This year’s winning iSolve team, sDNA

Inter-disciplinary teams of students and young researchers are taking part in a competition to commercialise university research.

“I enjoyed the opportunity of learning about…cutting edge invention and the intricacies of research innovation”
Carey Wallace

iSolve, which is based on a programme developed at MIT in Boston and extended to Cambridge University, is an exciting enterprise education programme that has been successfully run at Cardiff University. The programme is run each year by Cardiff University Enterprise, the organisation responsible for entrepreneurial education at the University. The participants form technology transfer teams, allowing promising postgraduates and early career researchers to work with real research initiatives in order to determine the best strategy for their commercialisation.

During the 9 week programme, these inter-disciplinary teams must use their ingenuity and eye for innovation to research and identify the commercial opportunities for their project. Opportunities are provided for lab visits and close cooperation with the academic staff, so that participants can understand the basic concepts of their projects.

The teams then gather information and conduct market research, whilst receiving tuition on technology transfer, market research techniques and intellectual property protection from Cardiff University Enterprise Staff. The teams may also draw upon the experience of local entrepreneurs, who are assigned to each team in order to provide mentorship and support. A key part of iSolve is finding contact from relevant industries to gather real-world feedback on their ideas for application of the technology. Participants learn to approach staff in other organisations to build a network of contacts that they can draw upon during the programme and in their future careers.

Upon conclusion of the programme participants produce a report of their best recommendations for taking the technology to market, detailing a framework for commercialisation that will ensure that maximum impact is delivered and the benefits of research outputs are felt by wider society.

“I learned a lot from working with postgraduate researchers from different specialities.”
Carey Wallace

This year’s winning project detailed the commercial development of a research effort by the School of Geography and Planning, which has produced a network analysis tool for evidence based urban planning, sDNA. The tool utilises spatial design analysis to better understand urban form and activity patterns by taking into account the underlying street network design structure. The iSolve team conceived of a novel application for the technology, suggesting a product that allows the public to find areas and routes that have the least air pollution. The judges were impressed by the team’s professional report and creative recommendation offered.

“I thought it was a great experience for several reasons”, said Carey Wallace, a PhD student in Psychology and member of this year’s winning team. “I learned a lot from working with postgraduate researchers from different specialities. It was refreshing to get varying perspectives during our deliberations.”

“I enjoyed the opportunity of learning about our PI’s [principal investigator] cutting edge invention, and the intricacies of research innovation. I benefitted significantly by learning and experiencing all the processes required to take inventions to mass market, I am sure to use this new knowledge for many years to come.”

Preparations are underway for this year’s programme, which will begin in November.

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