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UTPA helps inventors turn dreams into dollars at workshop
Posted: 07/12/2012
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The University of Texas-Pan American's Office of Innovation and Intellectual Property joined the Tropical Texas Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization (RCIC) in hosting a two-day workshop to help people develop their inventions into businesses that produce jobs in South Texas.

Mark Allen, a UTPA student majoring in history, participates in a two-day workshop that helps inventors develop business ideas for their innovations. Allen and fellow UTPA student Danny Baladrano presented their business plan to sell L.E.D.-powered name tags.

More than 30 people from as far away as Corpus Christi and Laredo attended the workshop, called, "So What? Who Cares? Why You?", held at UTPA's Community Engagement and Student Success Building on Freddy Gonzalez Drive July 10-11.

Academic officials from Texas A&M-Kingsville, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, as well as economic development leaders from the area attended the workshop, led by Wendy Kennedy, a nationally known consultant who helps technical people translate their inventions into commercially viable enterprises.

The second day of the workshop concentrated on teaching attendees how to coach others.

"We want the region to be successful," said Laurie Simmons, executive director of the Tropical Texas RCIC. "We're one of seven regions within the state that are part of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Our job is to find great new ideas and help get those ideas translated into businesses that grow the region. We are delighted to fund this workshop with UTPA."

Some people who have great technical expertise might not have strong business skills, so their brilliant ideas might not come to fruition because they were not successful in finding the funding to commercialize their ideas, said Jacquelyn Michel, director of Innovation and Intellectual Property at UTPA.

"That's where we come in, to work with the researchers at UTPA and help move their intellectual property, their ideas, toward value," Michel said. "That's why we are happy to have this workshop funded by the RCIC. After taking this workshop, people will know how to develop a plan to get the funding necessary to move their ideas toward commercial success."

Dr. Penny Simpson, UTPA professor of marketing and the director of the Valley Market and Tourism Research Center, assists an inventor develop his business plan to commercialize his product.

One such idea brought to the workshop came from UT Pan American students Danny Baladrano and Mark Allen. Baladrano, the past president and co-founder of UTPA's Student Think-tank for Innovation and Research (STIR), and Allen, a former vice president of the Student Government Association, presented a name tag with light emitting diode (LED) lights developed by students. The name tags were sold as souvenirs at HESTEC last fall. They were so popular the production could not keep up with demand.

STIR is looking to turn the LED name tags into viable commercial products, with sales to amusement parks and other places where souvenirs are sold. Baladrano and Allen want the name tags manufactured at UT Pan American and have the profits return to STIR so future students can commercialize their inventions.

Dr. Penny Simpson, UTPA professor of marketing and the director of the Valley Market and Tourism Research Center, said she is always looking for new ways to encourage her students to think creatively and connect the dots between innovations and business.

"Ideas such as those in this workshop help my students to help others," Simpson said. "We often have entrepreneurs come to us looking for ways to promote their ideas among the large Winter Texan migration each year. These are ideas I can pass on to them and help them grow their businesses and provide more employment opportunities here in the Valley."

UTPA Veterans Business Outreach Center Director Carlos Gutierrez said he also found the workshop to be helpful for him and his clients.

"Some of the vets I assist have some great ideas, such as two we're working on now who developed some great software that needs to be commercialized," Gutierrez said. "This is great information I will pass on to all the veterans who come through our doors."

For more information, visit the Office of Research Administration's website.