A day in the life of…: Smart Cities Week 2015

From 14 untill 22 November our 52 young engineers attended the yearly Smart Cities Week in Barcelona. This year’s edition was organised in the scope of the Innovation Journey, a challenge driven journey where students transform challenges in innovative proposals and build up market feasible prototypes. During a 9 day jam-packed agenda, the participants got to know the co-operating companies and their innovation challenges, worked on their innovation proposal, and finally presented it to a jury. To accomplish this, the students learned about innovation methodologies, followed a master class in Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT), and had a training in rapid prototyping and elevator pitching. Apart from that they also attended the Smart City World Expo, and a session about urban planning in Barcelona. Although every day in this course is different from the other, we asked ourselves: “what does a day in the Smart Cities Week look like?”.

Monday 16 November, another sunny day in Barcelona, a day full of innovation for our MSc Energy for Smart Cities participants. After hearing about their innovation challenges yesterday, the engineers in training will work in groups applying new techniques to their products / cases.

09.00 – 11.00: Master class in SIT methodologies

The day kicks off with a master class in Systematic Inventive Thinking, by Alexander Kaatz and Julian Geuder from Bridging Positions. The SIT method’s main thrust: don’t just listen to the voice of your customers, listen to the voice of your product. Function follows form, an important aspect that will be highlighted during the day. In order to create new ideas, Kaatz gives the students some tools: innovations patterns that can help predict the emergence of new products. Using subtraction, multiplication, and task unification; all groups start the innovation process with high hopes.

11.00-14.30: First round of applying the SIT techniques

After an inspiring master class the participants start to work on their innovation challenges, applying the newly learned techniques. Kaatz & Geuder as well as Mar Martinez (Programme Coordinator) and Xavier Crusat (Innovation Manager), coach the participants during the creative process. Carlotta Cataldi (Graphic Facilitator and Recorder) helps the engineers with visualising their ideas, making a unique drawing for each innovation challenge. Lunch is served, but even now the participants don’t stop working, innovating, and discussing with the companies and coaches.

14.30-18.00: Presentations of the challenges and first outcomes

Enervalis, ABB, Everis or Watly, those are just a few companies for which the participants develop an innovative proposal. But it will take a more few days until the students reach this point. During the rest of this Monday, all groups present their first outcomes followed by direct feedback from Kaatz and Geuder. Using the SIT methodologies, a total of ten new ideas come out for each challenge. Eco bumps, solar panel street lights, cloud charging stations, houses with a ‘saving battery’ mode,… The young engineers show of their best entrepreneurial and innovative skills working on their challenges.

Finally, after a long and intense day, the students go back to their hostel, ready to start innovating again tomorrow.

The rest of this week’s agenda is fully packed with other courses, and coaching sessions. But also a three day visit to the Smart City World Expo, an international fair attracting thousands of visitors each year. “By attending the Smart City World Expo, the engineers in training can gain some new insights and ideas for their innovation challenges.” says Mar Martinez, Programme Coordinator of MSc Energy for Smart Cities. “Insights that are necessary to create an innovative proposal for the first round of the innovation competition during this week.”

And the participants? They believe that every masters programme should offer a course like this. According to Milos Viktorovic, a 2nd year student, the Smart Cities Course has a lot to offer. “We have the chance to work on real projects with real companies, plus the trainings are really useful and applicable to our challenges (eg. SIT methodologies). Apart from that a community feeling is created here, you could compare the course to slow dating for 9 days, as the opposite of ‘speed dating’ in regular conferences”.

Next stop of the Innovation Journey? The BIZ bootcamp in Leuven, 26 March – 4 April. Stay tuned!