Any individual or business looking for
a way to access the research and
technological resources of The University of Texas at Dallas need not look
further than the Institute for Innovation &
Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas.
“We’re a business-friendly university. The
Institute serves as a gateway for accessing
the products, research and technology
developed here,” says Joseph C. Picken,
Ph.D., executive director of the institute.
“We strive to provide real opportunities
to turn ideas into products and businesses
that add value,” says David Deeds, Ph.D.,
the institute’s academic director.
Smart Business asked Picken and Deeds
for their input on the process of taking
ideas and turning them into products —
and how the Institute Innovation &
Entrepreneurship can help.
What is the most important question that
must be asked before trying to bring an idea
Deeds: The key question is, ‘What value
will there be for the customer?’ Whoever
the customer might be, you have to give
them enough value that they will be willing
to shift their dollars from what they are
currently doing. Entrepreneurs tend to forget this. Why will someone take a risk and
pay you substantially more to acquire this
product than what it costs you to make it?
Picken: It’s helpful to focus on a single
customer. What value will you create for
this person? Also, entrepreneurs need to
be more realistic about the potential market. Many see a huge market and wrongly
assume that even if they obtain one-tenth
of 1 percent of that market, they will get
rich. That’s not the case. They need to work
from the bottom up — selling their idea
one customer at a time.
What are some of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs or companies make when determining whether an idea can successfully be
brought to market?
Picken: They overestimate the value of
the idea. They also assume they are the
first to see the opportunity, when, in fact, they are frequently in a race to get there
first. Another misconception is that ‘if you
build it, they will come.’ Marketing, channel access and reaction of the competition
are all important factors that must be thoroughly examined.
Deeds: Another mistake involves determining price. Price is determined by what
the customer is willing to pay; it may have
little relevance to the actual cost of producing the good. So you really need to
think about pricing not from the cost
standpoint but on the willingness factor.
Properly managing cash flow is also crucial. Many entrepreneurs will tell you they
‘ran out of money.’ The key is to manage
your resources to minimize the outflow
and maximize the inflow.
Picken: Many entrepreneurs lose contact with their customers as they grow. As
you grow and add layers you should be
ensuring that everyone maintains contact
with customers on a continual basis.
How does the Institute assist the general
business community at large?
Deeds: The institute serves as an initial
point of contact for entrepreneurs, start-up companies and individuals seeking assistance from the university, with respect to
projects, programs and new ventures within the general domain of innovation and
entrepreneurship. In addition to our academic programs that teach students how
to think like entrepreneurs, we offer programs such as the Entrepreneurial
Development Series and the Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Boot
Camp. We also match students with local
companies for special projects and internships.
Picken: In addition, we have an External
Alliance program that brings together the
broader community including businesses,
incubators, investors, professional service
firms, local, state and federal governments,
and higher education institutions across
How do businesses benefit by working with
the Institute for Innovation &
Picken: First, both large and small businesses need the entrepreneurial viewpoint.
Our programs give executives a chance to
learn those mindsets. Second, it gives companies the opportunity to attend the
Research and Technology Showcases held
at the university three times per year.
Third, working with the institute gives
managers the opportunity to interact with
students. Finally, there are opportunities
for sponsorships and networking.
Deeds: The institute itself is an entrepreneurial venture. We encourage local executives to keep an eye on our Web site, call
us, visit our offices. We are continuing to
evolve and always welcome the opportunity to work with the local business community.
JOSEPH C. PICKEN, Ph.D. is executive director of the Institute
for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at
Dallas. Reach him at (972) 883-4986 or [email protected].
DAVID DEEDS, Ph.D., is academic director. Reach him at (972)
883-5904 or [email protected]. Visit their Web site at