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July 22, 2013 | Tom Ballard

UT CIS unveils new innovation product for manufacturers, other organizations

UT CIS-teknoThe University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS) unveiled its new “Innovation Management Solution” product during a two-hour session last week in Oak Ridge.

“We want to make manufacturers aware of a new tool that will help them more effectively move ideas from the concept stage to commercialization,” Beth Phillips, Economic Development Programs Manager with UT CIS, said in an earlier article.

The approach, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for its 50-state Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network, is designed to help smaller companies develop a culture that results in a continual “pipeline of innovation.”

In the case of East Tennessee, there is a special opportunity available to companies. Because UT CIS serves as the MEP center for Tennessee, it is licensed to use the tool. In addition, because UT CIS is a partner in the 20-county Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee (AMP!), it has some federal funding to underwrite a portion of the cost to companies in those counties that want to adopt and implement the program.

During last week’s session, Phillips noted the tool is very customizable to the needs of a company.

Misty DePriest, UT CIS Manufacturing Consultant, explained the solutions product and process, which she said was designed for manufacturers but also works for any organization.

“You are reestablishing your overall business model as a company when you go down this path,” DePriest explained, adding that the process embraces approaches used by some of the world’s leading innovators – Google, 3M and Proctor & Gamble, to name a few – but is scaled to the needs of smaller companies.

One of the early points she made was the importance of innovation. “If you’re not meaningfully unique, you better be cheaper,” DePriest emphasized.

She noted that many companies have quality management and product development systems, but most don’t have innovation systems.

Under the innovation tool, companies embrace a three-step process to create a pipeline of ideas, clarify the feasibility of those ideas, and commercialize the concepts that survive the intensive evaluation.

DePriest had the attendees work in small groups to create ideas and begin to vet them through a customer concept process that answered questions such as who is the customer, what is their problem, what can you promise the customer as a benefit for buying the product, what proof can you provide that the innovation will deliver the promised benefits, and what are the threats that could derail the idea.

Those in East Tennessee wanting more information about the innovation product should contact Jim Slizewski, UT CIS Solutions Consultant, at or call 865/974-2249.