At the university, students are engaged in absorbing the knowledge of their fields, learning specialized methods, and developing practical analytical skills. This educational milieu can be a caldron for formulating and percolating ideas that are inspired by coursework, student passions, or the exchange of ideas between students and with faculty. What happens next?
Sometimes, ideas are shaped into independent study or undergraduate research, or may become the topic of an IPRO project for one or more semesters. If conditions are right, solid concepts and prototypes may bake, solidify and even be reformulated, pivoting in new directions that seem to hold more promise. However, the missing ingredients can be: (a) a sense of mission and greater purpose; (b) a connection with intended users/beneficiaries, and (c) seed funding to nurture growth and maturation of the concept. Unfortunately, it is these missing ingredients that cause the concept to die on the vine and the motivation of the founder(s) to wither and die because of priorities like getting good grades and finding a job.
The goal of this project is to organize interdisciplinary teams to develop innovative concepts directed toward addressing important needs and opportunities inspired by funding sources that have well-articulated social missions. Please note that while this IPRO section is led by a chemistry faculty member, the scope of ideas, technologies, applications and funding sources encompasses any and all fields of inquiry. The lead instructor and IPRO Program Office will be tapping faculty researchers and proposal writing staff experts from across the university to support teams in this IPRO section depending on the focus of their ideas and funding sources identified.
This IPRO section is organized as a multi-IPRO themed cluster, with on the order of four or five interdisciplinary teams of five students each. The teams will gain practical experience in: (1) scouting for and identifying sources of funding; (2) scanning sources of ideas and incubating new ones; (3) conceiving, developing and prototyping innovative concepts, responsive to the mission and priorities of funding sources, by applying user-centered design methods to determine technical feasibility, user desirability and business viability; (4) drafting winning proposals that are critiqued, refined and ready for submittal to one or more funding sources; and (5) for those concepts and draft proposals that are strong and are felt to merit support, and have sustaining founder interest and commitment, creating a path forward for submitting a proposal (or handing it off to others), obtaining feedback and being prepared to pivot in a new direction or submit to other funding sources. The framework for this experience is described in greater detail below:
The IPRO teams will benefit from guests that have expertise in identifying sources of ideas, scouting for sources of funding, and writing compelling proposals. This may include Illinois Tech staff from the Office of Research Compliance & Proposal Development, Institutional Advancement, and Corporate Relations, as well as faculty from the sciences, engineering, business, psychology, applied technology, architecture, etc. who have been successful in fundraising.