Mukesh M. Patel, a successful entrepreneur, mentor, business attorney and adjunct professor at Rutgers Business School and Rutgers School of Law who has helped many startup companies develop their business plans and raise significant equity funding, heads the Innovation Lab at the Honors College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He joined the college as its inaugural director of innovation this past summer.
The Honors College incorporated the Innovation Lab into its curriculum to enable students to collaborate across disciplines and tackle complex and global problems in tangible ways.
The Honors College mission course, “the Forum,” challenges first-year students to come up with ideas for innovations that could solve societal issues and become sustainable, profitable ventures. Of the more than 100 ideas pitched last year, six advanced to become the focus for hands-on development in the Innovation Lab by second-year students.
Rutgers Today recently spoke with Patel about how the Innovation Lab is designed to work and the student projects in development.
What is the Innovation Lab?
Patel: First, it is a physical space where students of different disciplines and passions come together to develop their ideas. By its design, the lab avoids silos and breaks down boundaries. We call the process “design-thinking,” and it’s what occurs when teams work collaboratively on projects small or large. We have equipment, such as 3-D printers, mini-computers with a digital design studio, sensor lab, and other gadgetry to test hypotheses, create prototypes and minimally viable products (MVPs) and run pilot programs.
Conceptually, the lab represents how Honors College students learn critical skills vital to developing and bringing an idea to market. This includes how to recruit students from the university because of the expertise they could contribute, plus marketing, public relations and concept testing.
What are the projects under development in the Innovation Lab this year?
Patel: The projects include RFInD, a wearable electronic device programmed with personal medical information to help emergency health care providers find and treat patients in distress; eUse-IT, a system for collecting and repairing laptop computers to reduce electronic waste while making computer devices more accessible to lower-income demographics; Nutrivide, a device resembling a pacifier that provides nutrients to undernourished newborns; Oasis, a process for delivering nutritious food to needy communities and food deserts; Exalight, a specially-designed blanket to prevent neonatal jaundice and potentially treat certain skin conditions; and Merakhi, a Bluetooth and audio wearable tech device to help prevent sexual assault while providing education and empowerment in connection with rape and assault cultures.
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