University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

'Green Living' VentureLab to be launched at University of Illinois - register now!

Are you looking to commercialize a product or innovation in the areas of alternative energy, green building, community sustainability, water quality or another that addresses a "green" or "sustainability" issue?  Join us for VentureLab Green Living, a new, five day, highly experiential and immersive program developed and designed to enhance the success of your "green" business idea.

VentureLab Green Living will be hosted by the Univeristy of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign on April 13-17. To learn more and register (by March 6), click here.


IntelliWheels: The Continuously Variable Transmission for Manually-propelled Wheelchairs

University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2010 - $20,000

This E-Team is developing IntelliWheels, an after-market addition to off-the-shelf wheelchairs that significantly decreases the effort it takes to propel manual wheelchairs. IntelliWheels uses a gear shifting system to make pushing a wheelchair easier: the user moves forward, backward, and turns by pushing on the hand rims on either side like normal, but two automatic transmissions continuously change gears to keep the user operating in the most efficient way possible. This happens automatically, without the user thinking about it or needing to do anything.

The team built one prototype already, but it did not perform well. The team is now looking to build on what was learned from the first prototype and continue the development of IntelliWheels into a viable product and business focused on the US market.



Funding a "Dormcubator" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois - Urbana-champaign, 2009 - $8,000

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, despite many creativity and entrepreneurship activities, lacks a living-learning opportunity for students early in their academic careers.

The Technology Entrepreneur Center and University Housing are collaborating with several other units to found an Innovation LLC to allow creative and innovative students from diverse disciplines across campus to network with like-minded peers and provide 24-hour access to a “garage space” that offers resources to encourage students to turn their ideas into valuable business ventures and help them work thought common problems encountered in the innovation process. Other benefits include interaction between students who otherwise might never have met on campus, mentors who are business leaders and entrepreneurs providing real world advice and business contacts, and a lab space.


University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2009 - $18,500

Cities account for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of carbon dioxide emissions while occupying only 2% of the world’s surface area. The average annual air temperature of cities with one million or more people can be 1.8-5.4°F warmer than its surroundings; this “heat island” effect increases summertime peak energy demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, air conditioning costs, and water quality.

Green roofing is a way for urban dwellers to reduce carbon dioxide levels, extend the lifespan of their rooftops, decrease water runoff into sewer systems, decrease the heat island effect and, lastly, to grow plants for food and beauty. But green roofing is expensive: between installation, plants, soil, filter, drainage and fabric, a green roof in the US can cost $50 per square foot before government subsidies. Most green roofing practices are also time- and labor-intensive, requiring months to install layers and even longer to cultivate the vegetation.

This E-Team is developing a different, modular approach to green roofing. By using modules, the team is looking to reduce the overall time and cost of installation. The modules also employ sub-irrigation wicking technologies allowing broader ranges of plants, even vegetables and herbs, to be grown on rooftops, balconies, or backyards.

Developing Design Thinking in Multi-Disciplinary Teams

University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2008 - $34,500

The University of Illinois team will create a “design thinking” course for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in the areas of industrial design, engineering and entrepreneurship. Design thinking is the human-centered approach to design and innovation to address the requirements of feasibility, desirability and viability. The course will focus on E-Team formation with multidisciplinary faculty support. These E-Teams will be encouraged to apply for E-Team grants through NCIIA. The grant will offer a course called “Design thinking in multi-disciplinary teams” for both regular academic semesters and summer session, to accommodate the rigid class schedules of engineering and technology students. Most of the time will center on actual project work, but the course will also involve support lectures covering various topics as well as presentations by project teams for critique. These E-Teams will be required to prepare business models for their projects to emphasize the entrepreneurial aspect of this course.

Product & Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces

University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2007 - $21,500

Faculty at UIUC have developed Product & Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces, a two-semester course offered through the colleges of business and engineering geared towards business and engineering practices for subsistence marketplaces. Through immersive practices, students in the pilot year underwent poverty simulation, analyzed and interviewed subsistence individuals, and explored conceptual models of poverty. In the next stage, students were immersed in case studies and guest speakers. Student teams then generated and evaluated a long list of possible solutions to problems, then narrowed it down to a smaller set. In the final phase of the course, students designed market research to be conducted during the field trip, taken during the winter break in Chennai and Bangalore, India.

The goal of this grant is to sustain and further develop the course over the 2008-09 academic year. Specifically, faculty will refine course material based on student feedback and research, create two case studies based on student projects from the pilot class, and fund three student projects.

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Green Engineering

University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2007 - $14,500

This grant seeks to introduce engineering students to global environmental issues in the context of applying entrepreneurial principles and market forces towards solutions. Students will actively engage in the examination of a critical environmental issue in their particular engineering discipline and explore solutions that make sense in a free enterprise business framework. The hope behind this proposal is that the course can help to change the prevailing notion that entrepreneurship is inherently in conflict with the over consumption of goods and natural resources.

The course itself will be offered as part of the university's undergraduate certificate in Technology Commercialization. It is expected that course projects will have an emphasis on bio-fuels and resource management.

Entrepreneurship Beyond Literacy and Resource Barriers: A Proposal for Cross-Functional Course Development and Delivery

University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2005 - $5,000

With this project, NCIIA supports the creation of Developing Products and Markets for Subsistence Marketplaces, a two-course sequence in which teams of engineering and business graduate students identify a general need in the developing world, conduct market research, and develop a prototype, manufacturing plan, marketing strategy and business plan. The course will begin in the fall semester of 2006, with students focusing on setting project objectives, understanding the context they're designing for, and learning about the process of product development. Over Thanksgiving break the teams will travel to India, the first target area of the course, to do first-hand market research, and the remainder of the semester will be spent developing specific product concepts. The spring semester will be spent working the concepts up into prototypes, and developing manufacturing, marketing, and business plans.

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