Finding an engineer
August 29, 2006 9:45 PM   Subscribe

How can i find an engineer to help me develop my new product?

I have been working on a idea for a new consumer product. It combines electronics (think small personal gadget) with moving parts. I think I need and electrical and/or a mechanical engineer - but am unsure. I am currently working thru the patent process. How can I find an engineer (and access their abilities) while at the same time limiting the number of people with whom i expose the idea to?
posted by longlight to Technology (6 answers total)
Engineer here. The problem you have is that high quality engineers tend to be employed already and if they're available outside their employer, they will charge $100-$500/hour or more.

What I suggest is that you go to your nearest engineering university and find a lecturer and suggest that they find you a couple of their very best senior undergraduates to work on your products as their final-year project.

At my uni (Adelaide), every engineer works on a major final year design/implementation project with a couple of other people. Plenty of undergrads are clueless but some (say, 1-3 per year from a class of 120) are brilliant and can likely do what you need. It's also becoming more common for projects to be "industry linked", which is basically what you're proposing.

The university will have policies on IP generated by students and you'll need to have a careful read there. If you're feeling rich, you can likely contract with a lecturer to do the work for you under NDA; many of them do such outside contracts frequently.
posted by polyglot at 9:57 PM on August 29, 2006

I have no idea what your product is, but keep in mind that anything moving WILL break. This is the big reason why hard drives are being replaced by flash in mp3 players, for instance. Sorry for the derail.

Slightly more on topic, my understanding is that public universities (in [most states? of] the US) can't do [funded?] work on proprietary products. I know in the university I work for, everything we develop has to have source available (we don't have to *publish* the source, but if someone asks for it we have to give it). I don't know if that would extend to student IP as well, so yes, read carefully.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:49 AM on August 30, 2006

If polyglot's idea isn't possible, see if the university has an employment database you can advertise on. You'll probably find a senior engineering student that will be keen to do some work in their spare time.
posted by cholly at 3:35 AM on August 30, 2006

I did something like this in undergrad. The way it worked was that somebody contacted the EE department, who then contacted a few professors and I was in turn contacted. I didn't do it for my final year project this was something extra which I was paid for.
posted by substrate at 6:10 AM on August 30, 2006

You are looking for a product design company. They do this all of the time, will respect your IP and confidentiality and assign IP generated during the design to you. You should use a lawyer to help you negotiate the contract and it frankly won't be cheap. Polyglot's idea sounds pretty good too.
posted by caddis at 7:56 AM on August 30, 2006

Polyglot isn't completely right. There are heaps of engineering firms who do exactly what you require. Talk to your IP people first, they probably have an existing relationship with someone.

Also talk to the office for innovation and or trade at your local government. In Australia, Austrade is a federal body and in Queensland the Premier's department has an office for Innovation. See if your local equivalent can refer you to anyone, and while you are there, check out any commercialisation or R&D grants that they may be offering.

Many manufacturers have departments which look after this stuff. The advantage with this approach is that they know what equipment, processes and experience they have and how they can best use that to solve your engineering problems.

Be careful of all of your dealings. Try and see samples and talk to some exisiting clients. University's and their commercialisation branches can be pretty demanding in terms of IP ownership and when I looked at this, they made me nervous.

I think that you want to partner with someone who has some experience in the field in which you are entering.

I have dealt with a Danish company who have production capacity in both Denmark and Thailand and I am happy to pass on their details, if you like.
posted by dantodd at 7:24 PM on August 30, 2006

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