The Use of Student Design Projects as a Catalyst for Collaborations across Industry Sectors
This paper is based on product design students work in response to collaborative projects. These projects are supported by companies operating within similar market sectors but offering different products and services. By co-operating with two companies projects can move beyond a specific product agenda, typically a demand for students to design another product within a companies portfolio, to a research based agenda. There are two primary objectives with the exercise: Objective A: To challenge the students. Students are forced to question and think beyond existing paradigms, and with limited preconceptions, students are able to indirectly propose new questions and ways of analysing a market sector. Objective B: To allow the industrial collaborators to reappraise their own position within a market sector through the observations and proposals generated by students. The paper will use as an example a project whose area of investigation is the office with the collaborative partners being Herman Miller and Xerox Corporation. As the brief is to understand and question this market sector students quickly move away from the office as a given paradigm and question fundamental working practices and the environment in which this activity takes place. The partners supply insight into these issues form their own perspective. Consequently the resultant proposals are not a response to either party but are a synthesis of differing inputs. The type of response is open to the students. As the project has an academic rather than economic structure the students can be used as catalysts for companies to explore, away from the commercial arena, common ground and review how cross fertilization of ideas could have a benefit to both parties. They can also exchange ideas through student work without directly revealing their own future plans or technology. The paper will expand on the opportunities provided by collaborative projects and explore how this forum can formalized into a research agenda.