The Co-Innovate team held the traditional annual industry lunch at Made in Brunel on Friday, 14 June 2018, with the venue being host to more than 60 SMEs from the Greater London area. The event provided an opportunity for our guests to hear about the difference design can make to the innovation process, if integrated into the approach at a sufficiently early stage. One of the key benefits of working in partnership with a university is access to the wider store of academic expertise and knowledge assets.
Brunel academics presented case studies on two recent clients of the Co-Innovate programme that illustrate how design can open up new opportunities, such as tailoring content to a specific audience. Dr Vanja Garaj, Brunel’s Head of Design, worked with accessibility consultants Open Inclusion and Channel 4 to explore how immersive broadcast content can be made more accessible to people with a range of sensory, motor and cognitive impairments. With Dr Garaj, Open Inclusion were able to secure £60,000 in funding from Innovate UK’s Audience of the Future: Design Foundations programme.
Rype Office, a manufacturer of office furniture from sustainable materials, spoke about how collaborating with Brunel had not only enabled them to develop their product range and grow their business, but had changed their understanding of and approach to design. The company’s founder, Dr Greg Lavery, explained how the company had worked with Professor Robert Holdway from Brunel’s Department of Design, along with Industrial Design student Alex Roquero, to develop new materials from consumer plastic waste - including yoghurt pots and kitchen chopping boards - to manufacture table tops that can be combined with remanufactured table legs, creating a genuine circular economy operation. The impact and innovation enabled by introducing design to early-stage product development inspired the company to employ Alex as their first in-house product designer, working on the further development of their upcycled and “infinitely recyclable” range.
Design adds value to the product innovation process by enabling businesses to generate user insights more effectively, test early-stage product concepts more efficiently and to identify and adjust to potential opportunities and challenges more rapidly.