Transformational Learning Experience – Innovation & Design Collaborative

Ahmed Hambaba
San Jose State University

General Background
Complex systems, such as transportation, education, food, dynamic functioning of the electric-power grid, healthcare, reducing pollution and conserving energy, impact quality of life and economic growth. These systems are comprised of interconnected components of people, technology, and services. In order to address the challenges that face any complex system, one must know how it functions from the bottom to top.
Universities and community colleges have not been designed to keep up with the dynamic, fast-paced nature of the industries in which these complex system problems arise. To add value, 21st century students must possess deep disciplinary knowledge, strong critical thinking skills, and an ability to communicate across social, cultural and economic boundaries: “T” shaped professional. The ideal 21st century students are not only a comprehensive problem-solver, they also have the skills to define the problem. Historically, universities have not been agile in keeping abreast of technology and the changing nature of complex industries.
SJSU Innovation Design Collaborative (IDC), at San Jose State University (SJSU), will create a fertile ground for successful and continual collaboration among professionals across disciplines. It is a platform for an industry-university network of collaborations that forms the infrastructure of a thriving economic region. The 21st century, requires the IDC vision— we can no longer rely on the expertise professionals learned early in their education to keep them at the forefront of the skills queue.
Growing our partnerships with industry is critical to solving global issues and human capital needs. Partnerships provide invaluable experience for our students and increases their attractiveness to employers. The IDC will establish a pipeline of qualified 21st century talent.
IDC is designed to provide access to industries seeking to connect with SJSU, and a way to support faculty and students to match with industry. It will further expansion as it increases faculty engagement with industry. It is dedicated to fostering partnerships between students, industry, government agencies, citizens and organizations. We are shaping the future of transformative learning on many fronts and will secure excellence for the IDC by our actions. We conceived the IDC strategy on four strands that elevate all aspects of the initiative:
• Transformational Learning Experience 

• Relationship-building to establish industry-academia partnerships.
• Commercial acumen and communication skills to promote new technologies.
• Entrepreneurial mindset to develop spin-off companies

Transformational Learning Experience
For centuries, universities have taught students to “know things.” In today’s data-driven, innovation economy, universities must equip students to “make things.”. There is an urgent need for SJSU to develop 21st century human capital. The answers lay in the development of quality “T” shaped professionals. For “T” shaped professionals, quantitative- reasoning skills are still top priority for engineer education.

Relationship-building to establish industry-academia partnerships
IDC has created a joint appointment with industry to sponsor a Corporate Endowed Chair for 5 years. It provides SJSU faculty and their students with a new opportunity to engage in real-world professional engineering practice; to augment the teaching, research and creative activities of a faculty member of the highest academic and professional caliber; and to strengthen the relationship between corporation and SJSU. Building bridges further, IDC continues to develop strong partnerships with industries on the R&D Faculty Projects. It provides SJSU faculty, students, and industry Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with realistic, hands-on experience of innovative product or process development, and entail significant mentorship and technical guidance by SJSU faculty members and industry professionals.

Commercial acumen and communication skills to promote new technologies
Knowing the value of the scientific invention is not enough. In this role, students and faculty have to also promote the new applied research projects. One of the key responsibilities to grasp is technology transfer. It is to make sure that the value of a new technology is promoted to external clients. This is crucial for attracting suitable licensees and industry partners who will facilitate commercialization of the technology. To be efficient in this role, students and faculty must develop commercial acumen to understand the commercial potential of an invention and R&D projects. The planning is to have several workshops on these topics facilitated by experts.

Entrepreneurial mindset to develop spin-off companies
Previously, the traditional way to translate a technology originating from university research labs was throughout-licensing. But now, universities are also encouraging more entrepreneurial strategies. IDC planned to take this road.
In these cases, the technology results in the formation of a start-up or spin-off company that students and faculty will learn the key aspects for developing the technology and bringing it to market. Most major universities have incubators, and some even have set up a venture capital fund to foster the formation of spin-offs from the university’s innovations. SJSU does not have venture capital funds and incubators. We are hoping to develop these acumens.
National Science Foundation funded the project entitled “Silicon Valley Innovation and Entrepreneurships Scholarships.” The objective is to develop and implement boot camp program with the local industry collaborations in terms of workshops and R&D projects to educate students the entrepreneurships acumen and communication skills, start-up and spin-off company skills.