Gone are the days when design was the domain of a lone individual sitting at a drawing board visualising new kettles, chairs, typefaces or fashion garments. These days, designers are becoming members of multi-disciplinary teams, using their unique creative problem-solving skills to address challenges which affect society, culture and the economy as a whole. Now Kingston University, working in partnership with St George’s, University of London, is set to lead the way in capitalising on this trend by establishing a new centre for design and innovation with a particular focus on benefitting the health and cultural sectors.
Dubbed Innoversity, the Centre is being launched with a £250,000 award from the Higher Education Council for England. It will feature a laboratory that will be home to multi-disciplinary teams made up of designers, researchers and engineers who will work together to come up with solutions to real-life business challenges.
Kingston University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor Penny Sparke, who is heading the Innoversity development team, said the project had originated from recommendations made by Sir George Cox in his 2005 ‘Review of Creativity in Business’. “The Cox Review concluded that for innovation to occur, people working in different disciplines needed to work together,” Professor Sparke explained. “With our strong, expanding employer links and our capacity to draw on expertise in design, engineering and enterprise, we were confident Kingston would be perfectly placed to set up a facility that could break down the barriers between different subject areas to allow new products to be invented and creative business strategies developed.”
Consisting of up to four people, the Innoversity teams will bring together Master and research students, faculty staff and researchers from design, business, engineering and social science. They will use a range of techniques including brainstorming and prototype development. The first projects of the two-year initiative will be designed within the University but, in the longer term, briefs will be generated by external companies.
“I believe Innoversity will help take design out of the 20th Century where it had become little more than an extension of advertising and into the 21st Century as a creative and intellectual force to be reckoned with,” Professor Sparke said. “The relationship between ourselves and St George’s, University of London, established more than a decade ago, through our joint Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, will allow us to place a strong emphasis on health-related projects. We also plan to work closely with Historic Royal Palaces and will be choosing other projects from companies in the region and beyond.”
Dean of Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture Dr Simon Ofield believes Innoversity is an opportunity for the Faculty to expand its links with industry. “We hope to foster a design culture in which education and industry come together to build sustainable solutions and responses to real-life problems and possibilities,”he said.
Innoversity forms part of the University’s drive to become a teaching, enterprise and research hub for the creative industries. This activity kicked off last September with the launch of a suite of MA courses in the creative economies which bring together students from such specialisms as architecture, design, engineering, business, fashion, publishing and the performing arts with the aim of equipping them with the leadership, entrepreneurial and team-working skills needed to succeed in this complex and highly-competitive sector.