Promoting Innovation in our universities Part I

In the last blog posts we considered how three trends are setting a new agenda for universities in Australia. In this post we will consider how innovation can provide a driver for change management in our universities.

Part of the debate about innovation for me is really how it can be fostered. Innovation is not something we can turn on or off, but through making a space for it we can nurture and foster its growth and development. Universities have massive potential for innovation: its students, staff, researchers all have ideas generated out of an understanding of the evidence base and observations of how things are done today. This period is a particularly exciting time for innovation as many of our business models and methods for doing things are changing as a necessary shift towards digital technologies and culture. While the society is as Marshall McLuhan suggested becoming a ‘global village’, there are many opportunities for developing applications, setting up companies and designing new products and services based upon intellectual advances. New fields are emerging and new materials being invented and applied in different ways and contexts.

In many ways the 21st century is a century of invention and innovation. The universities will play a linchpin role in ensuring that all our learners have the knowledge they need to take advantage of this environment, but it’s important that they are encouraged and nurtured to allow for creativity and innovative problem solving in their studies. Although we will not all grow up to become a researcher, having the skills of a researcher will be important for checking the evidence base, being critical about what we read online and developing research skills to extend out and build upon what is known in each area.

Innovation will not just be a space for invention but also for trialling and experimenting with different media in different contexts, and here having an education that supports experimentation in a structured and scientific way will have benefits. Many of the future innovations will come from bringing different disciplines together to solve problems or crossing traditional boundaries to find simple solutions. It is at the intersection of disciplines that we will find new methods for doing things better or overcoming traditional mindsets to ensure that new IP will be developed and exploited.

This is not to say that the process will be without its challenges, it will require a reconsideration of IP and how we develop and exploit it, it will need new departments that are purpose designed to support business development. Above all, it will involve having an entrepreneurial culture in which senior leaders, managers, academic and professional staff and students all are part of a culture where creativity and innovation are supported and celebrated.

To power the societies of the future in Australia and beyond we need to nurture innovation and wider creativity and foster collaborations between industry and academia. We also need to provide better end to end support of students and staff facilitating the starting up of companies and development IP. Through breaking down the barriers between disciplines and creating an entrepreneurial culture in our universities we can facilitate greater innovation in a short space of time.

Link to: de Freitas, S. Education in Computer Generated Environments. London & New York: Routledge at: https://www.routledge.com/products/9780415634021

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