PHY347/447 – Physics in an Enterprise Culture

Prof David Lidzey (Module Leader)

Module Summary

This is a seminar and workshop based course with a high level of student centred learning. The unit will introduce students to the methods and skills associated with project proposing, planning, costing, intellectual property issues, patenting and marketing. It will broaden students’ understanding of the mechanics of project suggestion, planning and implementing. The course is divided into two main themes: Phase 1: Students have to make a reasoned case for a new and original piece of research. Students will form part of a series of small ‘panel meetings’ to assess the strengths and weaknesses of work submitted by other students. Phase 2: Students are expected to propose a new technological invention or service, and pitch the idea to a group of ‘experts’. Students are also required to propose a business case for a new commercial venture.


Module Description


This module allows you to practice being creative in the context of applied physics and technology. It will be framed by the funding competitions and priorities that UK government support through its Innovate UK programmes: find out more

You will explore and then plan a future technological and business solution to a problem. Two example themes for the problem will be described – “Future Cities” and “Satellite Applications”. These themes are nationally relevant and are currently supported by Innovate UK through a £100m annual budget to invest in companies that can make a significant difference to the UK economy. You will learn about the themes (both in the introduction lectures and as part of the initial workshops) and the challenges and business opportunities that they pose. You will create as many questions and possible solutions as you can before refining a single idea into a technology development plan appropriate for submission to, and for funding from, Innovate UK. Innovate UK only fund R&D that can lead to commercial impact so your idea must have a market for you to access. We want you to develop ideas around the theme, the market within the theme, specific problems and opportunities and a range of possible solutions.

What makes this module different is the attention given to the process of coming up with ideas, not just at the beginning of the module but throughout: in response to refining the problem that is being addressed; in creating multiple possible solutions; in evaluating different solutions and finally developing a “pitch” for a solution.

The module will be split into two phases (previously we called them themes).

  • In Phase 1 you will come up with a proposal for a technical development that could be funded by Innovate UK. The proposals will be assessed by a panel (your class peers) and graded and ranked. They will also be assessed independently by experts (academic staff). Panel members and experts will provide written feedback on the ideas for use in phase 2 of the module. F7 students will also submit written evaluations of two peer proposals for assessment by the academic staff.
  • In phase 2 you will refine your ideas following the feedback from the panel and construct a short business plan for converting your new technology into a commercial offering. The plan will be presented in a 5 minute “pitch to investors” in week 11.


Assessment is broken into up by both time of submission (phases 1 and 2) and by the type of skills that are being assessed. 50% of the marks are available for the mid-module phase 1 submission. The remaining 50% at the end of the module for phase 2. Within the two phases there are elements of the assessment targeted at your presentation and reporting skills (we will call these convergent skills – the skills that bring an idea together in a coherent way so that you can convince others of its value) and other elements targeted at your creative and critical processes (we will call these divergent skills – the ones that help you iterate and refine an idea. Most importantly, to do this well you often have to come up with multiple questions, ideas and solutions – so we are going to reward this directly – the more good, well constructed ideas you have the better; the more questions you pose the better, and the more critical and reflective the better).

Coming up with ideas and being critical of them: 'Divergent' skills (~50%) Presenting your ideas: 'Convergent' skills (~50%)
Phase 1
Week 7
a) A map (diagram or report) of all the ideas and questions that you have come up with in response to your chosen theme.
b) Your written evaluation of peer proposals. (F7 only)
c) A proposal of the technical development work that you want to carry out, the problem that it addresses and its importance. We will provide a template document for you to complete.
Phase 2
Week 11
d) A report, diagram or map of all the ideas that you have that you think are valuable but that you didn’t use directly in your final business pitch. You must explain how they could be valuable elsewhere. e) 5 minute business pitch for you technical product or service. Imagine you are looking for investment and you must convince someone to give you cash for your business.
f) A one page summary of the business case. (F7 only)


Week 1 – Introduction to the Module. TRL’s, innovation theory, ideas generation and creativity. Divergent and convergent innovation processes.
Week 2 – Introducing the themes – 2 x 2o minute talks. Future cities and satellite applications.
Week 3 – Where to start? The table cloth game and mini Pitch. In teams and choosing one of the themes of the module – cities or space
Week 4 – Xing businesses game. How businesses work and grow. Take the mini pitch from week 3 and build a business from it.
Weeks 5 and 6 – Drop in support sessions.
Week 7 – Submit business case and supporting ideas map. Review peer proposals.
Week 8 – Panels and submission of peer evaluation reports (F7 only).
Weeks 9 and 10 – Feedback for phase 1 given along with drop in support sessions.
Week 11 – Pitch, submit you “other ideas” document. Submission of business summary (F7 only).