Innovation programme turns ideas into reality

Technical University of Denmark

Every year DTU educates new engineers from the BEng programme Process and Innovation. During the programme, the students work in close collaboration with different companies on solving specific real-life challenges and developing concrete answers to society’s needs – from energy-friendly gas heaters to mobile toilet seats for people with disabilities or sustainable packaging for the industry.

Ideas and advice for the green transition

Sofie Winge-Petersen is the woman behind one of many businesses that have seen the light of day as a part of the programme. Even though she is still a student she also carries the title of co-founder. Her company is called Paint’R and produces sustainable paint buckets. The start-up adventure started as a study project when Sofie founded the company alongside other students.

“Every day 1 million paint buckets are thrown away in the EU alone. That’s the problem we want to solve. To do so we have used our understanding of innovation to develop and test solutions in close contact with the painting industry, and now we have found a way to create packaging that reduces the discharge by 50 percent and uses 75 percent less plastic in the production process.”

Paint’R is just one example of how students are learning to listen to the business world and work hands-on in their chase for solutions that makes an actual difference. For Sofie it is all about driving change – both as a student, as a co-founder, and when she uses her free time as a member of The Youth Climate Council at the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy, and Utilities.

“At The Youth Climate Council, we advise the ministry on how to create innovative climate action. Here I apply my learnings to include young people in climate politics and create an efficient innovation network. When everyone is heard you get more input and that creates a starting point for more new ideas.”

The need for innovation experts

Sofie graduates soon and even though she is not entirely sure about what the future holds, one thing is clear: She wants to create a more sustainable world. Luckily, she is well into building a professional profile requested by many different industries and for that reason, she is completely confident in studying a programme that prepares her to turn sustainable ideas into reality – no matter what career she chooses to pursue.

“As a part of our education, you learn to create an overview and work systematically with innovation. You learn to rethink actions, processes, and products – and that is what society needs if we want to promote the green transition.”

Lecturer Torben Hede agrees with Sofie on the fact that engineers have an important part to play as companies need to develop new alternative solutions. With several years of experience from both DTU and private businesses, he does not doubt that society needs engineers who are experts in the innovation process.

“Our engineers specialize in being customer-centric. That means that our students are not afraid to ask silly questions or think differently, and that is what you need to develop creative products or new processes that meet the customer’s needs,” says Torben Hede.

Between technology and creativity

For Malthe Rasmussen the curious approach is a part of everyday life. He graduated from the programme in 2021 and today he holds the title of Prototype Planning Specialist at Coloplast.

“My job is to function as the link between the R&D department and the pilot factory each developing products and production processes. That means that I plan and execute the production of prototypes for new projects. To do so, I apply my understanding of research and product development, which I learned during my studies, to collect feedback from different stakeholders, optimize our prototype production and develop better products.”

As a newcomer to the job market, Malthe Rasmussen does not doubt that his educational background grants him several advantages.

“Because I chose a broad engineering programme, I have gained an understanding of both the technical and the design- and research process. For that reason, I find it easy to collaborate across the different departments because I understand their work and the different perspectives, they bring to the table.”

Engineers who change the future

Sofie Winge-Petersen agrees that the programme educates engineers with a particularly professional approach to working with innovation – and she emphasizes that innovation is a craft for everyone who wants to do serious work on the ideas that will shape the future.

“People often see innovation as something unspecified and many think that creativity is something you either have or you don’t. But at Process and Innovation, you learn that it all comes down to processes and exercises. You learn to create the framework that enables you to be creative, you learn the terms for innovation and through this, you gain the skills to rethink everything in a new way.”

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