500 students have 3 days to solve tasks for eight companies

From Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 October, 500 students from Business Academy Aarhus will be working to help eight companies address authentic challenges. Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard (S) is participating as a judge and awarding the prizes.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Business Academy Aarhus is hosting Denmark’s largest, multidisciplinary innovation process for higher education students. In all 500 students and 30 teachers from 12 different programmes will suggest innovative solutions to eight private and public companies.

User-driven innovation

Arla Foods is one of the eight companies involved in the innovation process. They want help to develop user-friendly packaging for yoghurt/muesli cups.

‘It’s a great opportunity for us to get some fresh ideas, which have not been tainted by the industry, on one of the challenges we have tried to resolve over the last few years. The hope is that the students can come up with something that is more user-friendly than the yoghurt cups we have today,’ says innovation manager Pia Rasmussen Bødker from Arla Foods.

Win-win

The nursery Jiffyplanter A/S would like to sell more plants to forest owners and forest managers and publicise their cultivation concept internationally. Muskelsvindfonden (Muscular Dystrophy society), who run Circus Summarum, need to rethink their use of volunteers. Aarhus European Capital of Culture 2017 hopes to provide schoolchildren with a greater awareness and knowledge of regional food and health, but how? The insurance company, Codan, wants to get ideas to help prevent water damage in homes. With this collaboration, the companies can use the students’ bright minds absolutely free for three whole days, and the students get real-life challenges incorporated into their teaching. ‘Most students will only be working with students from programmes other than their own. But as something new this year, we have two mono-disciplinary teams so we can measure the level of innovation when we do not work across disciplines. Our experience is that students gain more experience and perform more innovatively with interdisciplinary work, but we may learn something else’ says project manager Ulla Haahr from the Academy.

The way forward

The Experts in Teams process has two objectives: the students should become more innovative when working across disciplines, and the participating companies should gain new perspectives and workable solutions to existing challenges.

‘Experts in Teams provides us with a unique setting where our students can practice collaborating across disciplines. This is rated as an important competence today. Therefore, we must work intelligently and diligently to equip young people with these skills,’ says Rector Christian Mathiasen from Business Academy Aarhus.

The Mayor backs our initiative

The results of the innovation process will be presented on Friday at an innovation party in the cafeteria area at the Academy. Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard (S) will be present as a judge and award the prizes. The Mayor welcomes the Academy’s initiative with an innovation process like this.

‘Young people who manage to turn things upside down and see new business opportunities will always be in demand in Danish companies. Thinking outside the box is also a necessary ability to have if they choose to start their own business. The Academy’s innovation process bridges the gap between the companies and the students, therefore contributing to growth and employment in our area,’ says Jacob Bundsgaard, who is looking forward to meeting both the students and the participating companies.

Jigsaw Puzzle

This is the second consecutive year that the Academy has encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration and is using it in an innovative process in collaboration with the companies who are involved right from the beginning. To get the initiative to succeed, the entire jigsaw must fit together. The 500 the students are divided into 18 ‘villages’ with approximately 30 students in each, these are in turn sub-divided into 100 working groups with approximately five students each. Each village has a team of facilitators, who facilitate cooperation in the village. During the three days various exercises are planned which will help students to clarify their own core competencies in relation to the project group’s shared competencies. Each day, the students need to prepare a reflection report documenting the interaction and processes in the project team. These analyses must include assessment and reflection on how each student has affected cooperation in the group.  

International attention

As something new in 2014, the Academy has, together with Norway’s Engineering and Science University, established a Scandinavian network with other partner universities, including the University of Southern Denmark and Lund University. The goal is to share the model and experience from the process. Therefore, there are visitors from Portugal, England, Germany, Holland, Norway and Sweden this year so that they can see how to create such an event.

Focus on rethinking

This year’s theme is ‘RYB:::Rethink Your Business'. The theme illustrates that a company regularly needs to rethink their value chain processes to remain competitive.

Inspiration from Norway

The method to strengthen the multidisciplinary collaborative skills is called 'Experts in Teams' and was developed by Norway’s version of DTU, which is located in Trondheim. The Nordic Council of Ministers programme, Nordplus, is supporting the Scandinavian Experts in Teams network with 225 000 DKK.

Facts about Experts in Teams:

  • 500 students in their 1st, 2nd or 3rd year are participating from 12 different programmes 
  • The work will be conducted in 18 villages consisting of approximately 30 students
  • Work will take place in 100 project groups consisting of approximately 5 students
  • 30 teachers are facilitators
  • 37 students are learning assistants
  • 8 companies have each produced 1-3 issues
  • The companies are Arla, Jiffyplanter A/S, Aarhus European Capital of Culture in 2017, NorthSide, Muskelsvindfonden, Codan, Silvan and Foodfein.

Read more at www.baaa.dk/eit