HumanImpact: Human Behaviour, Culture and Everyday Life as Basis for Innovation and Impact

Mikka Nielsen
University of Copenhagen

Lise Tjorring
University of Copenhagen

Martina Skrubbeltrang Mahnke
University of Copenhagen

Denmark has invested massively in infrastructure for knowledge exchange and innovation (Styrelsen for Forskning og Innovation: 2014). However, the focus has almost exclusively been on technical, medical and scientific knowledge and on patents, licenses and spin-outs, rather than on value creation through new commercial products (Produktivitetskommissionen: 2014). Cutting-edge humanities research can contribute substantially to growth and value creation in society with its focus on culture, communication and every-day life (Danmarks Forskningspolitiske Råd: 2011).

HumanImpact is a research project, which addresses the challenge of making knowledge from humanities research accessible to businesses. Simultaneously, it aims to make business challenges and experiences available to researchers as foundations for future business-relevant research within the humanities. These aims will be achieved through the creation of an innovative infrastructure designed to facilitate collaboration and shared knowledge production. Two-way knowledge exchange and cross-fertilization have the potential of both radical and incremental innovation within the service sector. The HumanImpact project investigates how this is done best, as there is little existing about this process.

Concretely, HumanImpact consists of 18 research projects for small and medium sized companies over a period of 3 years. Each research project lasts approximately 4 months and is defined in collaboration with the private company. The goal of each research project is to contribute directly to the commercialization of business ideas in the specific companies as well as generate knowledge about how humanities research can best be implemented in the private sector.
Currently, HumanImpact is running two research projects with the private companies Pressalit and Viking ending in March 2019.

Research project for Viking Life Saving Equipment
Viking Life Saving Equipment (Viking) is a private company producing and maintaining maritime and fire safety equipment. Viking has identified a need to rethink what fire catastrophes of the future may look like to be able to design the best future equipment. As culture continuously changes so will people’s experience of and reaction to catastrophes. Simultaneously, the catastrophe itself is likely to change because of e.g. climate change.
In the HumanImpact research project for Viking, fire catastrophes of the future are being investigated. The aim is to collect knowledge about the most recent social scientific and humanities research on catastrophes and collect data on relevant researchers and practitioners estimations of how future fire catastrophes will be experienced, managed and interacted with.

Methodologically, the research project will consist of a literature study of social scientific and humanities research on catastrophes, semi-structured interviews with relevant researchers and practitioners within the field of fire catastrophes and management.

Research project for Pressalit
As a specific field of interest, HumanImpact focuses on the growing field of patients suffering from chronic diseases. Understanding these citizens’ living conditions as well as their specific coping and treatment strategies is important for development of appropriate solutions.

A partnership with Pressalit, a manufacturer of bathroom and kitchen solutions for people with reduced functional capacity, contributes with knowledge about everyday challenges with an ageing, frail body. Based on an ethnographic fieldwork, the project examines challenges experienced in the bathroom by people with cognitive or physical disabilities. Insights from interviews with users (patients as well as health professionals) and observation studies of bath and toilet use will be used when developing recommendations to Pressalit’s design team.

Research results of each project will be generated during spring 2019. They will include results on the commercial innovation potentials of each research project, the process of integrating humanities knowledge in the private companies, the collaboration process between the university and the private companies and issues of measurement of ‘intangible’ humanities products.