In October, our Full-Time MBA students navigated the Imperial Innovation Challenge. In our previous blog, Aakanksha Jaiswa shared her experience of the week working with PulpaTronics, a start-up specialising in recyclable RFID tags. In this blog Full-Time MBA student Eva Look, shares her experience navigating this week and working with WaveX. Wave X is a startup developing wave energy converters that can be embedded under the seabed. It was named as one of Imperial’s most promising new businesses.
The week itself
The Imperial Innovation Challenge is a week-long programme that brings together Full-Time MBA students from Imperial College Business School and design students from the Royal College of Art. The aim of this activity is to foster collaboration on early-stage technology projects, with around 3 in Technology Readiness Level (TRL - a scale going up to 9 that evaluates the maturity of technologies), within the Imperial College ecosystem. During the event held at the White City Campus, we could explore technology commercialisation and apply integrated business thinking to tackle technological challenges.
"The lessons we have gained from this experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable in our future projects involving new technologies, particularly when it comes to effectively communicating complex technical concepts in simpler terms."
Our team project
Our team had the privilege of working on an idea developed by WaveX, a start-up that recently won one of the prizes in the latest Wave Energy Scotland competition. The project involves an innovative device made of rubber that can submerge into and emerge from the seabed along the coastal line. This device serves a dual purpose: enabling beach nourishment and harnessing wave energy to generate renewable electricity.
The device leverages the process used by stargazer fish to sink itself into the sediment by liquifying it with water injection. After multiple iterations and experiments in the laboratories of Imperial College London, the current prototype can replicate this process and can sink to an area of up to 4m². It can also emerge from the sand if necessary.
Challenges we encountered along the way
The biggest challenges our team encountered involved identifying additional potential markets beyond beach nourishment and wave energy generation. While exploring different opportunities, we believe that WaveX still has untapped potential in terms of target market sizes, which can support the business and research and development processes. We have also faced the task of designing other prototypes to meet the demands of these new markets.
How we overcame this obstacle
With our team members’ knowledge and expertise in offshore operations, we have identified that channel and port management is a potential market we can tap into, where there is a potential market size of £150 billion. In order to validate our concept, we had customer interviews with port managers to gain more insights on their needs and switching costs. We also closely worked with the founders to confirm if our prototype concepts are feasible. With the close collaboration between the stakeholders, we were able to solidify a viable business idea to present.
My highlights of the week
The highlights of the week undoubtedly revolved around the final presentation day, where we had the opportunity to present our own ideas and learn from other teams as well. I was amazed by the different innovative approaches taken by teams to tackle a wide range of problems. One notable example was the winning team, which successfully facilitated the spin-off of MakeSense Technology, a device initially designed to assist visually impaired individuals with navigation, into a new device that helps people with dementia regain their autonomy.
The feedback we received from the judging panels, often referred to as the "fire breathing dragons", was incredibly insightful. The questions they posed during each presentation were invaluable, and I gained a wealth of knowledge from their input.
Support and mentorship we received
Throughout the week, in addition to lectures on intellectual property and commercialisation case studies at Imperial, we were guided through the entire commercialisation process using a series of TRL Tools, Business Templates, and Exercises. These resources allowed us to experiment and test our theories. Furthermore, we had the opportunity to visit the Advance Hackspace, where we could utilise the equipment in the workshops for rapid prototyping, modelling, and fabrication through our ideation process.
“This experience has been a valuable learning opportunity, teaching us the intricacies of applying technology to business and emphasising the significance of both technical and business de-risking.”
My key takeaways from the week
Although our team did not win any prizes in the challenge, we are incredibly proud of our presentation and elated to have captured the interest of the judging panel. This experience has been a valuable learning opportunity, teaching us the intricacies of applying technology to business and emphasising the significance of both technical and business de-risking. The lessons we have gained from this experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable in our future projects involving new technologies, particularly when it comes to effectively communicating complex technical concepts in simpler terms.