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CSM Class Blends Entrepreneurship With Technological Innovation to Benefit Students, Navy and Private Businesses

LA PLATA, Md. - The disciplines of engineering and business, though not immediately apparent, have a good deal of similarities. Both value growth, development, innovation and standards that allow for synergy between entrepreneurs and engineers.

To expand and encourage that synergy, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) partnered with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) command, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and other Navy activities to create “BAD-2200: Innovation Driven Entrepreneur.” The course partners up-and-coming businesspeople with scientific mentors from the command to hone their skills in marketing and business.

“In this intensive, experiential learning course, teams comprised of students partner[ed] with an innovator and experienced mentor practice a proven methodology for creating startup companies to market their innovation,” the course description reads. “The course focuses on getting students out of the classroom to pursue customer development and test their business model hypotheses against the realities of the market. The course is designed to help students understand what it takes to be a successful startup entrepreneur and determine whether starting a business, or working for a startup, is the right path for them.”

CSM’s partnership with the command is one of mutual benefit. Students receive hands-on experience with some of the patented technologies that NSWC IHD offers, in addition to mentorship from command employees, while the command gets to market itself to a budding generation of engineers, scientists and businesspeople. The command also encourages new, creative uses for existing technologies by offering an opportunity for technology-based start-up companies and small businesses within the region.

“We want to encourage the retention of talent within the Southern Maryland region,” CSM Engineering Professor Dr. John Short said. “Students gaining firsthand knowledge of the technologies around them can then put their new skills to work supporting the same organization that taught them. It’s a win-win.”

This collaboration is part of a broader effort to leverage the Navy, academia and the private sector to drive innovation and mutual growth. Jointly developed by Short and Dr. Chris Wilhelm, NSWC IHD director of Technology Transfer, the effort uses funding from multiple sources, including the Technology Venture Pilot Program (TVPP) and a grant from ONR’s Rapid Agile Individual Deployment program.

“We are trying to build a culture of innovation and collaboration between the Navy, CSM and private businesses,” Short said. “The Navy has a long, proud history of technological development, but this culture of innovation is often bogged down by the constraints of bureaucracy, which ultimately stifles creativity. We want to change that and create a system where each actor supports the others, allowing for technological and economic advancement for all parties.”

Wilhelm further elaborated on this collaboration, specifically giving an outline of the BAD-2200 course offered in 2020.

“The TVPP, funded by ONR Technology Transfer Program Manager Ms. Kendra Meggett-Carr, ties the disciplines of engineering and business together into an entrepreneurial-focused opportunity for the students at CSM,” Wilhelm said. “Students, paid as interns, performed hands-on engineering and business-related market research for the purpose of rapidly advancing technology development with a market focus. Naval laboratory and university partnerships can leverage this model to provide practical experience in technology development and business development education, while increasing awareness and interest in future job opportunities in the federal laboratory system.”

Short credits the success of this partnership to his strong working relationship with Wilhelm. He said the two hope that this partnership helps pave the way for future economic development and growth for all of Southern Maryland.

“By building a new generation of support for NSWC IHD and the fleet, the new workforce will likely want to live in Southern Maryland,” Short said. “This population growth and revitalization opens up another opportunity for business and industry to come in and provide services like hospitality and recreation, among others. The benefits are vast and the future of this region looks bright.”

A similar course to BAD-2200 will be offered in March by CSM in a virtual format, with the potential for on-site prototype building and development at the CSM Velocity Center in Indian Head, Maryland. Strict COVID-19 guidelines will be followed in instances of in-person learning.

While it is a credit class, Short stressed that is not solely for undergraduates and that it is as much open to scientists and engineers as it is to budding business students.

“A misconception I hear about this course is that some folks think it is solely about taking government technologies and learning how to market them to the private sector. This is not necessarily true,” Short said. “This course is open to intrapreneurs as much as it is entrepreneurs. The same lessons taught to businesspeople who want to market a technology to investors can easily be used by scientists and engineers who are looking for funding from government agencies for continued research and development. An ideal subject matter expert for this course is the same as an ideal student — someone looking for ways to market their research and development and procure additional funding.”

Contact Short at jsshort1@csmd.edu and Wilhelm at christopher.wilhelm@navy.mil for any additional questions related to the collaboration between the command and CSM, or technology transfer as a whole.

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