Innovation Sessions / New Program Development

The graphic below illustrates the linear discovery to market development process. Historically major innovations have taken years to decades from initial discovery to market. It continues to be true new things can take time. Basic unguided discovery can often lead to new applications that were unknown prior to the research effort.   There have been many new practices developed to bring new innovation to the marketplace. An on-going debate exists on how the innovation cycle time can be reduced while maintaining sufficient basic discovery.



One approach is to try and improve the existing process by being more efficient and reducing the time for each of the individual steps. While conceptually possible a new approach is possible to deliver a balance of discovery and market commercialization.



The graphic above shows a two-step approach.  The first step is highly iterative and focuses on concept development.  When a new market opportunity is established developing a final solution often involves a lot more than just basic science.  Fast forwarding and considering all aspects of the final product development often leads to critical barriers that need to be addressed.

A very popular model that has developed over the last decade is the lean start-up model.  The lean start-up focuses on the design of the market offering – establishing a market, a value proposition and path to validation.  Experience has shown that many new product designs are not limited by the technology alone.  The most important part of any early stage iteration is to have people present who both understand what are potential market needs as well as others who have ideas about possible solutions.  That iterative discussion often leads to new approaches or concepts.
Spending time to develop new projects with multiple perspectives is a critical step. Instead of starting with defined research proposals there has been a lean front end innovation process developed and piloted during the past several years. The figure below illustrates a typical innovation session. A session starts with a description of a need or market problem. Often in terms of the market need which can be financial, regulatory, new opportunity.

The needs are captured and shared with a group of faculty who may have a particular interest in joining a project team. An innovation session is scheduled with multiple faculty and sponsors to discuss. Each faculty shares a 1 page brief description of something that could be done to address the immediate need. The 1 page concept is designed to be a contribution that could be made from their existing or future research interests. Further, this is a way to integrate multiple skill groups into a program development. Through group discussion a program description emerges which often combines skills from several different faculty. At the end the discussion moves to what is a program, what are the related projects and establishment of key goals for projects. This is then developed into a more formal program plan which is finalized with the sponsor. For programs that involve multiple faculty there is also a program leader. A role to ensure that efforts are coordinated and the external need is addressed through integration of the various project activities. One source of program leaders are senior graduate students and / or industrial post-docs. Their role is both to make sure the overall program stays on track as well as providing an educational experience for the students.

  • Our expertise around campus on immersive technology (virtual reality) may offer a unique component to the training and experiential learning enterprise
  • Consider issues like biosensitivity (a rapidly developing concern), critical incident response methodology, and virtual experimental design to drive field trials in the virtual asset course.
Market Discovery Programs

The lean start-up model originally developed by Steve Blank has expanded rapidly over the past several years. The lean start up is designed to help take a new idea to market by establishing a value proposition and customer base. The idea of minimum viable product (MVP) helps to emphasize early market feedback. We have piloted a course to use the lean development model in reverse. Instead of taking a new idea to market we work to develop a concept for a new offering and then engage student teams to capture market feedback. The design of the course has been set up to engage with sponsors to work collaboratively on new concepts using the lean start up model. We imagine this could be a good opportunity to explore early stage ideas prior to engaging in a major research effort. Great potential exists for students to be exposed to a range of market experiences as well as to develop new concepts which could be launched at the University.

Integrated Education

Another element of a horizontal is an integrated education model. Higher education is a massive market which is currently being redesign by application of Education Technology (EdTech). Over the past decade we have seen almost every business being disrupted through the application of technology. The combination of new business models with technology has created major disruptions in the market such as UBER in transportation, Airbnb in hospitality, and Amazon in retail, book publishing, and now cloud computing. The rapid rise of online video from 2005 on made the MOOCs possible and still offers a wealth of possibilities: most people intuitively realize YouTube can teach you to do a huge number of things, including many our classrooms cannot. Significant advances in education emerged with the models created by KhanAcademy, Coursera, EdX, Udacity, General Assembly and others.

A large and growing library of online content now covers most subject areas with a variety of payment and credentialing options available to the user, many of them outside universities’ traditional models. A critical element of the horizontal design is to embed education across all activities and build content as a partnership with sponsors as well as internal university sources. The design of the horizontal should create the best opportunities for students to work on interesting projects tied market need, have experience with scale and translation of concepts to the market as well as acquire a broad set of skills for the workplace. As shown in figure 3, the best place to start is in the gap between University and workplace.

Increasingly companies seek new employees who demonstrate problem-solving, business awareness, and teamwork and leadership skills to complement the traditional functional training of a typical degree program. Exposure to these concepts as part of the horizontal will also help prepare students for future employment. An as content of many fields is changing faster than university curricula content jointly development and managed will be current and represent state of market practice. Having an established reference of critical content would be useful for both university and workplace training. Cross-training, simulation projects, project-based programs could be developed and shared as part of training. It would also be possible to highlight technologies and capabilities of various hiring organizations to make that visible to students and be integrated into recruiting and campus engagement. In particular, established companies that do not have a well-known brand could become much more visible to students and faculty highlighting some of the technologies and products that they have in the market.

Integrated Internships
  • Engage faculty, students, and industrial mentors (Practitioners) seamlessly in the experiential learning enterprise; practitioners could be engaged in person or via regular skype communications with teams
  • Consider creating a faculty “practicum”  at industry sites to bring real world needs back to the experiential learning and research enterprises