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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Research and Postgraduate Support Directorate hosted the Ideation and Design Thinking Workshop for postgraduate students on Monday, 05 July 2021.

The aim of the webinar was to spark innovation posture and encourage entrepreneurial flair through understanding what the society truly needs, coming up with relevant ideas and solutions that better meet the needs and gaining feedback and reactions to these solutions prior to implementation.

The presenters consisted of Mr Sipho Dikweni, Portfolio Manager of Commercialisation at the Technology Innovation Agency, Dr Ncumisa Mpongwana from the Department of Chemical Engineering at DUT and Mr Justice Komane from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The facilitator was Dr Farai Dziike from the Research and Postgraduate Support Directorate.

Giving insight on Ideation and Design Thinking, Dziike said times have change, innovation is taking a leading role in changing the way people do things in research, industrial activities and in every sector of the economy and livelihoods.

“There is a need for sharing of ideas and thinking, such as we come up with new ways of doing things as demanded by the way things are changing, more especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. It has forced a lot of brainstorming or deliberating on an idea to solve a specific problem. There are different or various stages of those processes of generating ideas, either in small groups, in pairs or as a team. That will lead into design thinking which is a glooming centred iterative process that designers use to tackle problems. It requires us to identify the problem first and see the resources we have around. From there we make an informed deliberation on how we can resolve those problems,” said Dr Dziike.

In her welcome remarks to DUT staff and students, Director: Research and Postgraduate Support, Dr Linda Linganiso highlighted the importance of the workshop. “The purpose of the workshop is to teach students and staff how to formulate ideas and concepts. We plan to teach our students and expose them to a process which is used to challenge assumptions, redefine the problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and tests. Students will be introduced to the process which is used to target problems that are unknown,” said Dr Linganiso.

She also spoke on DUT’s ENVISION2030, looking at the Stewardship perspective, mainly focusing on the Creativity strategic objective. She said under the Creativity strategic objective, DUT has an obligation to inspire innovation as well as entrepreneurship. She further reiterated that the purpose of the workshop is to spark innovative and entrepreneurial thinking among the students as well as staff.

“Under the engaged university we would like to train and to equip our students to gain the capacity and ability to identify societal as well as industrial problems and propose solutions. When our students are proposing these solutions, we don’t want them to only focus on external, local clients. We want them to go global, to have the ability to solve international challenges. Under adaptive graduates we have an obligation and a mandate to develop graduates with an attitude to respond to change. This workshop aligns perfectly with the strategy of ENVISION2030,” said Dr Linganiso.

Speaking on Creative Thinking and Ideation, DUT’s Dr Ncumisa Mpongwana, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Chemical Engineering said the purpose of Creative Thinking and Ideation is to encourage creative thinking within the students. She said the reason is that if one goes to a room full of students and ask if they are creative, the majority of the students will say they are not creative.

“Most of the time creativity have been associated with artistic skills. If you do not have artistic skills you will be deemed as not being creative, of which that is not the case. Artistic skills are the essential part of being creative but you can be creative without having artistic skills. When you are trying to design objects you don’t have to be a jack of all trades. The purpose of design thinking is for students who want to create something or design despite of their background. Students should brainstorm ideas to come up with a solution. Ideation is a process whereby a group of people come together to learn the problem and come up with innovative solutions,” said Dr Mpongwana.

She said the workshop aims to boost the students’ creative confidence, especially those who think they are not creative.

Unpacking the Design Thinking, Mr Sipho Dikweni, Portfolio Commercialisation Manager at the Technology Innovation Agency focused on mapping industry arenas, sourcing around the corners when working developing a product, services or new technologies. He said this workshop was conducted at an interesting time where innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the key pillars for economic development, saying it ties back to researchers to develop products that speak to the socio-economic challenges.

“Design thinking dates back to the 1970s, those guys, when they were designing any technologies, they would look back and call designers to design something that is user friendly, that will be accepted in the market place. Design Thinking came in the mainstream of innovation in the last two decades trying to put it at the centre of any new technology. You need to include your customers at an early stage of the development as those are the people who will be using your technology. Put your customers at a centre of everything that you are doing, that is why it is called Design Thinking,” said Dikweni.

Talking about the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) CSIR Inter-Bursary Support Programme, CSIR’s Mr Justice Komane said the programme was established in 2016 and it was aimed at supporting postgraduate studies. He said they are identified in key departmental strategies by DSI, supported by CSIR. He then explained their selection process, stipulating which students are looking for.

In closing Dr Dziike thanked all the speakers for their meaningful presentations and the DUT staff and students for participating in the workshop.

Pictured: DUT Research and Postgraduate Research Director, Dr Linda Linganiso.

Simangele Zuma

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