Fast Tracking Products to Market

Among the hurdles faced by entrepreneurs as they work to bring their products to the marketplace is the need to have a working prototype to be used for consumer validation and fundraising.

 

The Business Resource Center (BRC) at Utah Valley University (UVU) has recently opened the Rapid Development Center, a place where small business, students, faculty, staff or others from the community can receive support in developing their prototypes.

The Rapid Development Center provides a means to do things quickly without having to spend a lot of money to see whether or not their idea or product is going to work. One portion of the Rapid Development Center focuses on developing physical, tangible products through the use of 3D printing, while the other focuses on software.

“We pieced the different types of programs together, software and product development, all in one place,” said Steven Roy, associate vice president of economic development for UVU and director of the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative’s (USTAR) central office.

Inspired in part by the rapid product realization center at Brigham Young University that has now been made available to BYU students only, the BRC’s Rapid Development Center is open to anyone in the service areas of Utah, Summit and Wasatch counties.

Roy says the genesis of the Rapid Development Center was having a resource in the community that was discontinued and yet still having a strong, ongoing demand.

“As we looked around we couldn’t find the same sort of resources available for a reasonable rate within our region for entrepreneurs to utilize,” said Roy. “We looked at that opportunity and said we can create that vehicle here at UVU using students and faculty along with industry experts to help us. So we’re going to not only continue that resource, but try and grow it.”

In partnership with UVU, the BRC and USTAR, the center was built to support the efforts of entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses.

To take advantage of the Rapid Development Center, all an entrepreneur or small business owner has to do is contact the BRC, through which they can be connected with the Rapid Development Center and a time can be set up to discuss the nature of the project.

Peter Jay, associate director of economic development for UVU and USTAR associate director for central Utah said that the Rapid Development Center includes equipment for video game development. There is a student team in the incubator phase of developing a video game, and the visual media department at UVU is assisting in commercializing the product.

“The idea is the partnership with the school of technology and computing, the BRC and the Rapid Development Center, we would have commercialization licenses and as they are ready to move the game in the commercial direction, they could come over and work and have space in the student incubator and be able to use the hardware and software upstairs in the Rapid Development Center,” said Jay.

Rodayne Esmay, professor in the digital media department at UVU, said that in addition to being a resource for entrepreneurs and companies, the facility provides a production space where students and faculty can work on real-world projects like apps and games, digital films that are released and exhibited in festivals and competitions and Internet design and development for actual clients. The department’s four-year program culminates in a capstone project for seniors, where they are given the opportunity to work for non-profit organizations designing and developing projects.

“There’s a big push at UVU for engaged learning where students can work on real projects with real companies,” said Roy. “We saw this as an opportunity for media students to work on the software side, and those in technology courses could work on the product development side.”

Students have worked with clients such as the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, the Utah County Food Bank, the Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Travel and Tourism, the Film commission and many others. Students that study animation and game development build projects with mentors who are currently in industry, or who have extensive professional production experience.

“With the RDC in place, we avoid some of the headaches concerning copyright and licensing we have had to deal with in the past,” said Esmay. “These projects were complicated and sometimes hindered because they were developed in our teaching labs, with hardware and software using educational licensing. The RDC, and other grant opportunities have allowed us to build an incubation center in the Computer Science Building and now the RDC located in the Business Resource Center.”