What happened previous to Voice of Business?
Multidisciplinary Student Research and Development Teams (MSRDTs)
In 2009 the higher education institution in Germany launched its first Multidisciplinary Student Research and Development Teams (MSRDTs) to work in a project. The coordinator of the project engaged students in research and development through the MSRDT concept. The teams were formed consisting of students from different disciplines working together on a real life business problem project. Students from different faculties worked on innovative and market-oriented product and service ideas.
The project had two objectives
Firstly, to create networks and improve connections between the academics and regional industry. Secondly, the resources of the university and the regional economy have been merged for mutual benefit of higher education and industry. Furthermore, this was done with an aim to improve the cross-curricular training of students. For example, students from three different faculties (Engineering, Design and Economics) are given the opportunity to work on an idea as a team next to their studies in order to learn and apply other sciences. This can result into a win-win situation for the students, the industry as a source of idea and the higher education institution. The participation of students in MSRDT projects at Wismar University is voluntary. In early 2014 the results of the MSRDT project were evaluated as part of a Master's thesis. The success of the model were confirmed, as well as challenges discussed below.
Some of the main challenges faced by students were to take personal responsibility, managing conflicts within the teams and time management constrains. The process of screening the ideas was also challenging and time consuming, though, on the other hand interesting and engaging. Initially, communication between the MSRDTs and the companies as the project and idea givers, was a challenge in terms of following hierarchical procedures as companies feared the uncontrolled outflow of trade secrets and confidential information.
The university has learnt from the challenges highlighted above and made the necessary effort to put mechanisms in place to deal with situations that were initially underestimated. Because of the university’s evaluation, a number of improvements were made such as;
- intensify the participation of students in the MSRDTs by the university
- complementary workshops were offered to coach students with soft skills
- the collaborations with the idea givers were more clearly defined in the contract
- at the same time start-up ideas by students were approved as a work item for the MSRDTs
- multidisciplinary networking between the departments of the university improved.
The students who participated in the pilot study in the MSRDT in Namibia were evaluated against the employability skills (communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, creativity skills and workplace preparation). The two student teams were required to share their different experiences through reports which were assessed as part of the evaluation (Namibia only). All of the respondents indicated that they have gained employability skills through their participation in the MSRDT project.
The success story of the MSRDT resulted in the “Voice of Business” project running from January 2015 to December 2018.