u.lab at UTS, by Ross Colebach @ Object – via object eye

Earlier this week I went to BikeTank, a think tank you cycle to run out of the University of Technology, Sydney (and you can read about that here.) BikeTank is actually a creative project run out of u.lab, an ‘emerging interdisciplinary framework for innovation projects at UTS.’

The seed for u.lab was planted last year and solidified in January, and from there three ‘projects’ developed this year: Creative Minds, BikeTank and the Entrepreneurship Lab. This morning, at the u.lab ‘headquarters’ in an old warehouse space in Chippendale the Entrepreneurship Lab students presented Launch Pad, effectively delivering their final projects.

Basically, the students have spent the semester working alongside BikeTank to develop four projects in interdisciplinary teams made up of postgraduate students from the schools of architecture and business. The teams had to develop these projects from an idea to a fully-fledged pitch, and then present these pitches to an audience today.

It’s quite an extraordinary task. Many of these students are working in a cross-disciplinary environment for the first time, striving to create a fully functioning project that incorporates design and business attributes. Feedback from the panel of professionals took into account everything from the reality of the project to the business model presented — they were viewed as real pitches with the possibility of market development. Indeed, despite feedback suggesting some refinement was needed, the projects did all seem fairly ready to roll out as commercial propositions.

u.lab is another great cog in the UTS design thinking wheel, accompanying the Design Camp on Cockatoo Island covered in issue 61 of Object magazine. One of the students I spoke to after the pitch highlighted the fact that this was the first time he, as a business student focusing on financials, had really been exposed to the design process. His group spent two months working on an idea before throwing it away, something some in his group saw as a waste until the realisation came that, without those first two months ending in failure, they never would have arrived at what is arguably a superior final product. That failure, as it were, is one of those important elements of design that it takes exposure to to truly understand.

Head to ulab.org.au for more information. If you can get your hands on it, there is a book (u.lab: it’s about you) that will give you a much deeper insight into the lab and the three projects rolled out in 2011. I’m sure much exciting work will come out u.lab, and I personally can’t wait for what might happen in 2012. And look out for the article in Object magazine Issue 62, focusing on Studios and available in March 2012.

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