The University of Kent celebrated the completion of its third Innovation i-Teams progamme with its Grand Final last week, bringing together talented students and innovative businesses for a fantastic evening of knowledge exchange.
This year’s challenge sponsors included multinational corporation, Cummins, growing learning and development consultancy, Cognitas Global, and renowned service provider for the over 50s, SAGA. Having set each student team a real business problem to solve eight weeks prior, the Grand Final was the business’ opportunity meet the teams and hear the innovative solutions they had come up with, presented through live presentations.
The event was led by Deputy CEO of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Tudor Price who, along with his fellow mentors, Andrew Stevens, Paul Hayes and Graham Card, had dedicated their time to advise, motivate and guide the teams throughout the programme.
The first team to present were Cognitas Global. This growing learning and development consultancy needs to expand its market so the company’s CEO, Lawrie Day, challenged the team to come up with a plan to do just that. In response, the team created a marketing video for the company and set out a multi-layered strategy targeting Universities as a new customer.
Up next were team Cummins, challenged to consider opportunities to make the company’s new premises at the Discovery Park environmentally sustainable. The team presented a range of measures which addressed sustainability from numerous angles, each assessed according to impact and feasibility.
Jahnavi Prajapati, a member of the Cummins team said of the experience, “Working with peers from diverse academic backgrounds to solve real world problems made us feel more confident in our abilities.”
Finally, it was time for team SAGA to present. With many of their customers in a vulnerable position, SAGA strive to make their services as accessible as possible. They challenged the team to create a strategy to increase the accessibility of SAGA’s services. Some of their innovative suggestions included an improved app, an accessible card reader and a family network in which vulnerable groups could allocate one ‘organizer’ to deal with their services.
“You have just given us a masterclass in great presenting,” Harriet Locke, Innovation and Design Consultant at SAGA, told the team following their presentation. “We were hoping for a younger person’s view on an older person’s product… you have delivered that.”
Following the presentations, students were rewarded with ample feedback from the business representatives and mentors, whom were all hugely impressed with the delivery and content of the teams’ proposals.
As Scott Stewart, Customer Strategy Consultant at SAGA, commented, “The students really excelled themselves! Their understanding and insight into the depth of content in their solutions, the confidence from all that presented and this included seeing each of their own personalities really shining through.”
“It’s a programme I would recommend to any student looking to improve their awareness and understanding of real-world problems,” said Biochemistry PhD student, Prince Ikeru, of the experience. “The opportunity not only allowed me to mix with a network of smart and thoughtful minds, but, allowed me to see the power of approaching problems from a multi-dimensional viewpoint with the guidance of industry leaders.”
Janine Coomber, Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Kent said of the programme, “i-Teams 2022 is such a fantastic opportunity for students to hone their problem solving and team working skills whilst helping local businesses innovate and grow. Most importantly, it’s a chance for students and businesses to connect, and for me to see the passion with which both sides contribute to the programme is so meaningful. We are all excited to see what collaboration opportunities come out of these relationships in the future.”
i-Teams originated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the top institutions in the world for the development of modern technology. The programme was brought over to the UK by the University of Cambridge in 2006 and since then, several other UK Universities have adopted the model and implemented their own programmes.
If you are a business of any size facing an innovation challenge that you believe our talented students could help you solve, get in touch with our business and innovation gateway team at KEInnovation@kent.ac.uk to express your interest in taking part in next years’ i-Teams programme.