A Three Way Win: Collaborative Design as a mechanism for successful Knowledge Transfer and Exchange, enhancing student employability and adding value to the student experience

Peter Reid, Martins Elerts

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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This paper describes a case study of industry engagement between Teesside University and Tees Valley based SME, 'K2 Thermal Imaging' during the Spring and Summer of 2014. K2 Thermal Imaging (K2) is a specialist Business to Business manufacturer of thermal imaging and related equipment for the fire, marine, oil & gas and military markets. An example K2 product is The SOLO - a full-face fire helmet with customers including Ferrari F1, NASA and cruise liner onboard fire equipment for ships such as the Queen Mary. The SOLO TIC adds thermal imaging vision to the SOLO helmet enabling firefighters to see through otherwise impenetrable smoke' to the heart of the fire. During spring 2014, a number of collaborative projects were undertaken between K2 and students on the three year, BA(Hons) Product Design programme in the School of Arts and Media. The nature of the collaboration brought together academic knowledge of strategic New Product Development (NPD) and K2's technical expertise to lead the creative process. The projects culminated in the awarding of an academically supervised three month summer placement for one student. The purpose of the placement was to develop a new facelift SOLO fire helmet. The initial problem was that K2 is a highly specialised manufacturing company and does not currently employ any in-house designers. Neither does it have specialist in-house design facilities or equipment. The company has excellent market, technical and product knowledge but does not currently have the expertise to drive the strategic NPD/design process. It was not practical for the company to provide a 'traditional' student placement based solely at their premises. The placement therefore needed to operate geographically 'between' the University and the company as dictated by the need to access expertise, knowledge and appropriate design resources. The student focus for the project involved concept sketch development, CAD visualisation, soft modelling and rapid prototyping. The project culminated in the production of a full prototype helmet. The academic focus was to provide a consultant's eye to student support and guidance, providing project management expertise and strategic NPD insights. The company focus was to provide a market pulse understanding of the competitive environment, customer needs, and technical developments in the industry. This was set against a brief with practical constraints for a feasible solution, capable of production within existing capabilities and resources. This paper reviews the work undertaken during the student placement phase of the collaboration, showcasing the results and describing the three way benefits for the company, university and student(s). It considers issues that such collaborations can uncover and highlights Knowledge Exchange Impact - how strategic NPD has developed a product solution with tailored variants, functional improvements, new features and ‘design thinking’ not previously seen in K2 products. The new design has both added value and offers cost savings in production. These outcomes have altered the way the company views product development.
Original languageUndefined
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventInnovation through Knowledge Transfer 2015 International Conference - Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Apr 201517 Apr 2015


ConferenceInnovation through Knowledge Transfer 2015 International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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