> The initiative
The Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) is a world-first, transdisciplinary double-degree program that has been operating at UTS since 2014. Radical in its ambition, it combines students from 25 different degrees across UTS in a future-oriented, industry-engaged curriculum. Focused on high-level critical and creative thinking, invention, complexity, innovation, and entrepreneurship the program is built around community and industry partnerships, creating a porous ‘third space’ for students to learn.
Central to the BCII program is the 4th and final year subject Industry Innovation Project (IIP) where students are formed into transdisciplinary teams and work full-time for an entire semester on a real-world ‘wicked’ challenge posed by their assigned industry partner. The partners include large corporations, social enterprises, public sector organisations, and tech startups. Many of these industry challenges have sustainability missions at their core. Some recent examples of sustainability challenges from the 26 partners who participated in IIP in 2021 include:
- UNICEF challenged students to design a platform for young people to share their opinions and concerns around issues such as climate change, mental health and wellbeing, education and equality and inclusion. The partnership worked so well that the students and UNICEF Australia agreed to keep working together on the platform, tentatively titled “USpeak”, after IIP had finished. Their solution helped capture youth outrage and helped young people find each other online, in their own political constituencies, to converse and collaborate and activate their causes long after events such as the student strikes for climate change.
- Guzman y Gomez challenged students to help them reach a neutral environmental footprint while staying “100% clean”, convenient and affordable. The team designed a series of behavioural “nudges” aimed at reducing usage of bottled water, complementing the bioenergy solution offered by one of our 2020 teams around avocado skins, one of the company’s major waste products.
- Mission Australia Housing asked students for fresh perspectives on onboarding volunteers in social housing communities so that initiatives such as art collectives and sustainability groups had greater longevity and resilience. The resulting starter kit, community-building activities and incentives drew on diverse disciplines and stakeholder insights.
- v2food (the company behind the Rebel Whopper at Hungry Jacks) challenged students to explore how social movements for sustainability can be kickstarted around concepts like plant-based meat. Working with two former BCII students who now work for v2food, the team’s response proposed new approaches to forming partnerships.
Importantly, IIP is not an internship program. The industry partnership team within the TD School (i.e. Transdisciplinary School) at UTS work in collaboration with the partners to develop complex real-world challenges that have a clearly determined problem definition, yet are open-ended in their scope for potential solutions. All participants – students, academic staff and industry partners are encouraged to re-imagine the problem and engage in mutual learning and processes of reflexivity that require them to scrutinise the choices that are made when identifying and integrating diverse knowledges, values and worldviews.
Other factors that set the BCII apart from industry-connected learning experiences at other universities are that students work in transdisciplinary teams, where each student is able to bring a different disciplinary perspective to the challenge, and students are able to draw on four years of learning designed to foster creativity, systems thinking and innovation. Preparing students to be transdisciplinary practitioners requires a challenge-led approach to teaching, an exposure to a breadth of knowledge types and the development of a toolkit they can employ to integrate and translate the diverse knowledges they will encounter in their future work.