A systematic approach for collecting and analyzing data for finding innovations

Kimmo Vänni
Tampere University of Applied Sciences

LinkedIn profile Research Gate profile

Esa Kunnari
Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Pekka Pöyry
Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Screening and understanding the future needs and the business targets of companies are of crucial importance for university students, graduates and universities’ research & business activities. Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) carried out the Innovation Scout project funded by TEKES in 2017 and found that data from student training have been utilized scarcely, even if data could be combined and analysed in respect of companies’ needs for finding new ideas and business opportunities in a larger scale. Traditionally, universities have collected and analysed lot of data in their scientific research work. However, universities have not been so active for collecting and analyzing data from student work. Some students have collected data for their thesis, which have focused on studying and reporting certain tasks. Data have also been collected from practical training periods but it has focused on self-reporting how well students have succeeded in their work but data regarding a company’s performance have often been ignored. For example, the existing training report form requires a student to define which tasks he/she has done and to self-estimate how well he/she has managed to carry out tasks but it does not inquire to define e.g. the operational gaps of the company. Therefore, this study aimed to define and carry out an approach for collecting and linking data from practical training with other data sources and to find new innovation ideas. In all, a new approach, an e-form, a user interface and a server solution was carried out. The e-form was modified from an existing survey form by adding an item where was asked to evaluate three challenges in a company which may require development or re-organizing. In addition, suggestions for solutions were asked as well. A new approach was pilot-tested by 100 of students in the end of 2017. The results showed that practical training periods produced applicable data and it was possible to conclude the current and future needs of the companies. The result showed that the most common development issues related to resources, marketing, communication, digitization and well-being. The pilot-test showed that a new approach to collect, link and analyse data from practical training periods may advance 1) to develop new product and services, 2) to find new business opportunities and 3) to develop universities’ curriculum to meet the companies’ expectations regarding the skills or trainees and graduates. In addition, data visualization played an important part in the project, so that key findings can be conveniently presented. We emphasize that this was a pilot project, and it is possible to link multiple data sources from practical training, project reports and theses together with commonly available big data. However, that may require more exploration and a clear focus. In addition, a current legislation and data privacy should be discussed as well. In sum, universities have possibilities to collect and analyse valuable data from practical training and utilize information which has been earlier ignored as a source for developing companies, universities and society overall.