8 teams, 8 challenges and 24 hours. The sound of the gong travels through the room as the countdown begins at the start of the 6th 24-hour TU Austria Innovation Marathon.
Challenges are revealed to the teams by the company representatives at the start of the first phase. In the coming hours the main task of the students will be to get a deep understanding of the topic and the task at hand. First they have 30 minutes to discuss the challenges with the company representatives, then they will work by themselves for the coming 3 hours to deep-dive into their topic and formulate questions.
Excitement rises as we get closer and closer to the start of the 24-hour challenge. This year’s Innovation Marathon has officially started today with the kick-off where the participants and the company representatives have met each other for the first time.
Current president of the TU Austria and the Rector of TU Wien, Sabine Seidler has welcomed the students, company representatives and special guests to the 6th Innovation Marathon. She shared her thoughts on TU Austria Innovation Marathon being a great opportunity for students to try out and apply theories in practice – one of the leading initiatives of TU Wien. She said the event also makes it possible for the participating companies to get fresh ideas and to build on the out-of-the-box perspectives coming from the students.
After a short introduction by the Austrian Patent Office, who is also a partner of the Innovation Marathon, the participants learned more about the agenda of the 24 hours long challenge.
Ideation time! It is getting dark outside, and after analyzing for many hours, it is now finally time to get creative. The teams are back at their desks (or in the ball pool), using all the information and interpretations they have gathered over the past hours.
One very easy brainstorming technique is "1, 2, Everyone": First, everyone generates ideas by themselves, then they discuss and build on these in pairs and then finally present them to the group, which can spark new ideas once more. This way, it is way easier for introverted people to contribute to the group and for everything to be documented, so they can come back to the ideas later.
But even when applying a proven brainstorming technique, it is crucial to have a collaborative mindset: Instead of saying "Yes, BUT... [insert reason why this can't work], say: Yes, AND [this is how it could work]. Through not cutting off team members, a lot more ideas can be collected. Maybe the solution someone suggested was not the pe...
Halftime! The students have been working for 12 hours, time for an energizer!
But before, they had a two hour break to charge their batteries and get some distance from their tasks. This is very important when going through an innovation process like this one, as by taking a break and letting the brain process everything, the students are able to seperate the two different phases the marathon consists of: The analysis and the ideation phase.
While the analysis phase needs plenty of discussion, evaluating and questioning, the next phase is all about cooperation and saying YES! What better time to do a common exercise then?
For the cup song, everyone gets a cup and does a rhythmic exercise with it, before passing it to their neighbour. The cup song needs concentration, coordination, musicability, rhythm, teamwork, ...
But there is no way to describe the energy that is set free during the cup song, so let it speak for itself:
The students do also not need to worry about the technical backgrounds of their tasks: The Austrian Patent Office is here to help!
Just like last year, they help the student teams with the technical background information. What patents were already issued in this field? Did they think about all the restrictions in place? Are there any new, valueable questions implicated in the patents, that they could try to answer?
The Patent Office researches patents in the field and then shows and interprets them together with the students for some amazing innovations :-)
This year as well, the students are not alone on their journey. The competent innovation coaches from Integrated Consulting Group stand by their side to guide them on the way. But what do they actually do to help them?
"Basically, we give them structure", says Christina Duller from ICG." We provide them with tools, methods and templates."
Sure, they could research these on the internet as well, but the coaches know exactly which one to use at which point, in which constellation, with which team, under which circumstances. That is the great value they bring into the Innovation-Marathon.
When they are not helping with structure, they serve as motivators. The journey of an innovation team is never only sunny: Great ideas need creative friction and with deverse backgrounds, challenging tasks and sleep deprivation it can get a little tense within a team. That's when the innovation coaches chip in to remind them that this is just part of the journey.
In this phase of the marathon, the students are familiarizing themselves with the companies and their businesses. Who is this company I am dealing with? Which context do they work in? Who are their customers and their competitors? And most importantly: What is the task they have chosen for us to solve?
Before generating ideas and solutions for a task, it is crucial to understand the task completely. The company representatives talk to the students and answer all questions that may arise. Then, the student teams have time to analyze the problem themselves.
Maybe they start out by thinking that they will generate solutions for kitchen appliances, when actually a new business model solution would be of a much greater benefit. Or maybe they have a different picture of which stakeholders the companies are working with.
They are given exactly 3 hours to discuss all this, before the company representatives come back to clearify. Let's hope that their analysis was right!
... and the TU Austria Innovation-Marathon has started!
The 8 student teams have officially found out in which companies' shoes they will stand in during the next 24 hours and now they dive right into the tasks.
This year, the tasks are as diverse as the students' backgrounds: Some teams will imagine what it will be like to live in small spaces in the future, while others generate solutions for caregiving.
Sponsors for tasks this year are AVL, Constantia Flexibles, Energie Steiermark, Liebherr, Logicdata, Magna Steyr, Philips and Voestalpine.
Eric Armengaud from AVL was excited about the great input he received at this early stage: "They immediately started to put the information in their own context. It was so fruitful to just hear the questions they were asking, they already opened up new solution spaces."
This is due to the great diversity of backgrounds of the students and their completely different views and experiences with topics. In each team, there are students who are very c...