A uni project you think might be commercially viable?


I’m working on a project at the moment which I think might end up being commercially viable. The thing is, this is a semi-live brief at uni - for a design competition.

My uni is selecting 25 designs to be put forward for this competition, and I’m not sure whether to submit for the competition or hold back and see if I can develop this into something bigger.

I remember a friend having a meeting with the course leader to try and find out if a product he designed on his foundation was commercially viable, and although it was, his options were limited due to it being shown in his end of course exhibition.

Do any of you guys have some advice for me?

Thanks a lot

  • Roo

Take a look at this thread:

This similar topic came up recently.

Long story short: Unless you think you have the funds to develop, productize, and market your product, or think you have a plan for gaining venture capital, being secretive about your project probably won’t help.

If your idea is that good and meets the product brief, you’d probably be better off submitting to the competition and trying to win and gain publicity and a nice line item for your resume.

Definitely not that, but how about taking the product to companies that manufacture similar products and trying to sell the design/set up a royalty contract?

It may be possible in a small chance, but not that viable really. Very rarely does this work out, given that essentially ideas are “free” and there is so much investment for a company to tool up, develop, market, etc. a concept that it’s much more likely they will do this with their own idea. Not to mention (in general, not your idea specifically) most student projects are not really that viable in the real world. There is a big difference between a concept, and a real product with a solid business case for a product, manufacturing realities, costs, market demand, etc. I’d say 99% of most student projects could never make it in the real world as a viable product.

Again, we don’t know your specific idea, so it’s hard to reply with more than generalities, but I’d second the comment to just go ahead with the competition, but it in your portfolio and move on to the next idea. The best thing about ideas is that there are a million more out there and the second (or third, or fourth or hundred) is likely going to be even that much better.

Don’t get too hung up on the “what if” and “future”. Live in the now, and move on, constantly improving.


It’s very, very difficult. Very few companies want unsolicited ideas. Most companies would rather hire you as an employee then pay an unknown amount of royalties for your idea. If your idea tanks, they’ve spent a large sum of money and have no one to hold responsible.

If it’s an industry where you’ve set up a relationship as a student, I’d say you might have a better shot, but just emailing “hey I have this great idea I want to share with you!” will get you turned away at a lot of places. I know because I tried several companies and got no responses and found a very similar product on the shelves from a company I had never heard of a few years later.

If you’ve read through that thread you’ll see that while it may not be impossible, there have been many ideas already out there that have simply failed, and thats why what may seem like a novel concept in school actually won’t lead to a sucessful product.

The myth out there is that big brother wants to steal your idea and make money off you, and that simply isn’t the case. The best thing you could do if you truly think you have a good idea these days is to get PR. Win a competition, land on the blogs, and keep your contact info present so someone could contact you if they wanted to.

More importantly - make sure you still own the rights to your work for after the competition. There are some competitions that are essentially free labor, and the company owns the rights once you submit. This is a bad practice (And one when I was in school our professors wouldn’t even let us enter) that leaves you with no work to show for it.


I’m doing something similar. I’m a student who turned one of my own projects into a competition entry that got shown at a trade show and got a bit of local press. I thought at the trade show I’d have wealthy industrialists smoking big cigars and clamoring to buy my concept, but nothing happened.

I figured the best way to show people that it is a viable (and therefore valuable) idea is to show them it is- get it made, get it sold, work out wholesale and retail prices. The idea is to go to a manufacturer and say “here is a great idea, I’ve sold X of them and I made $$. If you buy it, you will sell XXXX of them and make $$$$$”. I’ve got a retailer who will sell some on consignment for me so I can work out what people are prepared to pay.

It involves more work, more cash outlay, more time, but manufacturers are more likely to be interested if they can see actual results. It also means you create a better object because lots of the issues involved in making something get resolved, and you learn so much more than if you just draw a pretty picture of an interesting concept

Thanks for the good replies people.

I plan to make a finished prototype as part of the project hand in so I will definitely take it around and show those that might be interested. My foundation tutor did a similar thing with two companies before and ended up being employed by them to do some work and made a decent bit out of it. I’ll go ahead and submit it to the competition, and also do my best to get it out there with the time I have :slight_smile:


  • Roo

Most colleges own the rights to the work you do in college any way. Same as any company you work for owns the rights to anything you design on their time.

True. Good point. R

I’m planning on doing some design contests and amybe some conferences/workshops to showcase my grad project as well. But my objective with that is to promote myself as a designer in hopes to get a good job rather than to sell my project itself. I have had people asking me to buy my project already, but I have no intentions on doing so as I am not ready for it and for a complex (automated) product like mine it’ll take a lot of capital to bring into market. But I do see “promoting” my project as a good way to promote myself. Enter competitions, get your project well known as a way to promote yourself, not to promote your product.

This can’t be right. Companies yes, universities funding research yes, not universities providing education- I mean, I am paying for it.

My university doesn’t: http://www.unisa.edu.au/copyright/ownership.asp

"The University does not automatically own intellectual property developed by students. Students will generally own the intellectual property they develop during the course of their studies. This is subject to any other arrangements a student may enter into, including through employment."

alot of universities do actually, mine just changed policies for the better of the students.

Yup it is true, here in the UK any project done at a University, College will have the IP owned by the institution to some degree. I know my University although not claiming a majority stake, they would take between 10-15% .

I think most have those terms to cover themselves (for self promotion, etc), not to take physical ownership for the works done. It’s kind of like Facebook; any picture uploaded becomes legally theirs but as a means to protect themselves but not to resell the pictures.