Published on October 23, 2014
1. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering Working with Universities Ronan Farrell
2. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering some background Worked in industry from the chemical industry, power stations, to microchips. Joined Maynooth in 2001 and since then have become head of electronic engineering An electronics engineer with an interest in software systems combining software and hardware systems can lead to innovative solutions, a trend that is increasingly popular for the “internet of things”, “wearables”, medical devices
3. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering the sort of projects I’ve worked on •Cheaper testing techniques for a chip manufacturer •an integrated software solution and embedded sensor for monitoring animal health (company formed) •a software driven configuration and calibration tool for antenna arrays (company formed) •an internet-enabled smart-phone device for the home •a distance measuring device and display for measuring the distance to the hole on the green in golf •Dog-fouling and litter monitoring system (product launched) •A wireless network technology for rural communities •A software app for the sailing community Many more, some much bigger, some much more hardware orientated
4. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering what are universities useful for? Expertise An active researcher should know the global state of the art in their area, and be able to answer questions. Exploring Young postgrads and their supervisors see things differently… we can explore the crazy idea, see what is viable? Prototyping We can build a proof-of-concept, de-risk the process, identify the problem points.
5. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering what are universities not good at? Working to short deadlines Research is only part of our job, we need to fit it around other commitments.. Research tends to be slower, aiming for perfection rather than what’s good enough Commercial Grade Product Finishing Tech people don’t tend to do final product design or UI design… get an expert Commercial Validation Dare I say it… most of us if we could identify the commercial value, we’d be running our own businesses already.
6. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering how to get a successful engagement? There are some things you need to answer first… •what is the problem that you want solved? Often framed as •How do I …. •Lay out your constraints as clear as possible… •It must fit into a box of size … •It must cost less than … euro •I need it within … weeks •I can only afford this much on the project? •Who is going to absorb the results from your side? Your university partner can help you work towards the answers to these questions, even before starting
7. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering the best value consultancy… Many academics are willing to sit down for over coffee and discuss all these issues, tell you about the state of the art, etc. In my experience, that short chat, with no NDAs, no contracts, no costs, can be very valuable to someone struggling with how to even start exploring a new idea or innovation
8. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering a story of engagement-1 Alcatel-Lucent was working with us on a different project and they asked us a question “how do we get rid of the black feeder cables to the antennas?” Why… because the cost is about 10K€/tower? The solution can’t cost more, can’t waste power, can’t be too heavy, must support multiple antennas
9. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering a story of engagement-2 Joe Moore of Socowave (before it was formed) came looking for technology, the first conversation was a chat.. The next conversation was still a chat.. After many more discussions, the question was Can you make a proof-of-concept prototype for this technology, adapted to my needs… And what went with that was a set of constraints and features that Joe needed to present to potential investors.
10. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering a story of engagement-3 Later, another question arose… How do you control the timing of all your signals on the board? In this case, we didn’t fully solve the problem but there was useful byproducts along the way, the key was continued and engagement and informed flexibility for the project. Research is risky but there are usually valuable results along the way
11. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering a story of engagement-4 We’re currently not working on a funded engagement with Socowave but that is going to change with the new SFI Centres. However we continue to have our cups of coffee. It is mutually beneficial. I learn as much from the meetings as they do, and I hope we continue to provoke new ideas.
12. Maynooth University, Dept of Electronic Engineering some final tips The core of a successful engagement is a good relationship between the company person and the academic. The academic is just another person… we are often busy, this is usually extra work for them, but the engagements are interesting to us. Finding the right partner is a big problem, CTVR, ISIN can help, but the tech offices in most universities will also help. IP issues can always be managed, but don’t start with an NDA, I’ve yet to see the need for an NDA for the first few meetings. If you have someone who can absorb the results, then you can engage fully, adapt the relationship as you go along, and be sure that you can get value from the results. It’s all about people.
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