Design Assistance for Entrepreneurs

Percy Hooper
College of Design NC State University


Percy Hooper, IDSA
Director of Entrepreneurship and New Product Development
College of Design
NC State University

An academic initiative called Design Assistance for Entrepreneurs invites local inventors to become the hub of an energetic student design team focused on making the inventors’ vision to fruition. Among the challenges that could make this type of collaboration difficult include project creep wherein the original goals progressively move away from those originally stated. Likewise, conflicts over the ownership of Intellectual Property can be unpalatable to inventors. When they understand that the policy of most universities is that work done by university students belongs to the university, they understandably bristle at the feared loss of ownership of something they may have been working on for years. To seek a common ground permitting the inventors to collaborate with the university students and retain their IP the faculty sought support from the Office of Legal Affairs, the Office of Technical Transfer, the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Chancellors Office. The administration reached an agreement wherein the student voluntarily agrees to share all studio work with the sponsor. The sponsor agrees to financially support the student research and agrees that the student may use the collaborative work as part of his or her portfolio. In preparing for the collaboration, a carefully crafted questionnaire is helpful in two ways. First, it helps the inventor see in advance what the program requires in terms of prior thought and planning. Secondly, it serves as a record of exactly what the sponsor has requested, so as to avoid “project creep”. The benefits of this initiative for the student include the opportunity to make practical application of the design process they have learned in school. Students create a worthwhile portfolio piece with which to seek employment. Also, they have their building materials and design supplies paid for. The entrepreneurs have high quality documentation they can take to potential buyers and manufacturers.