Pathways to Innovation Faculty Participates in VentureWell: OPEN 2016 Conference

During this past March 4th and 5th, professors José E. Lugo, Mari Zapata, Ubaldo Córdova and Lourdes Medina were at VentureWell’s Open 2016 Conference. The conference gathers professors and university students from all disciplines to allow them to share their experiences, begin collaborations and learn about the best practices within the field of technology entrepreneurship education. Throughout this conference, VentureWell aims to foster the emerging generation of inventors and entrepreneurs driven to improve life for people and the planet. []

Throughout this conference, the professors participated in a series of events dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. Professors José E. Lugo and Mari Zapata presented The Weekend Design Challenge. Also, professor Lourdes Medina presented a poster featuring her study of the medical device development process and its implementation in the classroom for engineering students.

Talking about the experience Prof. Ubaldo Córdova said:

“The Open Conference was a valuable experience because it helped us calibrate our current efforts at UPRM. Through seminars, workshops, and panels we learned best practices from other universities on how to promote the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem among students and faculty. A clear denominator from the activities was the need to incorporate authentic learning in our classrooms as an incentive to creative thinking and therefore, the need to try new things. Open also provided a great platform to share our own experiences with other universities going through similar transformations. Overall, in spite of challenges ahead, it energized us to continue our plan thanks to the program Pathways to Innovation.”

Prof. Lourdes Medina also said:

“From Venturewell’s Open Conference I received an overdose of inspiration and empowerment to impact my future endeavors as an academician and advocate of UPRM’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Eco-System. This stimulus involved reinforcing my knowledge about game-based learning, design thinking, e-portfolios, business model canvas, start-up/design challenges and maker spaces. With this in mind, I am compromised to teach about innovation in innovative ways through experiential learning. As a researcher I am motivated to study and create new design methodologies to improve design decisions in engineering and applied systems (as the name of my research group – IDDEAS). This gave me the opportunity to network with potential collaborators working with an entrepreneurial mindset in the Bioengineering field. More than a conference, it was an experience I will never forget. I am ready to make the difference! You are next!”

Prof. José E. Lugo also said:

“The presentation of the Weekend Design Challenge was very rewarding. We were able to share the results of our program with other members of the I&E community and validate that we are on the right track. From the conference I got feedback on how to improve the Weekend Design Challenge and the New Venture Design Experience program.”

From the above commentary we can definitely say that the conference was much more than a learning experience as it was a means of motivation for professors to continue their efforts and endeavors in growing the entrepreneurship and innovation network within our University.

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Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office seminar at NVDE

As class number 7 rolls in, the students are presented with a new workshop to further increase their Innovative skills. Said workshop is specifically about protecting innovative ideas. Lead by Josiah Hernandez, Director of the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (OPIYTT) here at UPRM, he began his presentation by explaining all the different services the OPITT office provides for the students and general faculty in the university. Amongst the different concepts he explained were: Intellectual Property, Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, and so on. On each of the aforementioned terms he talked about what they entail, what their uses are and what strategies are closely related to each of them. On the topic of Trade Secrets, he told some stories of different companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart and the like, who have triumphed by using this very technique. On the specific topic of Patents, he talked about the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 which details what a patent is and what it provides. Stressing the fact that a patent only works in the country where it is issued and for a fixed amount of time, many different scenarios surfaced as questions and concerns from the classes students. Lastly, he proceeded to give each and every one of the class projects some advice on how to proceed with their project in terms of the Intellectual Property involved in each of them. Now, each E-team is readily aware of the OPITT office and its services, and each aspect that surrounds Intellectual Property protection. With this new or improved knowledge base, their projects should take on a more directed approach towards pushing the boundaries of existing technologies.

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Has it been done? Searching for Prior Art (FED Guest post by: Luis Figarella)

Has it been done? Searching for Prior Art

To obtain a patent in the US, you need to overcome three rejection areas:

101         Not Patentable. After Alice vs. CLS, you’re bound to get one if your inventions ‘smells’ like software.

102         Prior Art. It has been patented, used publicly, offered for sale in the past.

103         Obvious. Before you there was A, there was B, and your invention is an obvious combination of A+B.

So to a large extent, it behooves you to know if your invention (no, not your IDEA, your invention) has been done before. Simply because it is not for sale, does not mean someone already filed/obtained a patent in 1923.

As a Patent Agent in a solo practice, I do most of my own prior art search when prosecuting patent applications for my clients. (Patent Agents have the same standing in front of the USPTO bar as Patent attorneys, that is, we not only search prior art, we actually write and ‘discuss’ the application with the USPTO examiner, just at a lesser cost!).

Many clients of mine arrive after swearing up and down that they’ve searched everything, so there is no need for me to do a search. Often they’re chagrined when after less than an hour I find relevant art they had not found. No, I don’t have ‘special tools’, but a search is more about what questions are asked than about what tools are used. Or as Gen. Yeager points out, ‘it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot’. Perhaps I can help make you better pilots.

In the US system patents have seven digits 9,240,538 (my client’s most recent one, January 19th, still not in Google!), published applications have eleven (20140131741 for ‘538 above, but careful, not all applications are published before they are patents).

There are a number of search tools available to everyone for free. These include;

Google Patents  Google Patents (GP) is great, allows you to use the well-known Google search terms. The GP also allows you to quickly see ‘Patents referenced by’ as well as those the patent references. BTW, don’t ever forget to look for you invention in the separate, non-patent Google bar (or Bing, is that still around?).

Free Patents Online Great tool. First, Google doesn’t have everything, plus FPO’s Word Stemming is great.

USPTO Search     Ok, I’m joking, don’t use this for anything but specific searches. Even I’m not old enough to have used that much SQL. BTW, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) are a bit better, but are not a quantum improvement.

The final tool to use is Public PAIR,  this is the USPTO system where the records for previous patents are kept. If you think a certain patent or patent application is of interest, go to PAIR. First thing it’ll tell you about an application is whether it’s still pending, abandoned or (in the case of an application) patented.

In addition, in a sense, let the USPTO be your search tool. Examiners have to look at an application’s claims just like you and I do. Since all patent application prosecution histories become public after they are published (or become a patent), by obtaining said prosecution history (called an Image File Wrapper (IFW) in PAIR, you can let the examiner help you. In the IFW, you can see prior office actions (applications rarely become patents as filed, this is called an Ex-parte quayle). Of my 50+ Issued/Allowed patent applications for customers, only three have been ePQ. These were for very sophisticated clients, who knew exactly what they wanted.

Well, I hope this helps, maybe in a future posting we’ll discuss searching a bit more.



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Recent grants awarded to NVDE

As a means of sponsoring the efforts of the students involved in TNVDE, these entities have extended their support.

Through the P&G Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and it’s Higher Education Grant NVDE students are now being supported with a total of $8,250, for one year, in their efforts to prepare students for success in business. This funds are key for the purchase of a 3D printer and purchase of materials for the students to make their prototypes.

In terms of VentureWell (former NCIIA), Principal Investigator Dr. José E. Lugo and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Mari Luz Zapata Ramos have received a Course & Program grant of $30,000 for three years. The NVDE is currently supporting 7 Entrepreneurship Teams (E-teams) whose projects are closely related to technology-based entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the focus areas of these E-teams range from recycling to grocery transportation, to even green energy.

With these two grants NVDE will continue to support, foster, and promote entrepreneurship and innovation projects focused on solving the problems that surround the society we live in.

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TNVDE: week 3

Week 3

As a means to test the business term knowledge of each student, a pop quiz awaited the students as the third class began. A bit of shock and surprise shone on each face as they realized that the clock was ticking and the questions kept changing. Since the professors were grading the quizzes as soon as the students finished they obtained the results that they expected. There is a disparity in the business term knowledge.

Prof. Jose Vega takes the lead today in the pop quiz/introduction to the actual course material. He talked about the ideal goals for the projects in the course. Using the stories behind local businesses such as: Los Cidrines, Don Frappe, and La Sambuca food truck he contrasted growth and stability. Moving towards Start-Ups and the challenges that accompany it, he said that it is like an organized form of chaos; form which a product or service is the only aspects that provides understanding. Amongst the challenges he mentioned financing, sizing markets and Intellectual Property.

How do you define Innovation? – A question Prof. Vega asked the students to gauge their thinking around the subject. Some of the answers were: “to make something better”, “game-changer”, “change strategies” and so on. As we know many authors define innovation differently but the idea bounces around changing an idea into something of value.

After discussing at length the many different opportunities, association, contests, and centers that are dedicated to Entrepreneurship in both PR and the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, it was time to switch topics and focus on the art of a pitch. Prof. Vega says that pitching begins the moment you are born and that even animals pitch as well. Amongst the different types of pitch he mentioned: Elevator Pitch (ever so short and straight to the point), Rocket Pitch (more on the short and sweet side) and Investor Pitch (typically lengthy and lasts up to 25minutes) and Crowdfunding Pitch (using videos, scripts and such that motivate people to donate money to their project). He also discussed with the students the 10 Pitching Hints from the experts. Moreover, as a means to give an example of an amazing pitch, he showed a video of a Fireman who developed a product and pitched it in Shark Tank. As a result of his pitch he made a 1.25million dollar deal with one of the sharks. The lesson to be learned today is that in the Entrepreneurial environment hard work can only get you so far; integrating business ideas and strategies along with the hard work can, maybe, land you a million dollar deal at some point.

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TNVDE: second semester groups

Day two:

Now that everyone is formally enrolled in the course, it is time to move forward. As a means of creating and establishing the groups in the course 3 and a half minute Rocket Pitches have been called.

The first participant is Azuri cosmetics, a company created by two Professors from our own UPRM. Prof. Madeline Torres and Prof. Eduardo Juan are from Chemical Engineering and Electrical Engineering respectively. They have two products currently in the market focused on providing quality cosmetics at a low cost. Currently looking for students to join their team, they hope to overcome their current optimization and development challenges to further develop their company.

After Azuri’s presentation it is Dr. Jose Vega’s turn to talk about the Deaf Community. He intends to motivate student to develop projects focused around the Deaf Community and establishing an enterprise that fosters opportunities for everyone.

Then, Prof. Jose Lugo talks about developing project focused around Recycling. Considering that PR is an island in which trash and waste is rampant and not fully controlled, he exposed many areas of opportunity that could be of interest for the students that are still undecided; a call to transform waste into life has been made.

As per the example of those before him student Carlos Rivera that has been developing a project he has called TURN. His idea is centered on the long arduous hours of waiting time in medical offices and such. Since this project has been developing for quite some time, the product model includes a combination of applications, services and goods. Engaging both the customer and medical service providers this project team hopes to improve the experience of the customer throughout their product.

Lead by student William Morales Sabor Expreso has presented an idea centered on food delivery. The project idea is to bring restaurant or food truck food to any participating consumer by personal delivery. In a short description, its GrubHub meets Uber with a twist. They are currently looking for students with strong backgrounds in programming to develop their project and hopefully become a business.

An unexpected participant, Alejandro Carlo, presents his idea called Safety First. Considering the amount of problems, accidents and event deaths caused by driving under the influence of alcohol, this team has presented a project focused on reducing the terrible statistics that are related to DUI’s. Throughout the use of an app, they hope to alert their users about their elevated alcohol consumption as well as a means to transport them in the case of intoxication.

After each participant gave their 3:30min Rocket Pitch it was time to put each project to a vote in order to choose the three projects that will be developed throughout this semester. After the voting process, the selected projects that will be developed throughout this semester were determined to be: Turn, Safety First and the last project will be focused on Recycling.

Considering that the other projects have a full semester ahead of them these three new projects have a great challenge ahead and their work cut out for them. A lot of hard work, effort and dedication will be the drive that transforms these new ideas into new realities.

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TNVDE second semester Kick-off

As the semester begins and everyone is ready to take on the upcoming challenges, TNVDE also joins the race. This semester three different courses have come together to continue the projects that were developed in INME5015: Design Thinking and MERC4217: Consumer behavior, lead by Dr. José E. Lugo and Dr. Mari L. Zapata respectively. Now, INME4057: Engineering Design (Capstone), INME4065: Product Design and ADMI3125: Technology-based Entrepreneurship lead by Dr. José E. Lugo and Dr. José Vega, will be working together to complete these projects. Almost 50 students from different disciplines have come together with this goal in mind. During this first class meeting, the students introduced themselves and also got to know a bit more about the ongoing projects. We also heard from Prof. Mari L. Zapata about how the previous Consumer Behavior course aided these innovative projects. Furthermore, Prof. José Vega and Prof. José E. Lugo introduced themselves and spoke about the expectations, requirements, and direction the course will have throughout this semester. Although there are new faces this time around, the already established projects know exactly what they need in order to move forward and from what we have seen on this first day of class, there is more than enough talent to go around.


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H3 Conference 2015

This weekend I spent it between Hackers, Hustlers, and Hipsters in the H3 Conference.  This is a conference started in Puerto Rico and expanding to other parts of the world, which aims to join the three H’s for the sake of innovation and entrepreneurship.  The idea behind the conference is that successful entrepreneurial teams have a technology guru (Hacker), a design guru (Hipster), and a business guru (Hustler).  These gurus often don’t talk to each other because they live and work in different circles and the conference serves as a place for them to meet and exchange ideas.

This was the first time I attended this conference and my first struggle was to label myself with one of the H’s.  I am a Mechanical Engineer, which works mostly with design, so I was undecided between Hacker and Hipster.  The flip of a coin decided for me to label myself a Hacker, however many people in the conference label myself as a hipster.  I guess I’m one of those that are more than one H.

During the conference, I attended sessions dedicated to the Business Model Canvas, Product Market Fit, Ida to MVP, Facebook marketing, entrepreneurship in education, and the Puerto Rican Start-up community.  The part that I liked the most was the interaction with the people.  A substantial group part of the Pathways to Innovation, University Innovation Fellows, and students from #TNVDE attended the event.  Emmanuel Oquendo, one of our UIF’s, gave a talk titled “How Students Are Hacking Education to Propel Entrepreneurship”.

 After the conference I felt recharged to continue the innovation and entrepreneurial activities that I am part of in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.  The conference confirmed my observation that “There is a lot of human potential in Puerto Rico to innovate here and to the outside world”.

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NVDE and Intelectual Propety

Last weekend, October 24, students from the New Venture Design Experience (NVDE) met with the University of Puerto Rico Law School Intellectual Property Pro-Bono program students. Here we will give you a glimpse of what happened.


Entrepreneurship and intellectual property are two fields that are in constant interaction.  In NVDE, students will be creating intellectual property and the professors behind the program wanted the students to understand what legal tools they have available to protect their products and technology.

The meeting started with an explanation of the Pathways to Innovation program and the UPRM Entrepreneurship ecosystem.  Then the NVDE teams gave presentations of their projects.  The floor was open to questions after each presentation.  Each NVDE team was then paired with law students for a more specific consultation.  After lunch, law students gave a presentation with Prof. Walter Alomar in which they explained patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, UPRM IP policy, LLC, and corporations.  With this event, NVDE students keep expanding their support network to pursue their projects.

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NVDE Opportunity Areas Presentations (Guest Post by Manuel Perez)

Now that the students have a vast amount of observations, they have been tasked with extracting the necessary information to identify their opportunity areas. To do so, each team looked further into the information they obtained from their interviews and proceeded to extract insights, design directives, and guiding principles which eventually led them to their opportunity areas.

Recalling the topics the teams have chosen to pursue: Food Sovereignty, Waste Management, Transportation, Deaf Community, Water Management and Home-brewing; one by one, they each presented their respective opportunity areas and the ones they have chosen to pursue. 

The Quality of Life of the Deaf Community team identified problems with this community that I believe many people, myself included, have not even heard of and much less considered. By looking into a wide range of aspects of a Deaf person’s life and the hardships they face, this team is on a clear path to success and I am looking forward to learning about their proposed solutions. 

The Home-brewing team identified problems within the home-brewing experience. A particularly interesting aspect of this process is the high level of difficulty it possesses, something that was highlighted throughout their presentation. Considering this and other factors, they have sought out key areas in which to concentrate their efforts and make this hobby a more amicable experience.

The Water Management team: “Los Aguaceros” have dived into the problems each and every one of us face on a daily basis. In doing so they have identified a plethora of issues with the ways water is delivered, consumed and even bottled. This team has an incredible challenge ahead of them that upon completion, could potentially have a sizeable impact in our community.

The Transportation team: MoveIt shed some light onto the issues we face when transporting items ourselves. Ranging from shopping to just getting our items home, this group has looked past the problems we can identify every time we are moving items around and identified key areas in which to improve this everyday experience. From their insights and opportunity areas this is a group that has their work cut out for them.

Last but not least we have the Food Sovereignty team: Enough. This group has found problems within Puerto Rico’s agriculture that we are not even aware of. Their research and insights into the agricultural field has yielded significant results and opportunities they can attempt to solve. I believe that their contribution to Puerto Rico’s agriculture will bring about a significant change and serve as a step in the right direction.

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