SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Lawrence Technological University and Sargon Partners of Walled Lake have signed a nonbinding agreement for commercializing new products developed by students.
The agreement came about after three student teams working on senior projects in the Department of Engineering Technology at Lawrence Tech co-developed products that Sargon deemed worthy of taking to market. Commercialization of these products is the result of Sargon’s unique process for creating concept companies to develop specific products.
Under the new agreement, when Sargon identifies a student project with commercialization potential, Lawrence Tech will provide commercialization rights for a certain time period. The university will also provide supporting information for the product’s intellectual property, including prototypes, manufacturing plans, engineering designs, university assistance, documentation and market research.
In return, Lawrence Tech can expect to receive a 5 percent royalty or equity stake in the resulting venture. The exact terms will be determined in a contract for each product that will also include the role and compensation for the students who developed the product.
“We want the students to become the management team with equity in the company that developed the product,” said Jeff Golota, managing director of Sargon Partners. “The students that developed the product, understand the technology, and are passionate about the product are the ideal team to take that product to market.”
Sargon is currently pursuing three products co-developed by Lawrence Tech students:
Ken Cook, chairman of the Department of Engineering Technology at Lawrence Tech, served as faculty advisor for the three senior projects.
“Having industry involved in the student projects is a win-win proposition because it really sparks the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial mindset in the students and provides the company with potentially good solutions to their market requests,” Cook said.
Golota appreciates Cook’s approach to senior projects. “Ken is passionate about the process and is a good influence,” Golota said. “He is concerned about teaching the engineering concepts involved, while we are teaching the students about entrepreneurship and showing them how a product can come to life.”
Golota said he likes working with college seniors because they don’t have pre-conceived ideas, are open to new technology, and bring both passion and enthusiasm to their projects.
“Lawrence Tech students are hands-on, practical and concerned about implementing a product, not just the theory involved,” Golota said. “Sargon is committed to using our local engineering talent to create companies that will enable graduates of Michigan colleges to live and work in Michigan.”
Mark Brucki, executive director of economic development and government relations at Lawrence Tech, said Sargon Partners is one of the few venture capital firms willing to get involved with new products at such an early stage.
This arrangement greatly reduces a company’s investment risk and provides the opportunity to choose the best products to move forward, while the students and faculty benefit from the mentoring provided by entrepreneurs, according to Brucki.
“We’re trying to make it easier for venture capital firms to work in the university environment,” Brucki said. “This allows more direct access to the students and faculty without a bureaucracy getting in the way.”
As a result of its collaboration on the Super Squat student senior project, Sargon became the first industry partner to receive funding through the Professor George Schneider, Jr. Senior Project Award, which was created to bridge the gap between academia and industry.
Super Squat is a device designed to assist the user in safely performing a proper barbell squat for lower-body weight training. The device uses an optimizing grip position for added stability and pads for barbell support. An electronic alert warns when the user exceeds five degrees from vertical in either direction.
One of the team members is a weight lifter who wanted a way to reduce the chance of injury to the back of the neck and eliminate possibility of severe injury from tipping over.
Sargon provided financial support for the senior projects that developed the two automotive products it is commercializing. The oil leak detection system has already been installed on ten vehicles, and Sonic Parking Assist has reached the manufacturing stage.
Sargon is currently seeking additional Lawrence Tech students to take over management and continue product improvement of those products.
Sargon has developed a unique concept company process that creates innovative products and companies. The concept company process utilizes an 18-point milestone plan that quickly identifies market opportunities, develops a proof of concept, produces prototypes of products and identifies potential customers.
“We have developed real opportunities for the students to combine their education with an entrepreneurial environment to show that the students can create real products and companies,” Golota said.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey, Traverse City and Toronto. Lawrence Tech also partners with universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.