The Technology Development Institute, or TDI, at Kansas State University serves as an economic growth driver in the state by providing access to and expertise in innovative technologies to private industry and academic researchers to fuel manufacturing growth.
“We play different roles,” said Jeff Tucker, executive director, TDI. “Sometimes we work at a technology level, sometimes at an operational level, sometimes with community partners at an industry cluster level. We work with various entities from entrepreneurs and startups to small companies trying to grow to large corporations trying something new.”
Founded in 1985 as part of K-State’s Carl R. Ice College of Engineering, TDI helps manufacturers and individuals design, test and launch new products and technologies. Its range of services includes:
“We work with companies hands-on. We become part of their teams to bring new ideas to life and bring them to marketplace. It’s about trying to advance somebody’s endeavor to develop a new product or process,” Tucker said. “We’ve done a lot of work to help small businesses and manufacturers.”
Recent projects have ranged from developing a consumer marine trash can to prototyping a specialty tool for linemen to launching a networking hub for manufacturers and entrepreneurs in the Great Plains area.
“Our process is pretty simple. We start with a meeting, understand what prospective clients have done, what they’re trying to do and develop a pathway to move their idea forward,” Tucker explained. “The smaller the client, the more we focus on the capability of the individuals and how viable we think the product is. For larger companies looking into automation and advanced manufacturing, we try to determine if they have the elements to be successful and help them understand how to leverage those elements.”
The team evaluates potential projects and develops proposals for their manufacturing and innovation development services. Engagements are as varied as the projects and entities they work with. Some are structured as time and materials, others as fixed-fee projects. The main requirement is that the project must benefit the region.
“We are driven by the long-term economic impact and want to make sure everything we do has a positive impact for our clients, our communities, our state,” Tucker said.
To help facilitate growth in the area, TDI is planning its own growth with upgrades and additions to their facilities, equipment and capabilities. TDI has three different spaces covering 44,000 square feet for prototyping, meeting and fabrication. Plans are in the works to add new technologies to their 3D printing studio, upgrade machinery and expand the production space. Expansion plans include:
TDI’s efforts to develop an ecosystem of innovation are backed by various regional and national entities. They partner with the Kansas Department of Commerce, U.S. Economic Development Administration, National Instruments and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Regional Innovation Clusters to forward their mission and help others realize their visions.
TDI is also committed to raising a new generation of engineers, designers and innovators through its internship program. Since the program’s inception in 1995, more than 650 students have participated, gaining experience and perspective through the work-based learning opportunity. Tucker said he hopes programs like this will encourage more talented Kansans to continue their careers in the industry and the state.
If you have an idea for a new product or process, but aren’t sure how to pursue the next steps, Tucker said the best way forward is to contact TDI to schedule an exploratory meeting.