Creative by design

The UTS Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit is fostering new thinking to solve complex future challenges

Participants in one of the Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit's events What happens when we throw away our preconceived ideas about solutions and start to think differently, more creatively?

In developing their resilient cities program, the City of Sydney knew that affordable housing – specifically, addressing the critical shortfall – was key to the city’s future adaptability and resilience. They also knew they needed an innovative approach to this incredibly complex issue.

Enter the UTS Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit (ICIU). Over two days of immersive, collaborative workshops, run through the Innovation and Creative Intelligence Labs (ICI Labs) program, facilitators brought together a range of stakeholders to expose new opportunities for insight.

Dennis, a tenant in one of Sydney’s first public housing developments in Milsons Point, was among them.

A former taxi driver who was diagnosed with cancer and, during his treatment, ended up homeless, Dennis was able to share a very different perspective of the value of affordable housing.

Embedding empathy and taking a user focus is a key element of design-led innovation; the process provided a window into the real concerns and issues of the tenants. For the City of Sydney, it was able to use this workshop to create more innovative and effective strategies that are tailored to real people just like Dennis, who are directly affected.

The ICIU serves as a ‘think tank’; a centre for intellectual research and development, piloting new ways of thinking to meet unknown future challenges. Under the direction of UTS Provost and senior vice-president Peter Booth, the unit is charged with implementing the UTS Innovation and Creative Intelligence Strategy – an ambitious and exciting initiative that captures and focuses innovation and entrepreneurship across the university.

“The Innovation and Creative Intelligence Strategy grows UTS’s national and international profile as a leader in the creative industries, innovation and creative intelligence,” Professor Booth explains. “It unifies our approach to exploring new models for research, teaching and learning in transdisciplinary fields and emerging technologies, and new industry engagement avenues.”

“The Innovation and Creative Intelligence Strategy grows UTS’s national and international profile as a leader in the creative industries, innovation and creative intelligence."

Along with the ICI Labs, the unit is responsible for The Hatchery, a start-up pre-incubator that builds capabilities in students to form their own innovative businesses; and UTSpeaks: Shapeshifters, a public lecture series providing a platform for young creative innovators to share their compelling visions of change.

Formally established in 2012, the ICIU has already produced the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII). It’s an accelerated double degree that young entrepreneurs from any other discipline (such as business, law, engineering and so on) can undertake. The BCII component of this double degree is a world-first, equipping graduates with the skills to reframe and solve complex problems in new and innovative ways.

With cross-faculty collaboration, the course takes a trans-disciplinary approach that leverages UTS’s existing research strengths and industry partnerships. Students hone their skills through industry experience, and working on real-world projects.

The ICIU also plays a part in the recently launched digital creative hub, Piivot, Australia’s answer to Silicon Valley. Technology organisations are often quick to compare themselves with the San Francisco tech precinct, but this claim has some actual substance: through a combination of good planning and good fortune, UTS and Piivot are surrounded by an incredible number of start-ups. In fact, the entire city campus could be characterised as the nucleus of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Originally conceived as a collaborative initiative between UTS, the NSW government, leading corporations, and members of the precinct, Piivot connects start-ups with each other, and with more established corporate innovators, for unique opportunities for learning, networking, mentoring and internships. It also seeks to stimulate and influence national debate and policymaking around creative entrepreneurship and innovation.

All these initiatives, as part of the broader UTS Innovation and Creative Intelligence Strategy, advance UTS’s clear leadership in future-focused thinking, and are critical accelerators on its path to becoming a world-leading university of technology.

Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit (ICIU)

  1. ICI Labs: The ICI Labs offer a dynamic and immersive studio-style program that puts design thinking and creative innovation into practice, allowing participants to experience them in the context of real problems and projects. It engenders new ways of approaching complex challenges through better understanding the needs and perspectives of the user, often by involving them in the process.
  2. The Hatchery: The Hatchery is a pre-incubator program that builds the skills and expertise students need to confidently navigate the start-up environment and bring their business ideas to fruition: developing and formalising their business ideas, prototyping, and pitching to industry incubators and accelerators.
  3. Shapeshifters: Shapeshifters is an interactive public forum. It brings together UTS experts, leading international academics and industry professionals to debate the transformational impact of creative intelligence and the creative economy on today’s world.

Design thinking

Design thinking is an approach to innovation that is centred on the user, or customer, rather than imposing a solution or developing a product and then figuring out how best to sell it. The process takes a designer’s methodology, identifying people’s needs and exploring the possibilities of technology to develop business strategies focused on consumer value.