The inaugural year of the IDEAL-NIU Intrapreneurship Program—designed to give students real-world experience bringing new products to market—has been a “huge success,” with nine students earning paid internships this semester with the Sycamore-based IDEAL Industries Inc.
Students in engineering, business, kinesiology, design, public policy, communication, the sciences and more who are accepted into the program play a role in researching markets, developing IDEAL products and building business plans. Program participants who are successful in that first phase will then have a shot at paid internships–and even possible job offers from IDEAL upon graduation.
NIU students (left to right) Victoria Ewert, Dennis Grekousis and Malik Hughes work on their IDEAL project.
“It’s been a really good experience,” says Malik Hughes, a junior industrial management and technology
major from Bolingbrook. Hughes was accepted into the program a year ago and earned an internship with IDEAL beginning this semester and lasting through the summer.
“The professionals at IDEAL are very helpful providing the resources we need to design and develop products,” Hughes says. “The experience has provided me with the opportunity to apply concepts we learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. It also gives me a chance to collaborate with students from other fields to come up with solutions to the problems we’re trying to solve.”
Based in Sycamore, the family-owned IDEAL Industries Inc. has been in operation for a century and boasts facilities and clients across the globe. The company manufactures more than 6,000 products used in automotive, construction, aerospace, electrical, data-communication, wire-processing, alternative-energy and other industries.
In late 2015, IDEAL Chairman and CEO Jim James
first shared his idea for the intrapreneurship program with NIU President Doug Baker
. Within months, the program had launched.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the talent and potential of our first group of students,” says James. “Their work thus far gives us high hope they will be successful executing their business plans.”
Here’s how the program worked this past year:
Applicants were screened by the Intrapreneurship Partnership Advisory Board, which also conducted follow-up interviews. Students selected for the program were offered positions on one of the two teams, each working to develop product ideas provided by IDEAL.
After working together for more than a semester, the teams each made their presentations to IDEAL executives in December. IDEAL representatives decided that both teams had demonstrated enough progress to be given the opportunity to continue. So the nine NIU students on those teams were offered paid internships. Now they are refining their products and business plans, moving toward full commercialization.