Professionals collaborate with students to drive innovation

University of Huddersfield has secured a £250,000 grant from the Office for Students (OfS), following a bid to drive innovation between students and the region’s business community.

And strategic design consultancy The Engine Room – based in Mirfield – has been entrusted to help deliver the proposed initiative.

Called the Innovation and Creative Exchange (ICE+), the interdisciplinary enterprise challenge programme will be rolled out to at least 750 undergraduates and postgraduates over two years.

SMEs from Leeds City Region will be invited to pose real, complex business problems for students to solve.

Concepts will then be pitched back to the organisations, and the winning teams will secure internship opportunities to implement the innovations.

The project uses a self-assessment tool from the company Innovas to monitor students’ development of key enterprising skills and attributes.

University head of enterprise and entrepreneurship, Philip Clegg, said: “Earlier this year, we asked The Engine Room’s managing director Lesley Gulliver to deliver a ‘principles of innovation’ workshop for 18 students currently undertaking their Enterprise Placement Year.

“These young people have a wide breadth of skills, as they come to us from Schools throughout the university.

“Yet few are taught specifically about innovation – a key facet of entrepreneurialism – in any real depth.

“Lesley is a strategic design professional with more than 25 years’ industry experience – not to mention a position as board director of Design Business Association – so she was the perfect person to help inspire the innovative mindset of our cohort.”

An augmentation of Gulliver’s work has subsequently been introduced into the first phase of the ICE+ programme, which means students will meet with The Engine Room when the challenge begins, to help unlock their design thinking potential.

Clegg continued: “While The Engine Room’s initial work with The Enterprise Team was funded with the help of Santander Universities, Lesley has continued to support four students’ start-up businesses on a pro-bono basis.

“The education sector is just one of many that has been impacted significantly by COVID-19.

“Yet the enterprising spirit of our students – particularly during lockdown – has been nothing short of inspirational.

“Together, we’ve set up a digital pitching club, for example, to help showcase and continually develop individuals’ skills even though we’re not physically seeing each other week in, week out.

“We’re staying connected via online platforms too, so their learning is not disrupted, and Lesley’s workshops – now also being delivered virtually – will provide the perfect interconnect between now and the start of ICE+.”