I have a partner and a robotics project. We can't finish the engineering ourselves and he thinks that we can get one of the nearby universities to help. I can't see them doing the work for us. Is this a real option?
Working with universities on product development and prototyping can be very beneficial. I've worked with numerous universities over the last 25 years on early stage medical device developments. They can definitely be helpful, you just need to go in with the right expectations. The main issue to be concerned with is timing. Don't expect a quick turnaround when working with a university.
Most universities will require some type of agreement before you contract work with them (typically called a Sponsored Research Agreement). These agreements typically protect both your IP and the university IP, if needed, and will usually have clauses to cover generation of new IP to which you should have first rights to negotiate a license.
Universities have different protocols that need to be followed in working with them. Many require that you work through a professor. The professor will want (1) funding to cover a student in their lab and (2) the ability to publish the work if applicable. Both of these can actually be beneficial to you too. The student could become a potential new hire for you business and any publication can be valuable promotional material. Due to the desire to cover their lab costs (student, materials and supplies, etc.), the professor will also need to lump in the university overhead which can bump up the overall cost of doing business. It's not always cheaper to work with a university.
Many universities also have centralized, managed facilities (specialized labs, analytical services, prototyping, etc.) where you work directly with staff at that facility. Access to these facilities are typically either membership-related or fee-for-service arrangements. These facilities are also used, sometimes heavily, by the faculty members. So, it can take some time to complete what you need. However, many universities do have the latest equipment, so you do gain access to cutting edge capabilities.
It's worthwhile seeing if your local university can do the job. You'll want to make sure that they have the capability to do what you need, figure out what type of arrangement they require in working with them, and get an estimate on turnaround time and cost.
In your dreams if you think you will get worthwhile slave labor they will cost you more in errors and aggravation- AND steal your ideas
That's what the patent, NDA, and IP assignment forms are for. This device was prototyped at Conestoga College:
Depends where you are. Here in Ontario, Canada, colleges have applied research programs whose aim is exactly that.
Agreed with Maxine. If your idea is easy enough for students who have never built real product in industry to execute, then you have no barrier to entry.
Ok guys. Nobody is looking for "slave labor." I just happen to be an electronics engineer and needs help working on a mechanical connection on my device. One of the colleges near here has a prototyping facility. They won't have the whole picture l, so they can't steal my idea.