12 December 2022

It is different, fun, productive and profitable! This is how some students describe inGenious - a creative and interdisciplinary course at Linköping University. The students work in projects trying to find a business idea that can solve an existing issue.

A student group in team work.
Anton Källström, Simon Sjöberg, Viktor Segerson, Ismail Musse and Benedikt Kerres. Karin Midner

A group of students are working in one of the creative rooms in Studenthuset, finalising their pitch. Studying different programs at Linköping University, they have now met on the interdisciplinary course inGenious; a creative course with a different structure than normal university studies.

It all began during spring semester 2022. The students met with some companies that explained their business and what challenges they faced. The students then decided which challenge they wanted to work on, and after that the groups where formed. 

We all wanted to work with Södra Skogsägarna. The challenge is about increasing profit and finding new income sources. They wanted to find something apart from growing forests and then harvesting them, says Viktor Segerson.

Brainstorming, a good multi-level exercise

The students are to work together to come up with an idea that can solve the company´s challenges; an idea possible to realize.

We started out brainstorming, says Anton Källström. I guess we found 20 or 30 ideas. It was kind of crazy, fun and creative!

Brainstorming was a really good thing for us. It was an eye opener. And as a side effect we got to know each other and our different ways of thinking, says Simon Sjöberg.

They started to look closer at the ideas, most of which were thrown in the bin. They saved the best ones and took small pieces from each to create a whole new idea. They then started to develop their business idea and to figure out how to explain it to other people - because they were going to pitch it to Södra Skogsägarna.

They made a prototype and a first pitch, but when they received feedback from Södra Skogsägarna they found out that their idea was not as unique as they had thought. So they had to make a fresh start.

Ups and downs are a natural part of the project

Our idea was that instead of harvesting forests, companies could 'buy' and protect forests to bind carbon dioxide. Similarly to the system of emission rights in the aviation market. But something like this already existed on the market, and the whole thing was more complex than we had expected, says Viktor Segersson.

We had worked really hard on this idea, so it was a bit overwhelming to get this message, says Benedikt Kerres.

Yeah, it was really a setback, this challenge was a lot more complicated than we thought, says Simon Sjöberg.

They re-worked their idea and came up with a new aspect of it. And this time they focused on the animals and plants in the forest, with the aim of conserving biodiversity.

Anton Källström sketching at a whiteboard.Anton Källström sketching and explaining the business idea. Photo credit Karin Midner

An interdisciplinary course with a lot of freedom

On 13 December 2022, all the student groups will gather to pitch their ideas in Studenthuset. Other students, the companies, organisations, teachers and anyone interested are welcome to be there and listen.

I think it’s good to study like this. We have different perspectives and backgrounds. It is great to meet people from different programmes, we think and know different things. We didn’t know each other from the beginning, but now we are friends, says Anton Källström.

On a normal course everything is very structured, but on this one we have some things that we need to deliver. But how we work is up to us to decide. This freedom is nice, it gives us a chance to discover new ways to reach a goal. But it is also takes a lot of discipline. We have a lot of sharp deadlines and we have to make a plan to get there in time, says Ismail Musse.

At the moment we are focusing on the pitch. We really do practice pitching a lot on this course. We learn how to be pedagogical, how to use a microphone and how to sell an idea. It’s a lot of fun and great knowledge to have, says Benedikt Kerres.

We really believe in this project”

But of course they also struggle sometimes. It is difficult to coordinate the meetings in the group because they all have different schedules at university. The level of motivation varies over time, but that is something you learn to handle, it is a natural part of the creative process. But the biggest challenge is to find a market for something new. But when that happens you have to find new perspectives... who needed a smartphone before it existed?

We really like this idea, and there is a market for it. We are planning to keep up this work after our course. If it turns out good and there is a market for it, we can sell it! And we have noticed an interest in this, people have just realised why biological diversity is important! says Viktor Segersson.

Visionary students with plans for the future

The course is given in English, which attracts exchange students

Benedikt Kerres is from Germany. He has done some studying his home country before he came to LiU. He thinks that LiU has a lot of advantages:

The way of teaching is more personal here in Sweden than in Germany.

There is a big difference between studying like this and sitting in a hall with 500 other students like we do in Germany. Working in this small group has meant a lot to me in terms of learning about Sweden and making friends.

Swedish professors and other people from the university see us students as equal human beings.

I saw LiU's principal dancing on the stage at Kalas, I was very surprised. And I like it that he is among us students.

Benedikt Kerres a student at Economics (Bachelor). Photo credit Karin Midner

What does your dream future look like, and what plans do you have?

Ismail, Simon, Viktor, Anton and Benedikt. Photo credit Karin Midner

Ismail Musse, Economics (Bachelor): I’m going to study for a Master’s degree, and after that I want to start my own business.

Simon Sjöberg, Industrial Engineering and Management: I would like to learn more, through a trainee programme. But I’m open to other opportunities as well.

Viktor Segersson, Industrial Engineering and Management: I want to work! And my dream for the future is to become a forest owner.

Anton Källström, Industrial Engineering and Management: I am going to do my degree project at Volvo Cars this spring, and then I will start a business with a partner abroad, maybe in Switzerland or in Dubai.

Benedikt Kerres, Economics (Bachelor): Planning isn’t really my thing. But I would like to work as an adviser in economy, maybe. But I definitely want to study abroad more and get a Master’s degree. 

The inGenious course allows you to put your knowledge into practice

Cia Lundvall is one of the facilitators on the inGenious course.

"As a facilitator, I support the students - not by providing answers, I ask questions. This helps the students realise what they need to develop in their projects. As a facilitator, I am neutral and objective," says Cia Lundvall.

On the inGenious course you get a chance to put your knowledge into practice. You can develop skills that you will need in your future business or work life, for example:

  • The group process – how to work in teams with other students, with different backgrounds and knowledge.
  • "Entrepreneurial mindset" - a skill that many companies demand.
  • How to communicate your idea and solution in an effective pitch.

The inGenious course can benefit students when applying for a job, as the project gives them knowledge and experience that they can´t get from a book. And Cia finds it exciting to see how the students develop and how they learn to work together as a team to reach their goal.

Cia Lundvall and her colleagues offer continued support for those inGenious students who want more training after the course, and can also be reference persons when the students are looking for a job.

The course is given in English, as there are always some international students joining.

Cia Lindvall next to her computor. Photo credit Karin Midner

Cia Lundvall is employed at Almi East Sweden AB, a subsidiary of Almi Företagspartner in Östergötland AB, but works part-time at Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship (PIE) at LiU. The course is a collaboration between LiU and Almi East Sweden - which is successful in several ways.

Almi East Sweden has a wide network of contacts and can act as a bridge between LiU, the public sector and trade and industry in the region. Charlotte Norrman. PIE, is course supervisor and examiner.

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