Business school awards students for product innovations

Article By: Ryan Boyle

In 2006, the Sawyer Business School established the New Product Innovation Competition, founded by Executive in Residence, Sushil Bhatia.  Bhatia was asked by Dean William O’Neil to use his background in innovation, entrepreneurism, and his experience with patenting products to start working on brining more innovation and entrepreneurism to the Sawyer Business School.  The competition was started from scratch in 2006, with a mere 40 students.  Four years later in 2010, the competition yields around 300 entries, with 600 graduate and undergraduate students participating and waiting for their proposals to be reviewed by a panel of three judges.

Prizes are awarded for the top three innovators overall, in addition to one winner for the Urvashi Bhatia Green Product Award and one winner from the Management 101 class.

Gururaj “Desh” Desphande, Chairman of Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, A123 Systems, Sandstone Captial, and HiveFire then delivered the keynote address. Dr. Desphande has an extensive background in electrical and data communications, holding degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, University of New Brunswick, and Queens University.  In regards to this year’s competition, Desh remarked, “the energy is very nice, it’s nice to see the energy here.”  He would like to see programs such as Suffolk’s New Product Innovation Competition expanded to other universities, “each individual university’s innovation cannot be duplicated, Suffolk cannot duplicate MIT’s innovation, and MIT cannot duplicate Suffolk’s innovation.”

Reflecting on this year’s competition, Bhatia noted that there was a significant increase in the amount of green or sustainable proposals in comparison to previous years.  In the future the business school plans to expand the award categories, expand the resources that are available for students after the competition, and putting together a board of advisors.  When asked by the Journal what Bhatia’s personal highlight of running the competition is he replied, “The happiness I see amongst students.  Your ideas can really change your life.  I think through my competition I can really change peoples lives.”

From the judge’s perspective, “the quality has definitely improved” according to Joseph DiaBiase who has been a judge for the past several years.  He has noticed the work put into the proposals and the nature of the products has greatly improved throughout the years.  His favorite experience about each event is putting the faces and names together from the proposals he reads.

Dolores Fici, Class of 1972, said, “the [keynote] speaker was excellent” and was satisfied with the event overall.  Fici is the inventor of the “MAG-CAP,” which is a magnetic screw-cap that gets outfitted onto small laboratory containers, so if dropped can be easily retrieved by a pole or rod with a magnetic tip.  The “MAG-CAP” currently has a provisional patent, in the process of being commercialized, and can be produced for less than one cent.

Lexi Zenner, class of 2012, was awarded the Urvashi Bhatia Green Product Award, for her product “Tater Ware,” environmentally friendly biodegradable food service containers, cups, and utensils.   “[It’s] amazing that I won, it’s so exciting,” said Zenner. “Tater Ware” is currently in production through Biodegradable Food Service, her father’s company, where Zenner is “excited to introduce new products to an existing market.”

In comparison to previous competitions, Suffolk CAS Alumni Board President Dennis Walczewski concluded that this year’s competition included, “more interest, more participation, more creative proposals with the times” and he expects the event to grow and expand in the future.  “This puts Suffolk on the map.  We are a innovative university, this scratches the surface for the future.”

For a full list of this years New Product Innovation Competition winners , visit thesuffolkjournal.com.