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Design as an integrating factor in an International Cross-Disciplinary Innovation Course

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2015 ASEE International Forum


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 14, 2015

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks - Session II

Tagged Topic

International Forum

Page Count


Page Numbers

19.7.1 - 19.7.9



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Paper Authors


Anders V Warell Lund University, Industrial Design

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Bio Anders Warell
Professor Anders Warell is Director of Research at the Division of Industrial Design, Lund University, Sweden. He received his PhD on Product Identity and Design Aesthetics from Chalmers University of Technology in 2002. After being part of the development of the Industrial Design Engineering masters programme at Chalmers, he joined the School of Design at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand in 2005, where he led the Industrial Design programme and founded Affect – the Centre for Affective Design Research. Research interests include user centered design and innovation, user experiences, design methods, product brand identity, visual design aesthetics, and strategic design.

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Charlotta Johnsson Lund University

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Charlotta Johnsson holds a position as Associate Professor at Lund University, Sweden where she also serves as the Program Director for the master program Technology Management. Charlotta Johnsson has PhD in Automatic Control from Lund University, Sweden. Her research interests include; technology management and innovations, entrepreneurship, automation, operations management, and pedagogy. She is teaching and advising students in undergraduate, graduate and industrial programs.

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Carl-Henric Lennart Nilsson Technology management

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Associate Professor Carl-Henric Nilsson is a business development specialist focused on industrialization processes with a PhD in Industrial Management. He has founded several startups and is currently CEO of Kunskapspartner AB and researcher at Lund University specializing in pedagogics, entrepreneurship, business development and industrialization.

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On Including Design in a Cross-Disciplinary Innovation CourseToday, innovation is a key word for many universities, as it constitutes an importantpart of most universities’ public and scientific interaction with society. Manyuniversities are striving to increase the frequency of innovations spun out. It iscommonly held that are sprung from research projects and researchers. However,several studies indicate that under-graduate or graduate students emanating fromproduct or market opportunities also generate innovations.Undergraduate or graduate courses that mix students with different academicbackgrounds allowing them to freely synthesize their domain specific knowledge innew contexts, are rare. By combining design, business and engineering students in aninnovation course, and by letting the students apply their knowledge to current marketneeds, innovators can be fostered, innovations generated and entrepreneurs born.Furthermore, mixing cultures and mindsets may stimulate creativity, leading to noveland unexpected ideas.This paper describes the execution and outcome of a new graduate course ininnovation. The course is international and multi-disciplinary in terms of students,teachers and subjects. It was developed in spring 2012 and has since then been giventhree times on a yearly basis. The duration of the course is six (6) weeks and held inChina, with Swedish and Chinese students collaborating in multidisciplinary teams.  The mix of design, business and engineering students is a powerful combination sinceknowledge in these three disciplines mirrors the three central characteristics of asuccessful innovation – feasibility, viability and desirability. While engineeringstudents know if and how a technical innovation can be brought into reality(feasibility), management students can determine the market and financial aspects ofbringing an innovation to the market (viability), and design students can make surethe innovation is experienced and presented in an attractive way (desirability). If theinnovation is not desirable, it does not matter if it is desirable and viable – it will notmake a success on the market. Consequently, the role of the design students in thecourse is fundamental. The course offers the opportunity to integrate design thinkingand making in a truly multidisciplinary and multicultural setting – a place is eightinnovations, one per design team, manifested in eight prototypes, eight short moviesand eight business plans.The effects of the course are analyzed 2 ways. Firstly using Pertex analysis andsecondly a frequency-analysis of (the Swedish) students’ career choice: employmentor entrepreneurship. The Pertex analysis reveals a nuanced picture of the meaning andutility of the course. The means of the course for all but one group is: cooperation,teamwork, mixing of cultural backgrounds and educational background. Thefrequency of entrepreneurship when comparing the 3 classes of students taking thecourse with the prior 14 classes not taking the course reveals that before ≤1 of 40chose entrepreneurship, while in the three classes taking the course 1-4 out of 40chose entrepreneurship, an increase of 300-500%.

Warell, A. V., & Johnsson, C., & Nilsson, C. L. (2015, June), Design as an integrating factor in an International Cross-Disciplinary Innovation Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE International Forum, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--17130

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