U.lab is an interdisciplinary platform for innovation projects

At U.lab we create opportunities for design-led innovation through learning, research and industry engagement.

Innovation occurs between people, not in isolation, and how we innovate is the product of opportunistic interactions. At the lab we seek to expand the capacity of design into a truly interdisciplinary collaboration between entrepreneurial activity, corporate R&D and academic thought leadership. The projects we are tackling require cross-boundary thinking and embedded collaboration.

Since 2011 people at U.lab have engaged in various programs. Current initiatives include:

  • CAPS – Climate Adapted People Shelter, a design competition to reimagine current bus shelters to be smart and adapted to increasing urban heat in Western Sydney. CAPS will launch in February 2015.
  • Innovation Lab is a full semester subject in which students leverage their knowledge and work in diverse teams to learn and apply skills of ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Creative Enterprise’ to develop solutions for the real world in collaboration with industry sponsors.

Past U.lab initiatives and programs incude:

  • BikeTank is a workshop format that allows participants an intensive one hour exploration into a topic; it is hosted by emerging and leading thinkers who contribute to a bigger picture project. U.lab produced 14 BikeTanks in 2011, 2013 and 2014 amongst other in partnership with the City of Sydney.
  • Creative Minds is a customizable workshop format in which participants tackle innovation challenges. The creative journey is facilitated using design thinking. Creative Minds is open to the public.
  • CitySwitch is an exchange program between Japan, China, Indonesia and Australia, where urban designers, architects, design thinker and artists collaborate over five days on the activation of urban spaces.
  • CrowdShare Sydney was held in 2013 as a program for city enthusiasts who contribute time, skills and energy towards creative and collaborative action. Actions include talk events, co-creation, flashmobs, performance gatherings, media art, guerrilla gardening, participatory graffiti, manifesto readings or any collective celebration of the city.
  • GroundBreaker was held in 2012 as a series of public innovation workshops and panel debates tied to an innovation research program. At GroundBreaker participants explored and build new tools for open innovation, collaborative innovation and crowd-share innovation. The program was held in partnership with the Australian Design Centre and a number of corporate partners.

The U.lab vision is to generate design-led innovation with human impact. To achieve this, we provide a framework and space for students, academics, industry and government experts to engage in design-led human-centered innovation practices.
img_4270-scaled1000Our approach draws on an understanding of human factors as the basis for innovation. It differs from traditional approaches as it infuses the end-user, wider stakeholders, and diverse collaborators into the process. In all stages of insight, ideation, concept, prototyping, solution and commercialisation, human elements are given priority to shape better outcomes. This approach is purposely open and diffuse to maximise overlap between diverse thinking and working styles to encourage collaborative innovation.

U.lab’s strategic purpose is to:

  • Develop, test and disseminate new tools and methods for design-led human-centred innovation that can be used in teaching, organisational innovation, product and service innovation and social change.
  • Develop and deliver transdisciplinary, cross-faculty learning programs based on u.lab practices to create graduates with an increased capacity for creative problem solving and an understanding of innovation processes.
  • Conduct transdisciplinary research into how design-led human-centred tools and methods influence innovation in educational groups, organisations and public services.
  • Form partnerships with SMEs, corporate and government for two-way exchange of  knowledge and methods in co-creation of design-led human-centred innovation solutions through u.lab research and learning programs.