Basics of Invention and Innovation

Great engineering systems, processes, and products are usually based largely on the exercise of inventive thinking and not on routine procedures for engineering analysis and optimization. Research could conservatively aim at making marginal improvements to the state of the art in the chosen domain, or it may be based on original and novel ideas and potentially lead to breakthrough impacts, discovery of new frontiers, or creation of truly disruptive technologies. Creative engineers and researchers use inventive, non-routine approaches and in most instances their creations clearly stand out. Inventive thinking and problem solving enrich professional life and bring prosperity to organizations and society. Creativity in technology, i.e. the ability to invent, can be acquired and enhanced.

This course intends to prepare the participants a) with a strong motivation and some knowledge to take the path of inventive thinking and b) to initiate and pursue the business environments that are built around novel ideas that lead to successful creation of marketable new products, processes, and systems.

The course uses a pragmatic approach based on the instructor’s own experiences in invention, technology development, and commercialization to familiarize the participants with the process of engaging creative thought that when augmented by the tools and techniques introduced in the course can lead to meaningful inventions leading to useful innovations that will reach the market place.

Essentials of inventive thinking and technological creativity that could lead to breakthrough engineering designs and research endeavors will be presented, and some basic principles of innovation within established companies and through new start up companies will be discussed. Several realistic case studies in invention and technology development will be presented in the context of each subject matter.

To explore one of the program case studies on invention, please view Prof. Berok Khoshnevis’ TEDx Talk – Contour Crafting: Automated Construction.

What You Will Learn:

DAY 1:


  • The duality of human mind – left and right brains distinction
  • Essentials of creative thinking
    • Goodness: The right attitude and value system
    • Beauty: The artistic side of us – appreciation and creation of beauty
    • Truth: In search of what is real with an open mind
  • Seeing the world differently – Visual thinking
  • Thinking differently – Imagination in balance with realism, seeing the unseen connections, seeing the significance and depth in everything, lateral thinking, 
tolerance for ambiguity, curiosity – the urge to know, inquisitiveness and importance of questioning
  • Living differently – The importance of having a vision, quest for meaning in life, the reality of failures and success, true meaning of productivity, meaning of happiness, and meaning of mortality
  • Creativity inhibitors
  • Related case studies

Idea generation

  • Technological creativity in idea generation
  • Creating ideas based on needs (Application Pull)
  • Creating ideas based on observation of phenomena (Technology Push)
  • Understanding the role and use of Space, Time, Matter, and Energy in invention
  • Recognition and effective use of resources and making use of constraints in invention
  • Using analogy and feature transfer for invention
  • Recognition of patterns of technological evolution and their use in invention
  • Related case studies

Turning ideas into meaningful inventions

  • The importance of basic technical knowledge
  • Being able to ask around
  • Using tools that can augment solution finding (e.g., TRIZ)
  • Related case studies

DAY 2:

Technology development – Turning inventions into functional designs

  • Quick tests of feasibility
  • Basics of design and design tools – Computer Aided Design (CAD)
  • Building working prototypes – Classical and modern tools – 3D Printing
  • How to run experiments with prototypes
  • Related case studies

Intellectual property

  • Is idea protection always necessary?
  • Basic legal matters regarding IP
  • Patent search
  • Patent types and application process
  • Basics of patent law
  • Related case studies

The innovation process

  • The social impact of the technology – non-disruptive and disruptive technologies
  • Licensing out an invention or creating a venture to market it
  • Basics of intrapreneurship – Innovation within established companies
  • Basic of entrepreneurship – Innovation through start up companies
  • Market evaluation
  • Creating a business plan
  • Raising necessary funds
  • Creating the company
  • Operating the company
  • Turning prototypes into commercial products
  • Design for manufacturability, serviceability, and disposal
  • Incorporating the human element
  • Incorporating environmental issues
  • Related case studies
What you will gain:
  • Basics of Invention and Innovation prepares motivated participants to take the path of inventive thinking. Participants will learn to initiate and pursue novel ideas that lead to the successful creation of new products, processes, and systems, as well as addressing commercialization challenges. The course will also provide information on creating a successful research program based on original and inventive ideas.
  • Participants can expect to leave the program with a new value system that is conducive to creative living. The course provides participants with a different way of seeing the world and thinking about the observed, a different way of solving problems, and several ways of coming up with new ideas. Attendees will also obtain familiarity with manifesting these ideas in the form of new products, processes, and systems.
Who should attend:
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Technology developers
  • Researchers
  • Business owners
  • Consultants
  • Engineering managers
  • Practicing engineers
  • Engineering educators
  • Engineering students
  • Business professionals
Instructor Bio

Berok Khoshnevis is a Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is active in robotics and mechatronics related research and development projects that include the development of two novel Solid Free Form (Rapid Prototyping) processes called Contour Crafting and SIS, a technology for automated construction of building structures, as well as extraterrestrial infrastructure construction, development of mechatronics systems for biomedical applications (e.g., restorative dentistry, rehabilitation engineering, and tactile sensing devices), autonomous mobile and modular robots for assembly applications on earth and in space, and various other hi-tech projects. He has several inventions – some of which have been either commercialized or are in the commercialization process. He has also been closely involved in several product development processes. His academic research projects are entirely based on his inventions. He routinely conducts lectures and seminars on the subject of invention.

Dr. Khoshnevis’ inventions have received worldwide publicity in acclaimed media. Contour Crafting was identified as one of top 25 inventions among 4,000 candidate inventions by National Inventors Hall of Fame and the History Channel’s Modern Marvels program. NASA recently entitled Dr. Khoshnevis as a NASA Innovative Advanced Concept Fellow because of his idea of Lunar and Martian construction using in situ materials utilized by the Contour Crafting robotics construction system.

Continuing Education Units

CEUs: 1.4

USC Viterbi School of Engineering Certificate of Participation is awarded to all participants upon successful completion of course.

Why Consider a Custom Course for Your Organization?

Custom courses provide the opportunity to create an educational program that meets the specific needs of your organization. The following are a few reasons why our clients have chosen USC Viterbi School of Engineering as their program provider:

  • Interest in connecting with USC experts for real organizational issues
  • Engineering training and executive education opportunities in a condensed period of time
  • Educational opportunities at multiple company sites through on-site training and/or distance offerings to several sites simultaneously
  • Preference for providing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) rather than degree-oriented academic units
  • Overall flexibility in timing, delivery and pricing

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us by email or at 213-740-4488

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