Competition sparks innovative ideas for a post-pandemic future

Students from Staffordshire University have been designing new and innovative products inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic

Florin is a money management app for the elderly

Collaborating with people from different disciplines allowed me to get a different view on solutions to the problems that COVID-19 created. It is wonderful to have my ideas recognised as worthy by such a fantastic design agency.

Bryan Downley, BA (Hons) Graphic Design

Creative Arts and Engineering students took part in a virtual five-day challenge set by Andrew Lawrence who is Executive Creative Director at global brand consultancy Elmwood and Visiting Professor of Innovation at Staffordshire University.

Students were tasked with imagining a world beyond COVID-19 and to think of a design, brand, product or piece of innovation that wasn't there before.

Andrew explained: “Despite the cost in lives and suffering, there has been a growing realisation, that in some ways, this is the opportunity for a reset. Those small things in life that we all took for granted are now, by their very absence, even more important and appreciated.

“But it's not just our personal lives that are undergoing considerable change. The way we shop, exercise, socialise and go about our working lives has changed too. In the past, these times of change and upheaval usually spark a raft of start-ups and tech innovation to deal with their new reality.”

The competition brought students together from Engineering and Design as part of the University’s Get Ahead programme and the Creative Connection Project which is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Groups from different subject areas worked together virtually using Microsoft Teams, alongside tutorials from Andrew and Associate Dean Professor Jess Power.

Prizes of £300, £200 and £100 were awarded to the best three concepts. The top spot was awarded to money management app Florin ­– named after the old "two bob bit" coin replaced by the ten pence piece – is aimed at helping the elderly.

Jess, who leads the Creative Connection Project, commented: “Working outside traditional discipline comfort zones is now more important than ever and it was impressive that the winning team was actually located in two different countries during the challenge, dealing with different time zones. Networking is a key part of the Staffordshire experience.”

The winning team included BA (Hons) Graphics Design student Bryan Downley, BEng (Hons) Aeronautical Engineering student Shannon Frisby and Mais Al-Rawashdeh who is completing a PhD in Electrical Engineering.

Bryan explained: “COVID has shown that the public as a whole don't want to use physical tender anymore. The problem with this is that the elderly generation may struggle with using this new tech. That age group also comes with its own set of problems when it comes to user experience and user interface design so the framework for Florin is built on a really simple UI design.

“Working with Andrew from Elmwood really allowed me to put a professional edge onto my work to take it that extra mile. Collaborating with people from different disciplines allowed me to get a different view on solutions to the problems that COVID-19 created. It is wonderful to have my ideas recognised as worthy by such a fantastic design agency – I’m really happy that I got involved with the Get Ahead programme."

Sally McGill, Staffordshire University’s Chief Financial Officer and judge for the event added: “Florin is a promising idea – with a great name. The team had clearly thought about how the service would respond to the needs of their target market. Forming a team is something you have to experience to understand – and the teams took advantage of the competition format to develop those skills in a real challenge. And well done to them for doing it remotely in lockdown!”

Discover more about studying at Staffordshire University at a Virtual Open Day – find more information and book a place here.

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