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‘Innovation Challenge’ Lets Students Put Ideas Into Action

Published: April 1, 2011

A team of students at CSULB will soon earn an opportunity put their entrepreneurial spirit in action by creating an innovative product and developing a business plan to take it to market.

Pitting themselves against other teams’ innovative ideas, 26 teams involving some 80 total students embarked in January on the “Innovation Challenge,” a contest sponsored by CSULB’s College of Engineering and College of Business Administration.

Student participants submitted their business plans on Feb. 18, and four team finalists have been chosen. The finalists are continuing to develop their work and business plan in preparation for an April 5 presentation to the judging committee made up of real-world investors and entrepreneurs representing various industries.

The winning team will receive $10,000 of seed funding to create a business and market their innovative product or service, plus accounting, legal, and marketing services to help them get their business started.

“This allows students to put their ideas into action. It is set up similarly to how it would be done in the industry and designed to create a real applicable product that can be marketed to consumers,” said Forouzan Golshani, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our hope is that the seed funding will enable the students to create a viable business. The package of business-related services during the first year of operation will propel the start up to the point of no return. This is an opportunity for our students to make a difference in our local and global communities through innovation.”

What makes the challenge more interesting and practical is the partnership between the College of Engineering and College of Business Administration. In most cases engineering students will focus on the creation and design of the product while teammates who are business students will focus on the financing and marketing of the product.

‘Innovation Challenge’ Let's Students Put Ideas Into Action

“The Innovation Challenge is a great way for students to explore their creativity while learning what it takes to turn an idea into a business opportunity with the help of their teammates and mentors,” said Michael Solt, dean of the College of Business Administration. Both Solt and Golshani have initiated similar efforts at other universities.

Since the fall, information sessions on various topics including legal issues regarding patents have been held to help prepare students interested in participating. As part of the learning process those teams not selected will have the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their plans and hear suggestions for possible next steps. In addition to the other benefits, organizers say that it is a great opportunity for students to develop business, leadership and analytical skills and make connections with others who have similar interests.

Among companies and company representatives involved in the Innovation Challenge are Bager Electronics, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and Boeing Defense Space and Security. Other sponsors include the Curran Family, the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Engineering, the CSULB Provost’s Office, Bager of Southern California, Lerder and Associates Investment Council and the Schulten Group.

–Ken Swisher