What is the Innovation Semester?
Project instructors from universities, companies or other institutions offer different projects for which students, apprentices and young professionals alike can apply. This way, instructors as well as participants have the chance of thinking outside the box of their own discipline and institution. The Innovation Semester is based on the idea that the only way to create something new is by exchanging different perspectives. That is why this cooperation project of the Wissensregion Düsseldorf e.V. came into existence. It was initiated by the following members of the association: Fliedner Fachhochschule (Fliedner University of Applied Sciences), Handwerkskammer Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf Chamber of Crafts), Heinrich-Heine-Universität (Heinrich Heine University), Hochschule Düsseldorf (University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf), Robert Schumann Hochschule (Robert Schumann Conservatory), the City of Düsseldorf and Industrie- und Handelskammer zu Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf Chamber of Industry and Commerce). In recognition of the concept behind the Innovation Semester, these members were jointly awarded with the “Hochschulperle des Monats” by the renowned Stifterverband in December 2018.
“DEFYING BORDERS AND PROMOTING THE GROWTH OF KNOWLEDGE”
The format of the Innovation Semester is unique in Germany and, at the same time, an ideal representation of the association’s core idea since it defies professional, disciplinary and institutional borders. The Innovation Semester always starts in autumn and ends in spring, covering more or less the time of a university’s winter term. Participants are meant to get together and develop a societally innovative project through their diverse educational biographies and specialised perspectives. These projects will be presented after an intense, four-month preparation phase. The format promotes the exchange and, thereby, growth of knowledge.
“GAINING KEY COMPETENCES FOR TOMORROW’S WORLD OF WORK”
In the first three years of its existence, 2018/19 to 2020/21, more than 30 groups with a total of 400 participants took part in this cooperation format. The groups met regularly between mid-October and mid-February before demonstrating their presentation skills and their results’ innovative energy at the big closing event. During the Innovation Semester, participants can gain practical experience outside their usual study environment or work life. It is also the ideal breeding ground for building up networks with motivated and interested young people in the knowledge region of Düsseldorf. This way, the Innovation Semester models the key competences for succeeding in tomorrow’s world of work: team spirit, practice- and solution-oriented approaches, project management skills, dealing with people from different professional (interdisciplinarity) and personal (diversity) backgrounds.
“CHOOSING FROM A WIDE RANGE OF COURSES AND TOPICS”
The courses that are offered during the Innovation Semester cover a wide range of topics – young people and project instructors dedicate themselves to the societal/entrepreneurial challenges of our time or to improving life in the region of Düsseldorf. Artistic and cultural topics are also covered. The topics are in no way predetermined but follow the suggestions of the course instructors. Often enough, the topics are developed and further specified in close cooperation with the participants. The following is only a small selection to give you an impression of the courses’ variety:
Low-cost measurement of fine particulate matter
Participants built fine particulate sensors, measured the fine particulate air pollution at different locations and visualised their results on digital maps.
Development of a shopping app and a dungeon crawler with societal relevance
The company Electronic Partner offered a course during each Innovation Semester so far, with some of its apprentices being in charge of the concrete projects each year. In 2018/19, participants programmed the prototype of a mobile app that facilitates shopping at the supermarket. In 2019/20, the course developed a digital game that deals with environmental pollution. In 2020/21, the focus was on working with the “Calliope mini”, a single-board computer used for education purposes. Of course, interdisciplinary, motley teams are needed here – and that is exactly what the Innovation Semester is for.
#starthealthatwork: For better health at the workplace
Participants developed a concept for health-promoting measurements at the workplace and started an Instagram campaign with the hashtag #starthealthatwork. Next on the agenda is a petition with which the group hopes to reach local and federal politicians.
Developing prototypes of a “solar kiosk”
The group gathered ideas for and developed prototypes of a “solar kiosk” in Ghana – designed as a place for borrowing solar lamps, enabling local families to have light at their disposal after sunset.
Experimental kit for children and teens
In 2020/21, an interdisciplinary and cross-institutional team developed an experimental kit at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf. The kit is aimed at children and teens, hoping to kindle their enthusiasm for science and to familiarise them with the tasks of material testers.
Modelling democracy playfully
Participants designed a board game which puts across democratic processes in an easily comprehensible way.
We would like to thank the Gesellschaft von Freunden und Förderern der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf and the Stiftung van Meeteren for their generous support of the Innovation Semester!
Photo credit: Oliver Tjaden