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Imperial MBAs Fight It Out Over Innovation Projects

Entrepreneurship Projects in Full Swing at Imperial Business School

By  Rob Kirby

Wed Feb 16 2011

The current batch of Imperial College MBA students are trying their hands at running entrepreneurial projectsBusinessBecause caught up with them this week to see how it’s going.

The projects are part of their Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design (IE&D) course, in which they are expected to lead a project from the ideas stage right through to producing a business plan. And the teams with the best ideas could go on to present their plan to a panel of professional investors for a cash prize in an Imperial College competition – the team with the most realistic investment idea will win.

Thais Lauer, 26, from Brazil and her team are still at the blackboard stage with their project, but they’ve already learnt a lot about communication. Thais herself ended a career as an industrial engineer on oilfields in the Middle East and the Sahara Desert to pursue entrepreneurship.

Her team has at least chosen a possible customer need: a public space for rest and reflection, where professionals can go for “30-40 minute breaks in the express world”

When this is finalised and a product or service has been chosen, Thais’ team will carry out real-life market testing before eventually laying out business and finance plans for the idea. The whole process could take them up to four months, but it’s an exciting chance for a risk-free attempt at entrepreneurship. And the teamwork experience has already been valuable to her.

“It is still very challenging to make your point of view, even in a small team”, Thais says. “Sometimes we have a very tense discussion and each of the team members try to defend their own ideas. The difference is that in the end, we know that we have to reach a conclusion that will be the best for the business idea.”

“Because of that common goal, the fact that we know that each of the members has the good intention of making the best to the business is what prevails. When we finish the meeting the disagreements stay inside the discussion room. It is very important to separate these moments as the team spend a lot of time together and the day to day has to be pleasant for things to work fine.”

Darlington Howland chose the IE&D course because she wanted to “learn first-hand about the process of starting up a business and bringing a product to market.” She has brought her own experience from planning music industry events to a team of fellow MBA students as well as chemical engineers, and four product developers.

The idea? “A portable testing device (HPLC anywhere) developed by several Imperial College PHD students,” says Darlington. “This revolutionary device will eliminate the need for sending samples to a lab for testing, allowing individuals to conduct any number of tests in the field.”

“The implications of this are extraordinary and the potential applications - limitless." The three PHD students in the team already won £20,000 of business development money when the device came first in a business competition last Summer.

Darlington and Thais are both hopeful that their projects will be among the 5 projects presented to the panel of investors at the end of the year. You can find out more about last year’s winners – and their product pictured above – here.