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A pilot program drives innovation across the university

24 October 2016
Embedding a culture of innovation

Twenty University of Sydney students from business, design, engineering and science disciplines have participated in a pilot program to foster future innovators.

Students inventing the future: (L-R) Xanthe Croot (School of Physics), Christopher ChaN (Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning), Anastasia Volkova (School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering), Brandon Cabanilla, (University of Sydney Business School) and Malcolm Ramsay (School of Computation Chemistry).

Students inventing the future: (L-R) Xanthe Croot (School of Physics), Christopher ChaN (Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning), Anastasia Volkova (School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering), Brandon Cabanilla, (University of Sydney Business School) and Malcolm Ramsay (School of Computation Chemistry).

Inventing the Future is a unique, cross-disciplinary program involving postgraduate and research students from the University’s Faculties of Science, Architecture, Design and Planning, Engineering and IT and the Sydney Business School.

Over a course of 11 weeks, students have taken part in the complete process of innovation, from ideation to prototyping to a funding pitch to industry, enabled by interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-faculty teaching.

Associate Professor Maryanne Large who led the initiative, said: “Our vision is to make innovation and interfaculty teamwork an essential part of the student experience at all levels. This approach will prepare students for a future that is yet to be invented.”

Product briefs around themes of energy, health and nanosatellites were chosen for their high social and economic impact and their alignment with research strengths and academic expertise within the university. They were allocated to mixed discipline teams and delivered by lecturers from the four faculties with external subject matter experts sharing specific expertise in areas such as intellectual property and user-experience design.

To properly address the brief, students worked co-operatively to understand the problem from a human-centred design perspective, the opportunities and constraints technically and operationally, how consumers will interact with the technology and how business might commercialise the product successfully. Critically, students were also required to prototype their idea using university-wide facilities for fabrication and testing.

The program aims to deeply embed a culture of innovation in the learning experience by giving students skills, knowledge and values, which are essential to thrive in a rapidly-changing world.

Liam Scarratt, a PhD student in the School of Chemistry, said: “Inventing the Future has been a fantastic experience, and something I believe any student doing a postgraduate research-centred course should participate in. Through the adversity of solving a problem in a cross-disciplinary team, you gain indispensable skills that you can apply to anything that comes your way. This course provides that experience and more, giving you exposure to skills that will come in handy not just in your research and future career, but in life.”

Inventing the Future was funded by an Educational Innovation Grant (2015). The program was led by Associate Professor Maryanne Large (Innovation and Commercialisation, Faculty of Science), Associate Professor Martin Tomitsch (Head of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning), Bronwyn Darlington (Lecturer International Business, University of Sydney Business School), Professor Zdenka Kuncic (School of Physics), and Professor Ron Johnston, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Innovation (Faculty of Engineering & IT).

Inventing the future

Listen to University of Sydney academics and students talking about a unique, pilot program, Inventing the future.