention, through patent or licensing, and finally to the marketplace – is a vital part of innovation. Starting this June, Northwestern students will have a new opportunity to learn about that process with Innovation to Commercialization (I2C), a summer fellowship offered by Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO).

The fellowship – which is organized by INVO with support from the McCormick School of Engineering, Kellogg School of Management, and the Law School – marks the newest cross-campus effort to promote entrepreneurship at Northwestern, said Sonia Kim, INVO’s manager for marketing and industry partnerships. Each of the participating schools promotes the fellowship, advocates for their candidates throughout the selection process, and underwrites their fellows’ stipends, ensuring that a wide variety of academic backgrounds are represented.

“Northwestern is really promoting an innovation and entrepreneurship culture,” Kim said. “Programs like I2C teach students what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I think it will really empower all the fellows.”

The inaugural group of 10 I2C fellows will gain first-hand experience handling intellectual property for dozens of innovations developed at Northwestern, such as super-efficient solar cells, at-home fertility tests, and software to help clinics comply with electronic health record laws.

Over the course of 10 weeks, they will conduct research to determine which innovations have the potential to succeed. This will entail evaluating the project’s market potential and financial feasibility, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors, and finally presenting the research to the inventors.

The program will also feature presentations by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and Northwestern faculty, as well as workshops on intellectual property and pitching.

By the end of the program, fellows will have a solid grasp on the commercialization process, Kim said.

Fellow Allison Bedell (biomedical engineering ’12) says she enjoyed conceiving of product ideas in her design courses at McCormick. Now she is excited to gain a new kind of problem-solving experience on the business side of innovations, experience that will help her next year as she pursues a master’s degree from McCormick’s Engineering Design and Innovation program.

“I2C is an amazing opportunity to take my scientific training and expand it into product development and commercialization,” Bedell said. “Inventions are only as valuable as they are available and accessible to their audience.”

Other 2012 fellows from the McCormick School of Engineering are Robert Van Lith, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering, and Nanjia Zhou, a PhD candidate in materials science.

Located near downtown Evanston at 1800 Sherman Ave., Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office conducts faculty outreach, provides resources for business development, and manages intellectual property rights for Northwestern inventions and innovations.