This two-year master programme is based on companies’ needs for employees with the ability to initiate, lead, and promote the creation of innovations. The language of tuition is English.
Students within business, engineering and design collaborate at Linnaeus University to develop products
During the autumn term, first-year students on the master programme Innovation through business, engineering and design work in groups with one company each to develop their own products.
Ramona Hallgren studies on the design specialisation. Her group collaborates with the company CumVex, specialising in office furniture. Since CumVex is based in Växjö it is easy for the group to arrange meetings with the company without having to plan too far in advance.
"The company has been very open to our ideas and they listen to what we have to say. The fact that it is a local company is, of course, a great advantage, almost luxury", says Ramona. The collaboration within the group is also working well. All groups consist of students from the three different specialisations: business, engineering and design.
"The interesting part about working in a collaboration like this is that I, being a designer, view things differently. As opposed to financial managers and engineers I don't think very much about production and costs in the first stage of generating ideas", says Ramona.
Sebastian Duque studies on the business specialisation. He thinks that it has been very instructive to work together with students from the other specialisations.
"We all have different perspectives, and our working processes are also different from each other. We get to learn how designers and engineers think, just like in real-life projects", he explains.
Sebastian's group works with Alstermo Bruk, a company making suitcases. They keep contact through email, but also through visits both ways. Sebastian's group has focused on the concept of sustainability and is developing a new product.
"First, we worked four weeks with the development of a design model and now we have reached the engineering process. Once we have completed that, we will work four weeks with the business process. In this way, we will all learn the entire development process, which is very rewarding", says Sebastian.
Joe Sullivan studies on the engineering specialisation and works with the company Quickbutton, a supplier of campaign buttons, name tags and conference badges. Joe's group has also had a sustainability perspective in the development of their product and they have chosen to work with the material bamboo.
"We are really benefitting from each other's different skill sets and different previous experiences within the group. I, for instance, have never before really come into contact with the financial management part. The entire programme is very focused on teamwork", Joe says.
Innovation through business, engineering and design is a 2-year master programme offered at Linnaeus University in Växjö. The programme offers three different specialisations and the language of tuition is English.
"All disciplines are necessary to create an innovation"
Anna Hamlin and Denis Draganovic are taking the Master programme Innovation through Business, Engineering and Design.
Anna, with a specialisation in business, has a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Hawaii and wanted to supplement her international education with a Swedish Master programme. She chose Linnaeus University because of her interest in design and furniture – she saw Småland as an attractive region.
Denis, with a specialisation in engineering, has a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Linnaeus University. He chose this Master programme since it includes interdisciplinary studies, which he thought would lead to a broadening of his competence, and because of its focus on innovation.
(AH = Anna, DD = Denis)
What is innovation?
AH: This question is always discussed in our class. I think it's about giving new life to something old – a product, a process or an organisation. Improving something already existing. It can also mean creating something users didn't know they needed.
DD: It's about making new things much better than before. It should be surprising and include new ways of thinking. Creative thinking and the use of different methods, which lead to new ideas.
AH: All disciplines are necessary to create an innovation – you can't do it on your own. That's what I like about this programme – we learn to work together from the start!
How has working in a multidisciplinary environment affected your view of your own subject?
AH: After having taken some courses I understand that everyone in a group is needed, and everyone can contribute, especially in companies. You see the bigger picture in projects, and that everyone doesn't just work with their own parts. It becomes more real.
DD: You get better results when you cooperate with different disciplines. You learn to see projects from other perspectives and understand the importance of listening to the people around you, which is good for engineers (who normally might not listen to others but think they know best themselves (laughing)).
AH: We take part in many interesting dialogues across the disciplines in the classroom.
How does this cooperation work in courses?
DD: We take all courses together and we often work in groups. You get to know each other well, which means that you also start hanging out a lot outside the classroom.
AH: We have different academic backgrounds, come from different countries, speak different languages and we are of different ages. This leads to very interesting cooperation, and you learn a lot. The programme is great preparation for work in a multinational company.
DD: There is a nice mix – some come straight from their Bachelor programmes and others have ten years of work experience.
Can you describe a course?
AH: In the first course we worked with IKEA and immediately got a brief to work with. In the next course we worked with different companies and had a more open brief which the students could help develop.
DD: Right now there are two groups working with different organisations in the municipality, and a third group working with IKEA. In this course we had an open brief – it was up to the students to find what needed to be improved.
AH: You work with the same group for a whole semester, which means that you grow with the group and develop together. You learn a lot about cooperation by working with the same group for such long time.
DD: We give a lot of presentations, both in class and for companies and in public contexts, which means that you practise your presentation skills and feel that you develop this!
AH: This really feels like preparation for your future career and you understand what it will be like when you start working.
DD: We have a lot of contact with companies, both in the form of clients and other companies that we cooperate with, so you build a great network of contacts before you have even finished your studies.
Most of the students don't have English as their native language – does that affect the programme and its quality?
AH: Sometimes it requires some patience since it takes more time when everyone uses their second language, but it also means that you get the time to think and it can require some effort to understand what everyone is really saying. Communication is key in this programme, and as everyone develops you learn to communicate. Of course, some confusion and misunderstandings can occur, but we try to turn this into something positive. Everyone develops a lot.
DD: I think it works well – you learn a lot from each other, you learn to listen more carefully to each other and you keep developing.
What are your thoughts about your future role? Where do you think you'll be in five years?
AH: I want to work with product development at IKEA, and this programme is great preparation for that.
DD: I want to work as a project manager or a consultant, preferably in cooperation with many different large companies. I like going to different places and I'm flexible.
"Learning from other disciplines and cultures"
"The program is formed by 15 students: six Designers, six Engineers and three students from Business. We all come from different countries; Sweden, Turkey, China, Iran, Italy, Kirghizstan, Bosnia and Colombia, which is where I come from.
As you can tell it is a very mixed group regarding disciplines, cultures, languages and professional backgrounds.
During this first semester we have been working in three different groups and three different modules have been finalized. It has given us experience and the possibility to analyze the advantages and difficulties of an interdisciplinary team work. The first module was really exciting when we got the opportunity to work with IKEA. Each group was assigned with a brief and the task was to develop a concept for them. We presented our ideas and progress every week, received feedback and delivered a final presentation. The second and third modules focused on Design and Engineering. We have been working with three local companies with a very different range of products. We have just started with the fourth module which focuses on Business. Focus groups and target costing will be used as tools for the development of our projects.
The program itself represents a great opportunity for us and all the people who is involved. Learning from other disciplines and cultures; new ways of working, thinking, planning and delivering results. The structure of the master program is in continuous development and has caused a bit of confusion among the students. However, it can also be seen as an opportunity for improvement, planning and future success of the program.
I am looking forward to work with IKEA again and to take on future challenges during the following semesters."
More about the programme
IKEA's and Linnaeus University's collaboration programme The Bridge is a multidisciplinary education and research collaboration dealing with life at home and conditions of production. In simple words, the aim is to tie together a number of disciplines to create a better life at home for the many people. It deals partly with what fundamental needs we have and what furniture we need, but also with how production can be made as cheap and environmentally friendly as possible.
As a result of The Bridge, Linnaeus University has been able to establish an IKEA professorship, unique to the world. The research environment revolving around the subject area Life at Home is developed in collaboration with doctoral students. It is this research environment that makes it possible for Linnaeus University to establish the interdisciplinary master programme.
The master programme has an interdisciplinary perspective, combining engineering, business, and design. The programme enables students to learn from each other's knowledge and improves their ability to work with different projects and product development. The master programme is offered in close collaboration with a number of companies, IKEA being one of them.
How many ideas can we come up with?
"It's like I want to eat the product" That was the feedback Lars Dafnäs, senior range manager at IKEA, gave to some of the students when they presented their product idea on the new master programme at Linnaeus University.
In one corner of the classroom, two students drape a sheet over an object. Some other students arrive with a blue IKEA bag that seems to contain a prototype of some sort. A laptop is passed around as some of the students make the final preparations for the presentation they are about to give. The atmosphere is charged.
Today's activity, when the students on the master programme Innovation through business, engineering and design get to present the result of their work, is called a wash council. The entire front row in the classroom is occupied by guests who normally work with product development at IKEA in Älmhult. It is now time for the innovations to be "washed" – will they make the cut and become products in IKEA's assortment?
During the first weeks of their education, the students have worked with an assignment on the topic "Life at home". Responsible for the assignment for this particular course are various departments at IKEA.
How can buying a carpet become something fun? That is part of the briefing that one of the groups have been working with. The briefing is the starting point for the assignment and describes a need that the company has seen on the market. The students have been divided into groups and each group has then been given an assignment. In each group there are students from the three fields of engineering, business, and design.
The big picture
The students have had a couple of weeks to come up with different proposals for how to solve their assignments. Together they have come up with ideas, brainstormed, revised, and prioritised. What was first a number of product ideas has today been narrowed down to one idea per group. With this idea, the students have worked with an holistic approach; including everything from how the product is to be made attractive to the target group, the development of a prototype, construction sketches, and deciding on a material, to calculating the costs and putting forward a proposal on how and where the product is to be made, wrapped, and transported in a way that is environmentally sustainable. How can we make a sustainable design? What technical construction will function best?
An appealing idea will not be enough; it also has to become profitable. In their presentations, the students express thoughts on many parts of the process involved in the development of a product, from idea to market. The audience is introduced to the following aspects:
• By dividing this part into two in the construction process we are able to use more of the material, which will both lower expenses and provide us with a more flexible product.
• Through a web-based guide the customer will get help planning the purchase.
• If we outsource manufacturing to this region in China, and deliver a volume of X we will get a wage cost of...
• But if we choose a fully automated industry in Småland we will instead have fewer working hours; which means it is probably more profitable in the long run to invest in a manufacturing system operated by robots. The students have been in contact with both industries and logistics companies in order to work out estimates for the actual costs of their products.
• The wrapping will be this size, which means we will be able to fit Y pieces into one container, resulting in a transport cost of...
So, what are the margins? In the briefing the students have been given clear specifications regarding what profit margins are required in order for the products to be considered for production. The requirements are really tough, and force the group to decide what is most important with the product. One of the products consists of a variety of different models. The students have confirmed that one version will be more expensive to produce than the others. Is it still worth keeping that model? Is it possible to come up with a technology that makes it less costly to manufacture that model? What if it is that very model that makes the idea pop out and sell?
Animations and CAD sketches are mixed with classical slides in the student presentations. It becomes very evident that this is second-cycle level. In class, Swedish and international students work closely together, adding an international perspective to the education. How would this product be received in Spain? Or in China? Linnaeus University has agreements with a large number of universities abroad, and each year several hundred international students from all over the world arrive on campus.
"How can buying a carpet become something fun?"
We just might have heard the answer to that question at today's wash council. Perhaps we will stumble upon one of the products in the big furniture company's assortment in a not too distant future.
What to do if your group cannot come up with a good product idea? Not all groups will come up with solutions that make the American Idol jury – what the IKEA project owner jokingly nicknames his colleagues and himself at one point – burst out in a Hallelujah! Some assignments may be tougher than others.
"If you had succeeded in providing a good solution to this question you would all have become millionaires", says Miguel Salinas, senior lecturer at the department of design. "Failure can also be seen as the best way to learn".
"It is very important to be honest and provide information on any problems encountered along the work process. To say: We got this far – but we were not able to come up with solutions to all challenges in the briefing. It is impossible to sell an idea that you yourselves do not believe in", explains one of the company representatives.
"Imagine how much you could have gained by developing a quick prototype – then it would have been clear right away that the product may be dangerous if a child decides to try to climb it".
Much of the discussion in the room revolves around communication between customer and supplier, orderer and developer, and between different competencies. Also, it can be difficult to balance the requirements from the university with those from the company. A constant learning takes place in the dialogue between company and university.
"All student groups who have come up with ideas that seem to have good potential have one thing in common; the group members have worked as a team", says Lars Dafnäs, and continues:
"It is crucial that you make use of all your combined brain potential to solve the task. It becomes evident when you do, because then the result is something new, something inspiring".
"Still a lot of details to work on, but clear potential!"
The article describes one of the courses on the 2-year master programme Innovation through business, engineering and design. Are you curious about the education? If you study business administration, design, or engineering you can apply to the 2-year master.
Letter of intent, business
The Letter of intent is one of the most important parts of your application – it is your opportunity to "sell yourself ". We will carefully consider the answers of the following questions. Please write your answer's in a new document, then upload the document at the admission webpage. (universityadmission.se or antagning.se)
Please attach a one page CV/resume to your Letter of intent (not counted for the page limit of the Letter of intent ). The completed document must not exceed three pages in total. There is no word limit.
Please provide your full name and application number for identification:
(if application number is unknown, please provide date of birth instead)
Name of University at which you have studied for your BSc/BA degree:
In which country have you studied for your undergraduate degree:
Why are you applying for the Master Programme Innovation through Business,
Engineering and Design – specialisation business?
Why do you believe you would benefit from joining the programme? What do you
expect you could contribute with?
What are your career ambitions immediately after graduating
from the programme? Describe how you plan to achieve these goals. How do
you see your career developing over the coming years?
Describe your experiences concerning interdisciplinary development work/process.
How do you think you could contribute to this program with regards to this aspect?
The programme trains students in project and innovation management, process and product development, business and system development, and social entrepreneurship. Students develop in-depth knowledge in business, but there is also interaction and sharing with the subject areas of design and technology. Students who complete the programme will be able to create sustainable solutions that take into account function and form as well as resource efficiency.
Master of Science in Business and Economics (120 credits) with specialization in Innovation through Business, Engineering and Design Main field of study: Business Administration.