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Identifying Enterprise Opportunities in Student Projects - University of Huddersfield

image001Undergraduate computing students often produce high quality final-year projects with a software product that has the potential to become commercially viable.

Some of the more enterprising students return from industrial placement year with project proposals from their placement employer. This is either a new project or an existing one for further development. Some students return to their placement provider after graduation as full-time employees and deploy the products of their project within their employer's organisation. This sandwiching of development between the University and the commercial or industrial company enhances the strength and quality of the work that our students are capable of producing. There are projects however, having no external sponsor, that would be equally successful were they given a similar opportunity. It is at this stage that enterprise-aware tutors could identify possible projects to be placed on a "Commercial Possibility" watch list. The students are encouraged to engage with the "Enterprise" process at this point offering them the opportunity to be open to ideas leading to further enhance their project once they had completed the module.image002

One such project, FormWatch (http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/8226) was identified as being capable of providing business advantage to any company using a website to interact with its customers.

Employing the project student, after the successful completion of the project, as a part-time Research Assistant was a cost-effective method of making further progress to commercial exploitation. This approach provided first-rate experience to launch a commercial entrepreneur from the University's undergraduate courses.

The ease of finding commercial partners, willing to incorporate the application into their business and offer the service to their clients, was enhanced with the prospect of making an application via various research and development funds. In this instance we secured initial funding via the University of Huddersfield Collaborative Ventures Fund.

Type Graduate Entrepreneurship
Impacts

Development of prototype software to beta stage

Employment of graduate by ghd, Leeds as a result of the project

Collaboration with industrial partner

Set of recommendations devised from the experience that could inform similar ventures

Management summary report detailing the process inception phase of developing a commercial venture.

Poster presentation of work at Connect 2: Teaching, Learning, Research, Enterprise conference, 2010. 2010 University of Huddersfield Teaching and Learning Conference.

What worked well

Developing a University-based business venture using the experience of staff to support the work of enterprise-aspiring students.

Adopting projectised/matrix management resulted in a shared responsibility of roles. This approach was dictated by current workload, other commitments, and which team member was best able service a situation at any one time.

Having an industrial collaborator to provide a live test environment for the FormWatch product and to help to secure funding.

What could be changed/improved

The employment of interns on any future projects is seen as the next logical step in expanding the process. The opportunity to provide 3 to 6 months relevant experience in a close to commercial/industrial environment following graduation will further enhance the CVs of our students.

Regular project progress meetings with the commercial collaborators to maintain project focus. Especially important when the commercial partner is at a distance.

Partners

Monza Digital, Leeds

Funders

University of Huddersfield - Collaborative Ventures Fund

Website link http://theappflap.hud.ac.uk/
Contact Details

Dr Christopher D Newman - christopher.newman@hud.ac.uk or Ms Paula Sturdy - p.sturdy@open.ac.uk / paula.sturdy@hud.ac.uk

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