Students present solutions to real-world innovation challenges in Shanghai

15 January 2024

Students on the Innovation Management programme at SDC went on a four-day expedition to Shanghai, which included institution visits, presentations, a final pitching event, offering students a multifaceted exploration of innovation in a global context.

Presenting to the “big bosses”

The trip was concluded at a final pitching event where students presented their semester projects to Nine United, an innovation-driven privately held family of companies covering a range of different areas, and executives from Innovation Centre Denmark, Shanghai (ICDK).

’I haven’t been in such a close collaboration with a company before, and it was interesting and a pat on the back to be able to present the solutions we’ve come up with to the decision makers of the company we worked with. The fact that the solutions you find through the project work could have implications for how the company is going to work in the future brings a whole new perspective to learning. But that being said, it was also nerve-wracking to present in front of the “big bosses”,’ says Mads Vandsø Ryfeldt whose project group studied how online home decor shop Connox, a subsidiary to Nine United, could utilize various sales channels in the Chinese market to best satisfy the Chinese consumer demands.

Jia Wenting and her project group investigated the potential for bringing Chinese battery technologies to the Danish market. For her, the entire semester project process was different to what she had experienced before.

’The group work with Danish students left a deep impression on me. In my usual work habits with bachelor students, we quickly divided the work. This time, the group work involved a lot of information from other group projects, making it an unusual experience. We worked, discussed, and changed directions frequently based on our discussions, and I learned a lot.Nine United and our supervisors provided impressions, guiding our focus on academic papers and the presentation. We had to change the focus to interact with different stakeholders and tailor the presentation,’ Jia Wenting says.

Preparing students for the professional arena

This January’s event marks the third consecutive collaboration between Nine United, Innovation Centre Denmark, Shanghai, and SDC on Innovation Management student’s semester projects.

‘The semester project enriches students’ learning experience and prepares them for the complexities of the real world of business and innovation. Unlike typical courses, this project encourages students to take active responsibility for their learning, fostering a sense of ownership and independence. The emphasis on solving real-world problems ensures that the skills acquired are directly transferable to the professional arena, distinguishing this project from traditional educational approaches. The final pitch event in Shanghai teaches effective communication beyond academia,” says Dmitrij Slepniov, Head of the Innovation Management programme at SDC.

Mr. Huan Huang, Investment Manager and challenge owner at Nine United, views the entire process as a mutually beneficial cooperation. Nine United contributes real-life cases and feedback, but also expects the students to inspire, explore, and contribute with practical advice to further develop business models at Nine United.

The Triple Helix setup

Collaborative projects have been integral to the Innovation Management Programme at SDC since 2012, and there is a strong commitment to fostering more collaborative projects in the future.

The triple helix typically refers to the collaboration between academia, industry, and government in the innovation domain. In this case, SDC coordinates the project, guiding students through academic and business requirements, while Innovation Centre Denmark, Shanghai, offers insights and experiences. Nine United contributes cases for students to solve, providing a glimpse into daily business challenges.

The collaboration is organized around three major milestones. In early October, six groups of Innovation Management students were presented with two challenges from Nine United at a kick-off.

In late November, students presented their preliminary thoughts and received feedback from Investment Manager Huan Huang, Nine United. Finally, the culmination was reached through the presentations on 11 January in Shanghai.

Martin Hoxer, Executive Director at ICDK hopes that similar projects will be carried out in the future.

’I believe the collaboration offers a range of possibilities to further evolve into specific industries with new educational programmes involved. It can take different forms in regard to working with challenges, research papers, presenting in the form of talks, workshops, or doing pitching events like with Nine United,’ he says.