New Product Design and Business Development
ME 8221-8222, BMEN 8401-8402, ENTR 6041-6042


  Will Durfee* 
Mechanical Engineering  
Office: 2101 MechE  
Phone: 612-625-0099
Art Erdman 
Mechanical Engineering  
Office: 313 MechE  
Phone: 612-625-8580
Mike Finch 
Medical Industry Leadership Institute
Dan Forbes*
Strategic Mgmt & Entrepreneurship
Office: Room 3-414 CarlSMgmt
Phone: 612-625-2989
Bruce Hammer
Office: Center for Magnetic Resonance Research,
2021 6th St. SE, room 1-166B
Phone: 612-624-5641
Paul Iaizzo  
Office: B-172 Mayo 
Phone: 612-624-7912
Course Administrator
Tori Piorek
Mechanical Engineering
Office: Room 2101 MechE
Phone: 612-625-6808
Course Webmaster
Gary Williams
Office: B171 Mayo
Phone: 612-624-3161

* = course co-director


New Product Design and Business Development is a graduate level course jointly offered by the Carlson School of Management, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. A team of approximately six students (1/2 engineering, 1/2 business), along with a faculty coach and a company representative, work together over nine months to develop a working prototype product and business plan for the sponsoring company. Products are real and are taken through launch by the sponsoring companies. Each project addresses market feasibility (what is the need and do customers want the product), technical feasibility (engineering design, prototyping, and manufacture), and financial feasibility (how much money will the company make). The overall objectives of the course are to (1) train product development leaders and (2) return value to the sponsoring company.

Learning objectives for students include:
  • ability to work with engineering or science specialists and business management teams
  • ability to define and achieve both short and long term technical and business goals
  • understanding the proven steps necessary to produce a viable product
  • understanding the difference between a plan on paper and the reality of a rapidly evolving technical product market
Students: Read this syllabus to understand how the course works from the student perspective. Also read the other documents on the course web page ( For example, the "Info for Sponsors" document will help you understand how the course is viewed by the companies, and the links to deliverables on the schedule gives an indication of what each team is responsible for.

This is a 2-semester course. Engineering and design students must enroll for both semesters. Business students may enroll for one, the other or both semesters.


Over the course of a full academic year, the team will execute a comprehensive product innovation process. The May deliverables left with the client are a working prototype and a business plan. The project will address market feasibility (who are the customers, what are their needs and does the product concept satisfy their needs), technical feasibility (engineering design, prototyping, and manufacture), and financial feasibility (how much money will the client make on the opportunity). The overall process is

  1. Discover: Understand the context and explore the opportunity space

  2. Define: Define the customer need and state the problem

  3. Create: Create a solution to the need

  4. Deliver: Deliver on the solution

The project starts the second week of September and finishes the first week of May.  

Fall Semester: Discovery

  1. Understand the context:  Research the disease state, existing solutions, competing products and the relevant technology. Use secondary market research to define market trends.

  2. Discover needs: Conduct customer interviews, develop a needs statement. Initiate a product requirements document.

  3. Ideate: Create one or more concepts that satisfy the need. Execute a rough working prototype of each concept.

  4. Assess: Initial screen for market, technical and financial feasibility.

Spring Semester: Execution

  1. Validate the concept: Gather customer reactions to the concept. Conduct preliminary engineering bench tests of the prototypes. Select the concept to execute.

  2. Develop the concept: Finalize the detailed product requirements. Finalize the detailed engineering design. Fabricate, assemble and bench test an alpha prototype. Gather customer reactions to the prototype. Create a manufacturing plan. Protect the intellectual property.

  3. Develop the business plan: Use the Canvas model to solidify the value proposition, customer segment, distribution channel, cost structure and revenue stream.

  4. Assess: Final screen for market, technical and financial feasibility.

  5. Create the hand-off plan for the client to continue execution.

Lectures and Team Meetings

The course meets once each on Wednesday evenings for lectures that covering the basics of product development process. In addition, each team schedules two weekly team meetings. One team meeting includes the faculty coach and the company representative (when available). The purpose of this meeting is to make decisions and set high-level direction. The second team meeting is student-only. The purpose of this meeting is reporting progress and managing team logistics.  The meetings are scheduled for a time when all can attend, and won't be the same for each team. It is likely that one of the two meetings will be on Wednesday evening, following the lecture.

Attendance at class lectures and team meetings is required and expected.

Projects and Project Teams

The class is split into seven product development teams, one per project. Team size is six to seven and is approximately one half business and one half engineering students. Each team is assigned a faculty coach.

The clients and projects vary from year to year depending on the companies involved and their product needs. A list of projects is provided on the first day of class. Team assignments are based on preference and an attempt to balance the teams for equal business and engineering representation. The student team is a self-directed work group with leadership selected by the team.

The faculty coach is there to guide and mentor the team. Coaches vary in their level of participation, but are always available for advice. The coach will lead only when necessary and should be viewed as an experienced resource. Advice can also be sought from any of the faculty associated with the course.

The projects are completed in collaboration with the client so the company rep plays an important role in the project. The direction and leadership taken by the rep will vary among projects. Some reps will be prescriptive in what the team does and others will lay back. In all cases, it is essential that the goals and direction taken by the student team align with the goals and direction expected by the company. The way to make this happen is regular and thorough communication between students and company rep.


The primary assignments for the course are to deliver, in May, a working product prototype and a business plan. A series of assignments that support the primary deliverables are sequenced throughout the nine months of the course. Details are on the course schedule. Every assignment is relevant to the project and every assignment is done as a team.

Assignments must be posted, in PDF format, on the course Canvas site by 5 pm on the the due date, as well as emailed (PDF) to the faculty coach and the client representative.

We strongly suggest that your team share the draft of key assignments with the company representative and the faculty coach for comments and suggestions before submitting the final version. Sharing with the company is particularly important to ensure the student team and the company are aligned on project direction and findings.

Assignments will be evaluated by one of the course faculty.

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Policy

One of the consequences of working on real projects for industry is that our company sponsors have an interest in controlling the flow of information about the project and in determining who has ownership of new ideas. In today's fast moving, competitive business climate, time-to-market is critical and a company must do all it can to prevent information about its new product concepts and development strategies from reaching competitors. Likewise, once a new product concept has been demonstrated in a working prototype, the smart company will insist on appropriate patent protection for the product before committing significant resources to development and manufacture.

It is unusual for university students to sign confidentiality and intellectual property agreements, but then New Product Design and Business Development is an unusual course. As part of a university that is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and to the nurturing of creativity, we would prefer to distance ourselves from any agreement which limits what we can do and how we do it. Because this course insists on real projects, however, the reality is that signing agreements is inevitable.

We ask that you study the agreement carefully to confirm that you are comfortable with its stipulations on confidentiality and intellectual property. You are putting your name on a legal document that must be taken seriously. Courts of law have little enthusiasm for the "I didn't realize" excuse when contracts are broken. The agreement is between you and the company, not between the university and the company. Further, the University of Minnesota's legal office will not be able to represent you in cases of litigation.

If for whatever reason you do not think you will be able to sign the agreement then we ask that you do not take this course. But, before doing so, please contact one of the course directors as not taking the course because of the agreement would be unusual.

Please read the full Confidentiality and Intellectual Property agreement. You will sign one signature page for each company sponsoring a project this year. This is to enable sharing information between teams.


The confidentiality part of the agreement between yourself and the sponsoring company obligates you to prevent disclosure of confidential information that is revealed to you by the company. Confidential information may take the form of product concepts in existence at the company, market survey information or design drawings and reports. All such information will be clearly marked as "Confidential" and every effort will be made to limit the transfer of information to only what is required for you to be successful on your project.

Some of the implications of the confidentiality clauses of the agreement are:
  1. You cannot disclose confidential information to your friends, your family (including spouses), or faculty not involved in the course. In short, you are prevented from revealing the information to anyone who has not signed the same agreement that you did.
  2. Confidentiality has a five year time limit. This period could include after graduation when you might be working for a competitor.
  3. You will not be able to discuss details of your project with potential employers during job interviews. You will, however, be able to give prospective employers an adequate description of the activities you did and the skills you learned so long as nothing you discuss contains confidential information.
  4. Any publication resulting from the project will be screened by the company to ensure that it contains no confidential information.

Intellectual Property 

The intellectual property portion of agreement covers what happens to any patentable ideas that you develop as a result of working on the project. The agreement assigns ownership to the company of those ideas you come up with that are related to the project.

Some of the implications of the intellectual property clauses of the agreement are:
  1. You can be a named inventor on a patent even through patent ownership is assigned to the company. This is because the U.S. Patent Office has a strict definition of who must be the named inventors on a patent and named inventors do not have to own the patent..
  2. Because rights are assigned to company, you will not be able to make, use or sell the ideas that you invent that are related to the project. Only the company can do so.
  3. The company will pay all costs and fees associated with patent filing. These commonly run in the thousands of dollars.
  4. It is quite likely that ideas, concepts or methodologies will be developed by the team that have potential for significant increase of sales or cost savings by the sponsoring company. Many of these ideas, however, may not rise to the level of being patentable. While we expect patents will result from work done by the team, patents are not automatic..

Textbook and Materials

Required Textbook

Ulrich, K.T. and Eppinger, S.D., Product Design and Development, 6th ed, McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2016

This is an excellent resource for product development process. Company reps will expect you to be familiar with the entire material in the book. There are reading assignments, but you should read the whole book on your own at the start of the course. Older or newer editions of the text book are fine.

Project Notebook

A project notebook is required. Any bound notebook that will hold up over 9 months is fine, but no spiral bindings. Suggested notebooks are described here.

The notebook is a diary and use it to record all project related work. The notebook is for the project and should not be used to take lecture notes. Write your name and contact information, large and dark, on the front cover or inside the front cover. Leave the first page blank for a table of contents. Number and date each page. Be particularly compulsive on recording your ideas. For patentable ideas, explain the idea to somebody else and have them sign and date the notebook as proof of the invention date. Your notebook will likely become the property of the project sponsor at the end of the course.


Your work is evaluated formally to determine the success of your product design and development activities and to assign you a grade after each semester. Because this is an unusual course, the method and criteria used for evaluation may be novel to you. Because successful product development depends on successful team work, a substantial portion of your grade will come from evaluation of the team. What this means is that the grade you receive not only depends on what you do, it also depends on what your team members do.

Grading Policy

  1. Your team will receive a grade. Your own grade will vary up or down from the team grade depending on what you did.
  2. The team grade will depend on whether good product development process was followed, the ability of the team to create a novel, working prototype and a comprehensive business plan that addresses market, technical and financial feasibility, and whether value was returned to the sponsoring company.
  3. The expected team grade is an A-. Outstanding teams will receive an A. Substandard teams will receive a grade of B+ or below.
  4. For your grade to equal the team grade, you must: (1) contribute substantially to the project outcome, (2) motivate others on your team to do well, (3) spend a substantial amount of time on the project, (4) demonstrate a substantial understanding of the entire product development process, both engineering and marketing, and be able to generalize the process from your project and the other projects in the course, and (5) attend all class lectures and team meetings.
  5. Putting in the hours (or even more hours than required) is not sufficient, rather you have to be the reason your project is a success and you have to demonstrate that you have become knowledgeable in the product development process. In other words, this is a results, not effort, oriented class.
  6. Your grade may exceed the team grade if you had an outstanding contribution to the team result.
  7. Your grade may be below the team grade if you did not substantially contribute to the project or could not be relied upon to complete tasks.
  8. Your individual grade will be lowered by 1/2 grade (e.g from an A- to a B+) if you habitually miss lectures or team meetings without an excused absence. If you habitually miss both lectures and team meetings, your individual grade will be lowered by one grade. In other words, attendance at lectures and team meetings is required.
If for whatever reason, things are not going well for you in the course, please consult with one of the course faculty. This does not have to be the faculty member assigned to your project.

Expectations of Students

Students are expected to work hard. If you are motivated, receptive to ideas, contribute, are aggressive and self-directed, and can get the job done; you will get a good grade. The workload in the course is heavy and the expectation high, but the rewards are there. In practice, NPDBD work tends to be deadline driven. Expect to work  hard preparing for important milestones and deadlines (such as major Project Reviews or getting a prototype working), expect to work less at other times.

You are expected to prepare for lectures by completing the assigned readings and come ready to participate in lecture discussion. Participation in lectures and at team meetings is an important component of your grade.

Because the course is a nine month experience, we expect you to stick with it for both semesters. If you have doubts later on, see one of the course faculty before making any hasty decisions.

Your first responsibility is to learn how to develop new products. Your second responsibility is to serve the sponsoring company by producing the required deliverables. These two responsibilities do not conflict, but their order should be remembered.

There is more to the course than the projects. Through lectures, readings, lecture preparation assignments and project work, you will learn the basics of new product development. The expectation is that you will be able to generalize beyond the specifics of your project to be a well-rounded product development leader.

Finally, you are representing the University of Minnesota to the outside world, and it is expected that professionalism and maturity will be the norm. An important component of professional behavior is ethical behavior.

Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences

Students will not be penalized for absence during the semester due to unavoidable or legitimate circumstances. Such circumstances include verified illness, participation in intercollegiate athletic events, subpoenas, jury duty, military service, bereavement, and religious observances. Such circumstances do not include voting in local, state, or national elections. For complete information, please see:

Disability Accommodations

Students with disabilities are welcomed in this course. The University is committed to providing quality education to all students regardless of ability. Determining appropriate disability accommodations is a collaborative process. You as a student must register with Disability Services and provide documentation of your disability. The course instructor must provide information regarding a course's content, methods, and essential components. The combination of this information will be used by Disability Services to determine appropriate accommodations for a particular student in a particular course. For more information, please reference Disability Services:

Mental Health Services

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance and may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Student Mental Health Website:

Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the University. Within the scope and content of the course as defined by the instructor, it includes the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the classroom. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.*

Reports of concerns about academic freedom are taken seriously, and there are individuals and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, the Department Chair, your adviser, the associate dean of the college, or the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost. [Customize with names and contact information as appropriate for the course/college/campus.]

* Language adapted from the American Association of University Professors "Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students".