MOT-19 Student's Capstone Leads to Patent | Technological Leadership Institute
For the first time in its history, the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) has partnered with students to file a patent on a product that originated from a Capstone project. M.S. in Management of Technology (MOT) ’19 alumnus Amrit Supriya, MOT '18 alumnus Trung Ha, TLI Senior Fellow and instructor Paul R. Hansen and team member Shrikant Kotwad recently applied for a provisional patent on a prototype design for a very timely ergonomic standing desk for home office users.
What makes their standing desk different?
“Small office desk products in the market today are not adequately adapted for home users as most products in the market have no consistency in architecture and features. Our current prototype combines portability with ergonomics in intuitive ways, meeting users ergonomic, productivity, mobility and collaboration needs,” said Supriya. “This cannot be more pertinent than right now when most of the workforce has shifted to work from home arrangements due to the COVID situation.”
As with most good ideas, the product was born out of the search for a solution to a personal problem — in this case, Supriya’s back pain induced by poor posture while working at home. As an engineering group leader at Cummins, Supriya has been involved in several new product development projects but had lacked the tools and skills to launch his passion project — until now.
“About four years ago, I started looking for a professional development program to hone my leadership and management skills,” Supriya said. Originally considering an MBA, he instead decided to pursue an M.S. in Management of Technology.
“MOT had the right balance of technical and management exposure that was a better fit for my career aspirations. The program provided me with the skills, tools and networks to develop broad perspectives on technology management. MOT has also helped me develop my entrepreneurial spirit as I am currently pursuing my startup idea as a passion project from my MOT capstone project ‘Rethinking the Small Desk for Home Using a New Startup Methodology.' Pursuing an MOT vs MBA was one of the best professional decisions of my life.”
Supriya said the idea for the standing home desk really started taking shape as he gained and leveraged the skills learned in his MOT courses.
“For instance, I used the project management course to develop a business model canvas and used the developing new technology products and services course to analyze, evaluate and improve current startup methodology. I led brainstorming sessions and incorporated feedback from surveys and early prototypes. Both my MOT colleagues and TLI faculty participated and supported my work. Each small step fed into the next one and led me to pursue this idea for my capstone.”
As part of the project, he conducted an IP (Intellectual Property) analysis for the standing desk market and concluded that there were important, unique features in his vision that would be valuable to end-users and can be patentable.
“One of our class lectures included IP strategy and resources available through the University of Minnesota’s Office of Technology Commercialization,” said Supriya. “They are a great resource that can help with IP evaluation and commercialization support. I submitted the initial technical ideas to them. They assessed my ideas and confirmed that there were elements in the desk that can be patented.”
After completing his Capstone, Supriya realized to bring this concept to market, he would need more help.
“We are now a team of four people; where each one of us brings a unique skill set but the common passion to the project. I lead the overall execution, technical oversight, and electrical integration. Trung Ha leads the technology management, controls integration and prototype builds. Shrikant Kotwad leads the mechanical integration, prototype builds and design activities. Paul Hansen acts as an advisor providing us with years of entrepreneurship experience to keep us moving us in the right direction.”
Supriya said he hopes their story will inspire other aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas and offered this advice: "Pursue challenges that you really care about. Also, always seek truth rather being defensive about your ideas. Keep testing your hypotheses with small wins. Continue to move forward if you get positive evidence otherwise consider moving to the next idea as failing fast is always a better alternative than not trying at all.” Supriya adds as an entrepreneur it is important to remain flexible, patient and always be ready for challenges.
"Pursuing an MOT vs MBA was one of the best professional decisions of my life.”