Can Innovation Be Taught?

This Is How a Good Innovation Course Looks Like

Tiago Silva
Age of Awareness
Published in
3 min readJul 19, 2020


Bermix Studio,

Innovation is always a hot topic and everybody wants to be an innovator. Building new products, finding new opportunities and defying the status quo is crucial for today’s businesses but also for society in general as it improves our experience as customers, helps our planet and improves our lives.

Companies are increasingly seeking for well-formed professionals that not only present strong hardskills in engineering, design, or finance, but also are gifted with empathy, critical thinking and leadership. For the sake of avoiding the Innovation Theatre, these workers have to really embrace the problem-solving reasoning and risk taking to add value to the company’s daily activities.

The available educational systems in most countries do not focus consistently in developing the skills that will make one adapt to times of change or empower one to BE the change.

Universities are taking more and more the role of educating beyond the technical skills and theoretical knowledge, and are focusing on bridging the gap between the class room and the real world outside. Having the opportunity to experience to work in a real office, hospital or plant, during an academic course, the student acquires a set of capabilities that otherwise wouldn’t be “available” to learn.

Innovation happens when each person involved in the Process contributes with their own skills, knowledge and experiences. And, because it is a process, it can be learned!

Here are two courses with unique value propositions that promote a learning environment based on problem-solving and team working that teaches about empathy, leadership and… how to innovate!

ME310 — Product and Service Innovation

SUGAR Network

Global network of designers, engineers and innovators challenging complex real world problems.

During 9 months, students alongside with companies work together to develop a project that results in a high fidelity prototype.

“Teams observe and interview users to better understand their needs, benchmark existing technologies and products to identify the design opportunities, extensively brainstorm to discover the obvious, crazy, and novel ideas, and iteratively prototype to quickly test their ideas and get a better understanding of their designs. The end result is a refined design concept backed with key insights.” ( Paris)

Typical Project Overview: 2 Universities, 6 students, 1 team, 1 corporate sponsor/social organization, 1 briefing/challenge, 10 months!

Organizations involved: Stanford University, Hasso Plattner Institut, Aalto University…| IBM, NOKIA, 3M, ABB, Apple, Ford…

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CBI — Challenge Based Innovation


“Challenge Based Innovation is a 4–6 months programme where teams of university students develop projets that solve complex societal problems, inspired by technological ideas that come from instrumentation development or basic research at CERN.

Here students apply their hard skills to challenging projects, in an entrepreneurial setting. They work in a multidisciplinary team, develop their critical thinking and get hands-on to make their ideas real through prototyping and testing.”

(The goal is to) Bring together university students to address societal challenges in the spirit of open science and open innovation, inspired by CERN and its experts, to create solutions that contribute towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.(CBI)

Organizations involved: CERN — IdeaSquare | United Nations| Sanofi, Legacoop… | Swinburne University of Technology, Hochschule Mannheim

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The world is on the verge of being highly disrupted by new technologies and upcoming challenges, future workers have to be prepared to deal with wicked problems and overcome them with robust and creative solutions.

Tiago Silva