To manage innovation or to transform business opportunities and challenges into solutions, companies and organisations tend to use some variant of what is known as the Funnel of Innovation or the Stage-Gate methodology. This model consists of capturing the maximum possible number of ideas which provide a response to one of these opportunities or challenges. The ideas are then subjected to filters and criteria in order to discard some and develop others with more potential. The latter progress through different stages until the relevant innovations are fully implemented.
At the UOC we have adapted the traditional funnel model in accordance with our specific needs. We search for ideas that help us to evolve and improve our educational model through innovations in the application, adaptation or creation of learning technologies. We decide on the criteria and filters to put the ideas into action and we decide on the details of each stage. The UOC has denominated this process APLICAand in practice it is an annual internal innovation campaign. Participants include teachers and management staff from the university and it is now in its tenth edition. In our case, the starting point is some annual challenges defined by the university management team in accordance with the strategic plan.
We search for ideas that help us to evolve and improve our educational model through innovations in the application, adaptation or creation of learning technologies.
The first stage consists of gathering ideas through an application by which any employee can make suggestions and others can comment upon them or volunteer to form part of a future working group. The objective of this dynamic is to gather transversal ideas (between studies and departments), which can be debated and enriched before moving on to the next stage.
The ideas which receive the most support, the most comments or the most volunteers pass to the second stage, where the person(s) who proposed the idea have to write and present a preliminary project proposal which defines the idea further and identifies a working group. Subsequently,the UOC Innovation Commissionevaluates the proposals according to certain criteria, for instance the degree of innovation, feasibility and sustainability, the alignment with the initial challenges, and the impact it could have on the institution.
The best proposals are selected to move onto the final stages with prototype development and pilot trials. The final number of ideas to be implemented also depends on the annual budget.
Finally, if the result of the pilot trials meets the target objectives, these prototypes then proceed to the last stage, which is the application of the idea to UOC internally or the external transference to other institutions.
UOC’s Funnel of Innovation (APLICA)
To give some idea of the volume of ideas generated, last year 72 ideas were received, 19 proposals were presented and 7 projects were selected, for which we are now completing the prototypes. The educational innovations implemented at the UOC using this system (or other similar ones) can be tracked historically, either on theeLearn Center or OpenApps websites.
However, the funnel innovation system is not perfect. When using a system like this it is easy to see that the more ideas there are, the better. So, why limit ourselves to ideas from UOC teachers and management staff? Why not innovate with the entire UOC community? This is the idea behindInnovació Oberta (Open Innovation), a concept we are just beginning to explore. To coincide with the APLICA campaign this year, for example, we will open up a couple of challenges to the UOC students and alumni so they can suggest ideas.
Moreover, we want to share this commitment to Open Innovation and all our accumulated experience from the funnel process with everyone. To do this, we have a new initiative at the UOC called Hubbik, the Hub of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Knowledge in the UOC community, specifically within its service to activate innovation.
Guillem Garcia Brustenga is an expert in trend spotting and analysis at the UOC's eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC). Senior Telecommunications Engineer from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (1997), he holds a master's degree in Multimedia and two postgraduate degrees in Business Administration and Project Management. At the eLinC, he has been involved in the management of various UOC technology projects that leveraged the internet to aid educational innovation at the University. He is interested in innovation models and strategies, digital transformation of companies, emerging opportunities and the effect that technology and the exponential growth it causes have on individuals, society, the labour market and education.