Monday, November 12, 2007

Idea 2 Product Competition—Technology and Innovation on Display

Today I had the opportunity to judge the Idea2Product competition held each year at the University of Texas Austin. Universities from around the world apply to show off their ability to take a technology and turn it into a commercially-viable product.

The University Illinois-Urbana showed off a device that when implanted reads neurological signals and wirelessly transmits it to a computer which further processes the data which could move a wheelchair movement or generate speech. The Audeo is the name of their product. I recommend you check out the wheelchair demo on their web site. It’s quite remarkable. Originally targeted at the disabilities market, the developers envision applying the device to gaming applications.

The University of Texas team proposed BioPristine – an antibacterial coating sprayed onto a surface for eliminating MRSA – a highly contagious form of Staph infection which when coupled with other conditions can cause death. The proposed formula provides improvements over Lysol, chlorine, and ammonia-based products as it’s not water soluble and therefore does not wear off with repeated washing or usage. An application will last up to 45 days. The developers plan to target the school system.

The San Jose State team proposed a utility vehicle powered by a combination of renewable energies including wind, solar, and electric motor technologies. It wasn’t clear how much protection their business methods patent would help them since their target market is India and China.

The Purdue team proposed a flow cytometry-based device for detecting CD4 levels in AIDS patients. The device is low cost and super simple to use as it is targeted for use in Africa. The competition focuses on the technology and innovation elements. The challenge with ‘social entrepreneurship’ is how to make money from it.

Finally, KTH from Sweden proposed a diabetes testing device that comes in a single unit so it is lower in cost and easier to use. It was difficult to understand how their device works as they declined to give any details on it for fear of protection.

The winner of the competition was the University of Illinois with their Audeo technology. The second place winner was RWTH Aachen University which had a cancer screening kit with a special screening marker that could detect several types of cancers, and third place went to the University of Michigan which had a microfabricated battery-replacement component that generated power by scavenging environmental energy.

The quality of the plans is quite high. If you ever have the chance to see the competition, I recommend it, as it keeps one up to date with new technologies.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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