Getting your product to market before your competitors is increasingly challenging in today’s environment. Ironically, it becomes more difficult the more successful your company is. The larger your business practice and footprint, the more red tape you often encounter when trying to innovate with new ideas.
Enter Tom Ward, who discovered Rose-Hulman Ventures four years ago while attending a career fair in Indianapolis with his son.
The founder and president of Indianapolis-based OmniSite was impressed by what Ventures, a product design, rapid prototyping and development firm, offered and vowed to give it a try. The results for the maker of IoT-enabled monitors and controls have not been disappointing.
“I had always done everything in house until I ran into Rose-Hulman Ventures,” Tom said. “It’s a perfect fit for the type of work we do.”
Student interns from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which has the top-ranked undergraduate engineering program in the country according to U.S. News and World Report, helped Tom and his team develop SmarteLight. Using cellular network and cloud server technology, the groundbreaking equipment monitoring alarm sends automated calls and text messages to operators in real time when systems fail, preventing small problems from becoming costly disasters.
OmniSite has engineers on staff who are focused on programming and electronics. The firm has utilized Ventures’ pipeline of mechanical, electrical and software engineers, who have provided the company with tremendous expertise and significant savings. In the case of the SmarteLight, he noted, Ventures experts – which include a staff of engineers mentoring the student interns – took a relatively expensive-to-produce prototype and transformed it into something far better and at a lower cost.
Before finding Ventures, Tom said he had attempted to make partnerships with other educational institutions, but always without success. Ventures, however, offered important components for a partnership. For example, Ventures does not demand intellectual property rights for the products it helps develop.
“That’s a biggie,” Tom said.
The experts at Ventures don’t shy away from tackling major societal challenges, noted Elizabeth Hagerman, vice-president of Rose-Hulman Ventures and corporate engagement. Hagerman is a Hoosier native and TechPoint board member who returned to Indiana to join Ventures.
Ventures interns developed a software program for Tennessee-based Sano Informed Prescribing that alerts health care professionals to potential adverse reactions from medicines their patients are taking. Adverse drug interactions send 700,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year and account for $3.5 billion in related costs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It wasn’t a simple project by any means, but they nailed it,” said Tim Ryan, founder of Sano. “This [was] a great project. We know it will help people.”
ERAM (Electronic Remote Accountability Monitoring) is an Evansville-based company that addresses the opioid epidemic and other behavioral health issues through remote field sobriety testing. Ventures created smartphone-compatible apps for ERAM, making the technology less expensive and easier to use. The software provides agencies with another tool to heighten accountability for those struggling with sobriety or noncompliance.
Through the partnerships with companies both local and nationwide, Ventures has also developed quite the talent pipeline. In many cases, interns go on to work full time for their former clients. Gage Wilkinson, a 2016 Rose-Hulman grad who was on the team that developed the SmarteLight, now works at OmniSite.
Tom, who also launched a student innovation fund in Indianapolis to promote engineering education for students from underrepresented groups, loves the fact that students gain practical experience working on projects and can apply those skills to fit the needs of Indy’s growing tech community.
“That’s very important,” Tom said. “The kids coming out of Ventures are going to be rock stars.”
You can learn more about what’s happening at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Rose-Hulman Ventures by visiting the university’s Tech Directory page.
About the Author
Arthur Foulkes is a staff writer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. A former newspaper reporter and freelance writer for the Foundation for Economic Education, Mises.org, the American Institute for Economic Research, Arthur has postgraduate degrees in economics and political science.