BusinessStry

Being an effective engineer can also sometimes mean being a deal maker, a marketer, even a manager.

If an engineer is going to successfully commercialize his or her technology so it can be used by millions of people, it takes a certain amount of business acumen to make it work. The problem is a lot of engineers just delegate that half of the work to executives with MBAs.

But there is a lot engineers can learn about the world of business to help them navigate the muddy waters of patents and partnerships. That’s why the University of Utah College of Engineering along with the U’s Eccles School of Business have developed a new Engineering Entrepreneurship Certificate designed to give engineering students the fundamentals necessary to start a business and function in the corporate world. The certificate is college-wide and can be taken by any engineering major.

For more information about the certificate, go to entrepreneurship.coe.utah.edu.

“By not knowing what it takes or the costs and the obstacles involved in business, that can be a significant impediment to something that’s a really good idea,” said University of Utah electrical and computer engineering department chair, Gianluca Lazzi, who also is the program director for the certificate. “By providing the students with the skills and knowledge necessary — from finance, to marketing, to operations and strategy — they can be prepared and avoid several of the pitfalls that come up when people try to start an enterprise.”

The undergraduate certificate requires 20 credit hours, and some courses counted toward an engineering degree can be counted for the certificate. It can be taken as an undergraduate or graduate (a graduate student needs only 15 credit hours to complete the certificate).

Some of the courses include Engineering Entrepreneurship, Launching Technology Ventures, Technical Communications, and Intellectual Property and Business Law. While formal applications are not necessary, prospective students are encouraged to contact the program advisor, Alec Down (alec.down@utah.edu), for guidance.  

Lazzi and U College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown came up with the idea of the certificate so future engineers can more easily understand what it takes to successfully commercialize their research.

“These courses can help them so they can understand the language, read financial statements and not just rely on someone else for those things,” Lazzi said.

Another advantage with the certificate is that these courses are geared specifically for engineers, he added.

“There is an advantage when your colleagues in the courses are like-minded,” he said. “You form in teams and work directly on engineering projects that can enrich them with business knowledge. It’s an extension of what our students are already doing here but we really beef it up with elements important for translating it all into commercialization.”