There are students at Stevens Institute of Technology who are able to see their dreams come to life and – while still in school – have a stake in a company interested in developing their ideas.
The Stevens Entrepreneur and Enterprise Development Program (SEED) bolsters the next generation of technology innovators by blending a technical education with first-hand commercialization experience.
“Most universities in the United States follow a philosophy of straight licensing a technology as soon as it shows any promise,” says Malcolm R. Kahn, Vice President for Enterprise Development & Licensing at Stevens. “What we have been working towards is actually trying to take the technology out of the laboratory and prove its efficiency in the field.”
The idea for SEED was born out of Stevens’ Technogenesis® program, which promotes innovation, creative thinking and applying ideas to real life situations that can help solve the challenges today’s world faces.
For the students who participate in the program – undergraduates from the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science and Howe School of Technology Management – it is a chance to learn practical skills and thinking rather than curriculum from a textbook. It is a real chance to blend a business education and technology development.
SEED is an 18-month program that begins with the junior year where students work for credit and have a full-time internship with a company where they work directly with a CEO, and are engaged in the development of a University-created technology followed by the testing of a product in the field for real customers and eventual marketing.
“This is a total engagement program,” says Kahn. “The creation of knowledge and the dissemination of ideas are important. We have de-risked the process and created value to provide these real work experiences for students.”
Over the last decade the SEED program has seen improving success and Kahn cited two startups that were developed at Stevens.
The first is ID8 Systems, which was developed by five technology students and four business students and implemented initially within the University. ID8 is an active stock market and collaborative exchange that is tailored to the needs of an organization. It operates like a real stock market and is based on each employee selectively using their initial simulated back-roll to IPO their own ideas and invest in the ideas of other employees. The system creates an environment of collaborative innovation that is both competitive and inclusionary. When it was first tested inside Stevens, Kahn said they had a 40 percent participation rate among students and it is now being presented to other universities.
The second company to be developed by Stevens is InStream Media. It is a sophisticated suite of algorithms and Internet applications based on psycho-linguistics, information theory, and advanced text mining that can identify deceptive text contained in emails, social networking sites, blogs, SMS, advertisements, and more. Accuracy rates are typically over 96%. The product can also identify author's gender from text among other advanced space-time text analytics.
“We can tell if people are telling the truth or not, of if they are embellishing,” explained Kahn.
Kahn cites the tangible benefits of this program in how the students who participate have an extra advantage when searching for a job. They can cite working with a startup company, where decisions are made at light speed and mistakes are made and then fixed quickly, proving versatility and a passion for entrepreneur work.
“We are developing innovators. So much of the world is focused on pure research, but research doesn’t become an innovation until it solves real world problems. That’s what we’re doing,” explained Kahn.
Currently the company has an iPhone application and continues to work with original equipment manufacturers to add the service to their products.
There are students working on senior design projects hoping to create a spinoff company. One of those is called CADeyes, which has created site and contour maps and as-built drawings of both exterior and interior of building structures. Kahn said it has potential to help both real estate companies and construction firms.
“After we are able to prove it beyond just an experiment in the lab, we can actually increase its value three to five times,” says Kahn of the overall SEED program.
Stevens continues to demonstrate its commitment to innovation and education through the Enterprise Development and Licensing program by giving students interested in engineering and business a chance to immerse themselves in a program.
The alternative is for students to just take classes, learn software or designs and then go into an industry where they are simply told what to do.
“We do not want to create engineers alone,” said Kahn. “We want entrepreneurs and innovators who will take their skill and turn it on a product and hopefully wind up running companies.”
As proof, Stevens is proud to count a large number of CEOs among its prestigious alumni. Graduates also rank high among job recruits.
As technology management grows as a field so does the desire of employers to count fresh, innovated, creative workers among their ranks. Those graduating from the SEED program already have experience managing not only products but also people.
There is also a noble effort on behalf of Stevens through SEED to bring some semblance of manufacturing back to the United States. Kahn, in a recent interview, said he believes it is what the country needs move forward.
“You can’t generate wealth and growth without looking at technology,” he said. So, Stevens is giving the country just that with experienced graduates.
From undergraduates to PhD candidates, the Enterprise Development and Licensing program is teaching students to use their applications in the real world and to solve the important problems facing citizens.
“Engineers build things and engineers solve problems,” said Kahn. “We are offering students the chance to learn about technology that grows the world.”