Design-Led Multidisciplinary Innovation Education

Timeframe: 2006 – present
Funder: HEFCE Strategic Fund / ERDF One North East Studentship

In response to the 2005 Cox Review of Creativity in Business, and supported by a £65,000 HEFCE strategic fund grant, Northumbria undertook research exploring how best to deliver multidisciplinary innovation education. This research was undertaken in partnership with Lego, Philips, Unilever and Hasbro. The findings from this pilot study underpinned the development of the MA/MSc Multidisciplinary Innovation (MDI) programme which has been successfully running since 2008. Initially focused, as Cox advocated, on the three disciplinary domains of design, business and technology the programme has, over-time, evolved to rely more heavily on the influence of design and business teaching whilst simultaneously drawing students from a much wider disciplinary mix. The programme launched with a £750, 000 ERDF North East Studentship Grant. In their MDI studies, multidisciplinary teams of students learn through undertaking projects conducted with external partner organisations, working with diverse stakeholders to address innovation challenges that matter to those organisations. Students work across sectors and scales, from start-up charities to Fortune 500 corporations. These projects, the Master’s programme within which they are undertaken and the circumstances of the partnering organisations, form the research site for a community practice established around them. The programme is specifically oriented towards Responsible Innovation and each module of study is constructed in such a way that embeds research questions that support the team’s growing knowledge in this space. Aside from educating over 200 students to-date, this community has been responsible for knowledge exchange with more than 70 organisations, generated over £1.1million in research council grant and contract research income and collectively members of the community have produced some 40 academic publications. The Impact Case Study ‘Transforming organisational practices and achieving long-term change through design-led innovation’ (Bailey, M. and Spencer, N. REF2021) has its origins in this group’s research.