Thursday, July 18, 2013

UCLA Scientists and Engineers Focus on Entrepreneurship

Recently, a group of UCLA scientists and engineers presented their business plans for commercializing technologies developed at the university to colleagues and a panel of expert reviewers. The presentations were the culmination of a partnership between UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and UCLA Anderson’s Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, created to educate participants about entrepreneurship and to prepare them to enter the business world.

The joint effort between CNSI and the Price Center began more than six months ago, when the groups launched an 8-week class focused on technological entrepreneurship. Faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students from engineering and the physical and life sciences met once a week to learn about topics, such as opportunity recognition, market analysis, entrepreneurial finance, operations, and human resource issues. These courses came as part of the campus’ effort to enhance its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This entrepreneurship course prompted a second 7-week course supporting the same cohort of students and focusing on business plan development. Both were taught by George Abe, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“The success of the courses was due to the commitment that the students brought to the classroom every day,” said Abe. “They came hungry with questions and scenarios that they wanted to discuss. Plus, they came with great ideas and new technology that deserves to be made available to the world.”

“There was a lot that we got out of the classes, but I think the biggest thing is that they helped us to develop a business mindset, which is fairly different from a science mindset,” said Garrett Mosley, a graduate student in the department of bioengineering.

Jian Yang (left) and Garrett Mosley answer questions after their business plan presentations.

He and fellow graduate student Ricky Chiu presented a business plan for the commercialization of the “A-PEN,” a tool based on lateral flow analysis that can quickly and easily identify the presence of allergens in food.

Students who attended both courses had the opportunity to present elevator pitches, written summaries, and business plan presentations to panels of faculty, entrepreneurs and representatives from the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property & Industry Sponsored Research (OIP-ISR), whose mission is to support UCLA’s efforts to commercialize intellectual property rights and advance entrepreneurship, for critical feedback.

Ideas and applications evolved, sometimes dramatically, over the two courses. After their second presentation, one of the judges asked Mosley, “Where do I send my check?”

“We knew we had a good technology, and for the first presentation we went with one of the first applications that we brainstormed,” said Mosley. “We kept focusing on how/why everything would be successful, but not thinking about how/why it wouldn't be successful. We took the constructive criticism from the first quarter and rethought our angle. We needed to look at our product and make sure that it was going to work at every step along the process and for everyone involved in the process, which I think we did a better job at the second time around.”

“The opportunity for our research scientists and engineers to learn directly from someone like George at this early stage in their careers is wonderful,” said Jia Ming Chen, Education Director at CNSI. “The courses filled an important gap in our traditional training programs, and we look forward to developing more programs to support our community.”

Other innovations advanced during the courses included novel infrared camera systems, reagents to help crystalize cellular membrane proteins, biologics to fight acne, and microcentrifuge tube racks that enhance the brand recognition of distributors. Many of the ideas are patented, and some groups are already working with companies that are trying out their products.

This year’s courses were underwritten by generous donors to the Price Center as part of its curriculum development efforts and Technology and Innovation Partners Program. The donors included Jean and Ed Wedbush, the Heshmatpour Family Foundation, the Knapp Foundation, the Louis and Harold Price Foundation and members of the Price Center Board of Advisors. Both CNSI and the Price Center are currently exploring ways to fund future courses.

“We will offer these courses again,” says Elaine Hagan, executive director of the Price Center. “The partnership between the Price Center and CNSI holds great potential for students and other researchers at UCLA, and for the university in general.”



(Top and bottom panels) Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers attend a reception after the final presentations.

Lecturer George Abe (right) chats with Dr. Farhad Parhami, one of the business plan judges.

Director of Development Fred Wells (left) and business plan judge Winn Hong. 

Price Center Executive Director Elaine Hagan (right) and graduate student Helena Chia.



About the California NanoSystems Institute
The California NanoSystems Institute is an integrated research facility located at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations in nanoscience and nanotechnology, to generate partnerships with industry, and to contribute to the economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world.

About the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Celebrating its 25th year, the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at UCLA Anderson School of Management is an internationally recognized leader in entrepreneurial education and research. With a distinguished faculty as its cornerstone, the Center works closely with UCLA Anderson’s outstanding MBA students, alumni and the entrepreneurial community, overseeing activities that advance the theory and practice of entrepreneurship as well as the related fields of technology and innovation, venture capital and private equity, and social enterprise. Well known for the impact of its outreach programs, the Price Center fosters a spirit of innovation in individuals, enhances the managerial capacity of organizations, and prepares entrepreneurial leaders who will provide significant, sustainable and economic value to society.

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