Designers help develop university technologies

Designers are being brought into universities to help speed up the commercialisation of a raft of innovation projects, including solar-powered equipment to generate clean water and electricity, and a safety tracking device using a radar on a chip implanted in clothing.

The Design Council’s Innovate for Universities scheme will see designers working with technology transfer offices of universities to help scientists and technologists accelerate the development of 24 research projects.

Six universities – Aberdeen, Cambridge, Leeds, Nottingham, University College London and York – have been selected following a competitive entry process. Each has nominated four technologies for a 12-month period of design mentoring.

Other projects in the scheme include crime-mapping software from UCL, intelligent robotics to restore limb function in stroke victims from Leeds, and solar-thermochromic film for windows to control light and temperature in buildings from Nottingham.

The design mentors working on the projects – Chris Thompson, Ian Ferris, Jonathan Ball and Neil Gridley – have been recruited from the Design Council’s roster of design associates.

Innovate for Universities, funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will culminate in a showcase of the resulting innovations and projects in June 2010.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Innovation, says, ‘This exciting Design Council project will offer innovators in universities really practical advice to help bring their innovations to market.’

David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, says, ‘In the UK we have a world-class science base with researchers working at the forefront of new thinking, plus an equally potent design capability, with the skills to translate ideas into products and services that meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumer.

‘Innovate for Universities is about combining both these elements early and smartly so we commercialise our technologies around the needs of real people and create enduring new solutions and businesses.’

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