Students Develop New Products

The Innovation Challenge is an intensive 8-week summer internship program

Roanoke College Innovation Challenge (RCIC) is an intensive eight-week internship program sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation in partnership with a premiere Roanoke Valley business incubator for biomedical products. The Challenge is designed to expose participants from Roanoke and other colleges to a wide variety of topics, such as: leadership; entrepreneurship; marketing research; business models and strategy; product and brand development; technology development; manufacturing; patent research (including FDA filing and intellectual property rights); and small business innovation research.

"The Innovation Challenge is one of the most unique programs offered by Roanoke College," says Dr. Ali Nazemi, director of the Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation. "It provides the opportunity for truly integrative learning by bringing together students from multiple academic disciplines and from different colleges and universities to work on a single, collaborative project."

This year, 16 participants from six different colleges and universities were selected to participate in the Innovation Challenge.

Institutions represented were Roanoke College, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Duke University, James Madison University and North Carolina State. The program recruited students from all majors but specifically from marketing, finance, mechanical and electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, graphic arts and industrial design.

Students, in three teams of five, worked on three projects at various stages of development. Products were selected based on their viability and potential for success. Each team was required to create a comprehensive business plan to include manufacturing, marketing and financial strategies for their products as well as an executive summary and a prospectus for potential investors. The Challenge culminated with business plan presentations by the teams before a panel of business leaders, potential investors and Roanoke College faculty.

"Undergraduate students enter the program and 8 weeks later have created a company," says Muelenaer, "To me, that's quite remarkable."

"I chose to participate in the RCIC because I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to share what I've learned as an entrepreneur with some of the region's best and brightest students," says Melissa Waugh, CEO of Elcare Innovations, Inc. and mentor for one of the biomedical teams.

Each week students met with inventors and an eight-member panel of advisors. The panel members included several Roanoke College business faculty and representatives from the business incubator partner. In addition to weekly presentations, participants attended fifteen presentations on topics relating to new product development, including: creative problem solving; business innovations; marketing and branding; manufacturing process and costing; and clinical research. Participants were also encouraged to contact external entities such as manufacturers, insurance companies, marketing firms, investors, and potential customers for additional information.

"It was a great opportunity to jump-start a new company that had been on a back-burner," says Waugh.

Undergraduate students are learning M.B.A.-level material and entrepreneurial skills within one program.

Dr. Andre Muelenaer Jr., medical director for Carilion Biomedical Institute says they are proud of this program and how well it turned out.

"The opportunity to work as a group and independently is different from traditional internships. Students are given a broad goal and told to achieve these goals through their own innovative effort."

Muelenaer says they are proud of this program and how well it turned out.

To support students' efforts, RCIC established a mini-library, housed in Lionberger Room of Fintel Library. The special collection featured texts, documents, forms and other material pertaining to patent research, intellectual property, articles of incorporation, licensee agreement, business and marketing models, small business innovation research and small business technology transfer program.