Technology and knowledge connecting university and business
Issue 19 | Year 8 | July 2018

Idea Trading 2018. CLab photograph collection.



The School of Innovation: a strategic project of the University of Trento

Versione stampabile
by Sandro Trento
Full professor in the Department of Economics and Management of the University of Trento and Scientific Director of CLab Trento.
The school will provide managerial and entrepreneurship skills to students of science, technology and the social sciences and will function as an innovation catalyst for the development of products, services and new business models.

The rapid technological and social change that society is undergoing forces nearly all sectors (both market-based and public or social) to continually adapt their practices, their routines and their products The need to innovate is a priority today for all companies that want to develop products that satisfy the needs, old and new, of consumers and also for entities and organizations that are starting to follow a market logic. The evolution of manufacturing, the use of electronic platforms and the increasingly intense use of digital tools require workers to have new skills. The range of courses traditionally offered at university is often limited by disciplinary boundaries and reflects demarcations that do not meet the needs of the changes taking place both in terms of the trajectory of scientific and technological change and in terms of the evolution of professions and of organizational structures. 

As part of the University’s Strategic Plan, a project was approved to set up an interdepartmental centre for innovation, which aims in the medium term to fully become a School of Innovation (SoI). The school will contribute to enriching the educational pathways of University of Trento students, by stimulating innovative and creative approaches to resolving questions and problems within the various disciplines. 

Initially, the objective of the school is to foster the acquisition of managerial and entrepreneurship skills by students in the areas of science, technology and the social sciences. In this phase the centre will coordinate and offer courses, interactive laboratories, seminars, mentorship and other multidisciplinary training activities that can be incorporated into existing courses in the various Departments of the University. 

The School of Innovation will also act as a catalyst for social innovation initiatives, in collaboration with various local organizations such as local authorities, business associations, cooperatives and non-profit organizations. The main aim of these activities, which include the recent initiatives IEEE smart cities and TEDx, is to promote cultural, social and economic development in the region. 

The medium term objective is even more ambitious and is to redesign some of our degree courses and to build new degree courses in a multidisciplinary framework. The idea is to design and offer new courses that provide skills that are not only technical but also managerial, entrepreneurial and relational. The approach to innovation will be multidisciplinary and aimed at developing new products and services, to identify new business models. The method used is based on entrepreneurship and is oriented to identifying innovative solutions for social and market needs, within a vision that focuses on the needs of clients and users. 

In its first year (from September 2018) the School of Innovation will offer a package of courses that are designed mainly for students on the master’s degree courses in the Departments and Centres involved: the Centre for Integrative Biology (CiBIO) and the Departments of Economics and Management (DEM), Industrial Engineering (DII), Information Engineering and Computer Science (DISI) and Sociology and Social Research, but also open to other departments. For CiBIO, DISI and DII the courses will also be aimed at PhD students. 

Extensive use will be made of interdisciplinary laboratories to encourage an entrepreneurial vision of innovation. The School will build on the work of the Contamination Lab Trento (CLab Trento), a centre for the development of creativity and entrepreneurship that has been running for several years and is increasingly popular with students of the University. 

Students who obtain a minimum number of credits (CFU) in at least two disciplinary areas will receive an attendance certificate, which while having no legal value will add value when it comes to joining the labour market. Educational paths can also be designed in agreement with the directors of the master’s degree programmes to create particular degree profiles. 

In its second year of activity, the School of Innovation will also offer training to people already in employment or who have completed their studies and want to extend their skills without necessarily taking a degree course. It may also organize summer schools. 
In the medium term (third year of activity) the aim is to promote the creation of new degree courses of a multidisciplinary nature (in addition to revising existing degrees along the same lines) that can combine specialized and technical skills with managerial skills. This phase will involve setting up forms of interdepartmental cooperation including at the PhD level. 

The project aims to create a modern version, adapted to the European context, of the US model of institutes of technology, which usually have science and technology departments and management departments, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). 

The School of Innovation lies within a new space between innovation awareness raising centres and entrepreneurship. We expect businesses and other organizations to be strongly involved as mentors, as partners and as accelerators. One of the strategic objectives of the project is facilitate the setting up of university spinoffs in fields on the technological cutting edge.