Students enter the Dragons' Den

Students were invited to pitch to senior business leaders in a real life ‘Dragons’ Den’ as part of the new Innovation Thinking and Practice module.

During the module, combined teams of Business and Computing School students were tasked to develop business solutions and prototypes around five industry-based innovation challenges:

  • Innovation in the NHS
  • Innovation in online retail
  • Innovation in travel and transport
  • Innovation in financial services
  • Innovation in the police force.

Firstly the students learned some of the key concepts of innovation and began to research their assigned industry and challenge. They applied design thinking to understand their challenge, developed personas and empathy for their end users and generated ideas. The focus then moved to prototyping, business value development and communications. Gary Wilson from IBM was also involved in delivering a workshop on innovative app development.

The presentations in early December took place in the Business School’s new state-of-the-art Collaborative Teaching Space. The teaching room which incorporates the latest teaching technology enabled the students to sell their ideas in interactive and lively presentations. This included video clips, role plays, props, paper prototypes, video animations, mock-ups, websites, apps, text, voice interfaces and use of IBM Watson AI-based visual recognition software.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education Professor Tom Ward opened the session by stressing the importance of the combination of academic achievement and industry expertise. Awards were made based upon votes cast both by the academic and industry panel and the students themselves:

  • Team 4 was awarded the Academic and Industry Panel award for demonstrating the most compelling combination of prototype, business value and wow factor.
  • Team 8 received the runners-up award for their innovative solution to improve the experience of rail commuters.
  • Team 2 received the Student Peer Award for their innovative online retailing solution, narrowly beating Team 1's new solution to improve efficiency in the NHS.

The module was led by Tony Morgan from IBM as part of his Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professorship at the University and Dr Lena Jaspersen, UAF in Innovation Management. Speaking about the pitches, Lena said,

The teams articulated the value of their ideas to their business and the end user. Equally importantly, they confidently stood up to questioning from the guest panel. To me all the teams were winners. All 10 teams certainly nailed what was asked of them.

Tony added:

We’d like to thank our brilliant panel of senior academics from across the University of Leeds and external industry guests. This combination of academic and industry expertise is a critical design point for the module. The students have gained huge value from presenting to the panel and from their insight and questions during and after the session. A number of guests indicated they’d like to follow up with specific teams. I have to say this has been one of the best experiences of my working life.

The students will now be writing individual papers on what they’ve learned during the module, with an emphasis on innovation, commercial awareness, collaboration and communication skills.

See photographs on Flickr