Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Open Innovation in our Universities

Article
With Open Innovation becoming an important cornerstone for our European welfare, its principles must surely be an essential element in the way we teach the next generation to take control.
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A few skills are pivotal to make Open Innovation work. One of them is being able to see the potential in other disciplines, besides one’s own specialisation. Like a medicine student appreciating the value of service design to address healthcare for the elderly. Or the physics student teaming up with sociologists to set up living laboratory experiments in a city neighbourhood. These examples represent the so-called T-shape skills which must form an integral part of our education system.

Another essential skill, which is also  close to our European culture, is being creative, or better: daring to create something out of nothing. When combined with technology savviness, it becomes a strong source of innovation. A clear proof of this strength is the growth of the regions where digital professions and the makership movement come together at a personal level.

Good developments in education that support the Open Innovation mind-set are under way, like the rise of University Colleges where students are taught to see the added value of combining traditional disciplines to tackle societal challenges; or the equal partnership of fundamental- and applied science universities in research and education. The increased awareness of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -STEM- education among male and female students is also promising.

And what about and the teachers? A teacher deserves room for more initiative and maximum freedom to develop the right ways to teach. This comes with a responsibility: teaching itself must reflect T-shaped skills, bringing the best of the different disciplines together and challenging each of the students. Teaching must imply that Open Innovation means crossing borders, sharing your experience and demonstrating an eagerness to stimulate serendipity between disciplines. University leaders must dare to invest in digital support to take out repetitive tasks and one-to-many education. That is not an easy task in a world that is conservative in its attitude to change.

In the Amsterdam Metropolitan area, two general universities and the University of Applied Science team-up to form the Amsterdam Academic Alliance. With a special emphasis on data science, digital humanities and living lab structures, a new curriculum for ‘citizen science’ is developed. Students in mixed teams are involved in research projects with citizens and industry and learn to create solutions with open data, gamification and services design. They acquire fundamental knowledge in their discipline of choice as well as the skills for fabricating working systems that operate in a city living lab. These students will take control of our society in due course and will be native with the principles of Open Innovation. And I wish them success.

Dr. Geleyn Meijer

Dean

Faculty of Digital Creative Industries

University of Applied Science Amsterdam

 

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