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Industry and Entrepreneurial Partnerships Via Integrated Product and Process Design Courses at the University of Florida

R. Keith Stanfill, Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, 30 Weil Hall, PO Box 116595, Gainesville, FL 32611-6595 and Oscar D. Crisalle, Chemical engineering, University of Florida, PO Box 116005Chemical Engineering Department, Chemical Engineering Department, Gainesville, FL 32611-6005.

The Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) courses offered as a two-semester sequence at the University of Florida (UF) involve design-and-build projects that are financially sponsored by two types of participants, namely (i) industrial partners, and (ii) entrepreneurial/venture-capital partners. The scope of the program is large. In fact, under the IPPD aegis, approximately 150 undergraduate students participate in 26 sponsored projects every year, assisted by the supervision of 23 faculty members from different engineering disciplines. In the eleven years since its genesis, the program has hosted over 1500 students from more than 17 academic disciplines, completing a total of 267 projects. Throughout this period the IPPD program has developed systematic approaches and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge specialized for the delivery of a multidisciplinary course involving students from nine engineering fields.

The majority of IPPD projects are sponsored by industrial partners who commission the students to design and build electronics, machines and components, software, manufacturing processes, and chemical processes. Each multidisciplinary team of undergraduate students is composed of up to six members, and is led by a faculty member who serves under the official role of Team Coach. In addition, each team interacts with a liaison engineer, appointed by the sponsoring company, who has the responsibility of interacting with the team on a weekly basis via teleconferencing and of hosting the team members when they travel to the sponsor's site. The student teams follow a structured design approach that involves the production of weekly deliverables, and they manage the project's progress in terms of standard Gantt charts. Industry praises the IPPD effort as an outstanding experiential education program, with benefits for students, faculty, and industry. Funding for each project is provided by its industrial sponsor. The IPPD program collects approximately $500,000 per year in sponsor fees.

A smaller number of IPPD projects are sponsored by entrepreneurial or venture-capital partners, under a recently-created Integrated Technology Ventures (ITV) initiative. In addition to inheriting the experience base of our classical IPPD program, the ITV program builds upon other successful UF-industry interaction model programs such as the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), and two university supported technology start-up incubator facilities. The students learn the entrepreneurial process as members of a virtual company led by an entrepreneur who acts as a volunteer CEO, a position most commonly filled by someone who is experienced in launching technology-based start-up companies. In addition to the CEO, the company is composed of a business development team of MBA students (coached by entrepreneurial faculty), a multidisciplinary technology development team of undergraduate engineers (coached by engineering faculty), and a legal team composed of students in the patent law program (coached by adjunct law school faculty). Funding for these projects has been secured through the Economic Development Administration, the Lemelson Foundation (via the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance), and the University of Florida. Several ITV technologies have been licensed and one start-up business has spawned.

Web Page: www.ippd.ufl.edu