MSc Innokick, Summer Academy in China

I had no idea what it means one year ago. Seriously though, I better understand the meaning and purpose of this Master’s degree after few days being with Innokick students in China for their summer academy. The Master HES-SO (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland) in Integrated Innovation for Product and Business Development (MSc Innokick), initiated by the HES-SO and Canton de Vaud, is the first interdisciplinary master’s program in Switzerland that brings together students from Business, Engineering and Design. MSc Innokick is a full-time degree, lasting over 3 semesters (90 ECTS credits). It includes also a two-week field trip in China and swissnex China has been facilitating the contacts between the partners and organizing the logistics


The 1st week in Hong-Kong (Sinokick blog):

swissnex China welcomed the Innokick group on Sunday July 10 and brought the group to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) where the students stayed. The dormitories there were basic yet cozy for Swiss students.


OnsgfdgfdgfdgfOn Sunday night was also the Euro cup final. As there were many French nationals among the students, you can imagine how disappointed they were after watching it. On Monday, at the Science Park (HKSTP), the Swiss students and professors met with Senior Manager of HKSTP, Marian Gaultney, who has organized this amazing trip. The objective was to bring together design, business and engineering students making them work with startups to address the Industry 4.0 challenge in specific company settings. Everyone was briefed on the Industry 4.0, the outcome expected at the end and the 7 startups. We also visited a 3D printing room and a kind of hackerspace aka “robotic garage” where startups can prototype rapidly any kind of ideas. Then, on Tuesday, each group met with its own startups. In short, this weeklong workshop went well. Some startups even offered to pursue the collaboration with students to get further insights.


The 2nd week in Shanghai (Sinokick blog):

After an intensive week in Hong-Kong, the Innokickers headed to Shanghai to meet with their fellow Chinese students. swissnex China picked the Innokickers at the airport and brought them to their hotel (some students were so relieved not being in a dorm again!) close to ShanghaiTech University.

On Monday morning, Sino-Swiss students were mixed together in order to get them mingle. Later in the morning, we had also Nathalie Nyffeler, Head of the MSc Innokick, presenting the Innokick program. We were also lucky to have Dean May Lee (School of Entrepreneurship and Management) with us. In the afternoon, together with ShanghaiTech (Big up to Shuyan!), we organized a Scavenger Hunt within Shanghai. Each Swiss team was assigned a few Chinese students. The rules were pretty simple: use the public transport as much as possible. Go out, discover and let yourself be surprised. The Chinese students had the mission to take some notes on how the Swiss solve problems, react and behave. They were not allowed to help with the translation.

We all took a bus from ShanghaiTech to Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park metro station. All the teams then were assigned various challenges such as eating specific local street food, learning Shanghainese and teaching French to locals, going to the highest point in Shanghai and visiting a Chinese flat. The weather was crazy hot however the afternoon was full of fun. Chinese and Swiss students got to know each other and laughed a lot.

As of Tuesday, 9 Sino-Swiss teams were working on an innovation challenge. They had to imagine a product/service linked with food or oil. On Friday, the 9 intercultural and interdisciplinary* teams pitched their business model and 1st prototype to the professors.

According to both Chinese and Swiss sides, this week was quite fruitful full of learning. For the Swiss: patience is crucial in China. For the Chinese: team work can make a difference. Also make a product/service that responds to a real customer pain point.

"Innovation" is everywhere at the moment. That’s a buzzword. A sexy term that means everything and nothing at the same time. The question is: how do you really innovate? I think the answer is there: by combining different disciplines together and orientating efforts towards understanding and solving a problem, you create relevant business models/products/services that meet the need of a customer segment. And I am convinced it’s the beauty of programs like the Master HES-SO Innokick, mixing design, business and engineering students together and assigning them practical challenges from the industry. You get so many different and conflicting perspectives. And this is where (sometimes) the magic can happen. Are you ready to innovate and perhaps create the next big thing? So, stop talking, start doing and dare to dream. 


*yes indeed, Chinese students had exclusively a scientific background

Contributed by Justin Jacquat, Junior Project Leader at swissnex China