Inks, paints, soaps, and cosmetics are excellent examples of products developed by scientists and engineers with expertise in soft materials. An important challenge of the field is to identify the interconnected properties and features that make these materials important for emerging needs and applications in product design, nanotechnology, and bioengineering. It therefore facilitates the quantitative prediction of important properties for the manufacturing, fabrication and processing of commercial products, i.e., technological innovation, based on soft matter.
The Soft Matter Innovation Lab helps students and faculty cultivate ideas for new products based on soft condensed materials. Product specifications and usage is validated using user-centered design and consumer behavior methodologies. The lab offers the participants the following experiences:
- Ideation: Are you a competent problem solver with knowledge in complex fluids, polymers, or soft materials but lacking skills to identify a product-market fit? During the ideation process, participants find a solution to an existing problem with market potential identified through interviews and research. This leads a pathway to innovate in new areas.
- Product Design & Prototyping: Once a solution to a real problem is identified, the lab provides technical support to design the product. The final expectation is to find a minimum viable product (MVP) as fast as possible that can go to market if desired by the participants. Here, the teams are trained to formulate chemically and physically a MVP. Also, rheology and sensorial properties are considered to make the product more appealing for the consumers. The process is finalized by developing prototypes and testing them in a controlled environment.
- Marketing & Entrepreneurship: Teams interested in making startups of their products will be exposed to other programs of the UPRM E-ship Network to help them with marketing and a business model.
Facilities: Ideation and co-working of teams will be conducted at Starting Point at the Student Center. This space is designed to help students develop their own ideas and connected them with the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem at UPRM. During product design and prototyping stages, participants will mainly use the Soft Matter Synthesis and Preparation Laboratory and the Soft Matter Characterization Laboratory located in the Chemical Engineering Building. Other facilities are available but access depends on the necessities of the product and the team.
Students taking courses in soft matter (e.g. fluid mechanics, polymers, colloids, rheology) are encouraged to join the lab and apply their skills. Volunteers are also welcomed.
If interested in transforming your ideas into real products at the Soft Matter Innovation Lab, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regarding intellectual property (IP): Idea developed by the lab staff seeking collaborators: IP is owned by UPR. Idea from a team of students: Students own the IP. Idea from team of student and UPR employees (professors): IP is typically owned by UPR. Licensing agreement and other negotiations can occur depending on the circumstances.