There two boot camps required in the program. The first boot camp is held the week before the students enter the program. In this boot camp the students are divided into teams of three and augmented with one Masters of Business Administration student and one Master of Fine Arts student. The team is given a technically based seed for a start-up business. They will then develop and pitch a business plan for that seed. This effort is supported during the day by lectures on critical components of a business plan such as market analysis, financial projections, intellectual property, sales strategies, manufacturing, and management. In the evening the team will put together these various components to pitch the next morning leading up to the final pitch on Friday. A cash award is given to the winning team.
The first boot camp is followed by a two course series on entrepreneurial skills. This course goes into depth on subjects related to business plans, raising capital, management, intellectual property, market analysis and marketing, sales, manufacturing, and research and development. This series is team taught between the McCoy School of Business and MSEC. In the first week of the course the students are required to pick an idea related to their research upon which a business plan can be built and potentially a business.
The second boot camp is held after the end of the spring semester in May. The students over the preceding two semesters have been assigned the task of producing a business plan for a start- up related to their research. The first day of the second boot camp each team gives a business pitch on their idea for a start-up. A typical boot camp will have 12 business plans. These are narrowed to the top 4 pitches. The students that did not make the cut are then put on one of the four teams that made the cut. These four teams are then augmented with an MBA student and a MFA student. The teams are then given two days to improve their pitch and branding. On the final day a panel of outside judges rank the four pitches. The top team receives a cash award. The top two teams prepare to compete in the Rice Business plan the following spring.
In parallel to these activities, a seminar series is held every Friday called the Commercialization Forum. In this forum the speakers are successful entrepreneurs, officers of companies, IP attorneys, and scientists and engineers who are invited to share their expertise with the students. This forum is typically divided into two parts. In the first part the speaker talks about their experience in starting or running a company or the technicalities of starting a company. This is followed by a break where the students are given twenty minutes to discuss the talk and formulate questions to ask the speaker. The second presentation is normally more technical, typically discussing the details of their products or research they have conducted. Students are required to take 4 semesters of this forum.
Candidacy Requirements: The last commercial component of the program is the requirements for admittance to candidacy. There are three components. The first is a traditional research plan for their doctoral research that must be defended orally. The second is a business plan developed around the student’s research that is presented orally. This is met by the second boot camp. The third requirement is that the student writes a SBIR/STTR proposal and defends it orally.
The MSEC program and the McCoy School of business have developed a program that allows students to get a combined PhD/MBA. This new combined degree allows the students to receive both degrees at a reduced number of hours relative to the two separate degree plans by taking advantage of course work already in the MSEC program that is business-related.