Demola

My last post on TAF 2012 is dedicated to Demola – “the second best invention that Finnish ever came up with after the sauna”, as Cai Melakoski claimed proudly.

This award-winning invention (Winner of 2010 Regional innovation award and the Best Summer Job in Finland 2011) enables university students to “develop product and service demo concepts together with companies and create new solutions to real-life problems”. While this sounds a bit like what we call “life briefs” in England, Demola is more than “an inspiring atmosphere of creative co-creation and new learning opportunities for students and professionals of different universities and organisations”. As a business enterprise, Demola commercilises the products and services made by students – the immaterial rights of the results stay with the multidisciplinary student teams, and companies can then purchase the rights or license the products or services from them. Demola also creates new spinoff companies around the innovations. (see “What is Demola?”).

After the introduction on Demola, two student teams presented the games currently under development. In addition to games, projects initiated at Demola also cover technology, services, digital media, social innovationa and business concepts, all with local impact and global market potential. “Companies bring their project ideas for student teams to cultivate. Demola offers the teams the tools and the teams design the solutions collaboratively. Results are honed into real products and services to be part of the companies’ operations or spawn new companies.”

This was how Demola looked like on the day we visited.




On Day 5, I also sat in the assessment of TAMK’s “game development” module. It was interesting to see the students work and how assessment was done in Finland. Many of these games were web-based Flash games.



However, my favourite was this educational board game beautifully handmade:


The game is to teach players ecological systems in different climates. The players will have to build a sustainable ecological system balancing the food chains and managing environmental risks.







Despite its potential, the game was not perfect. The student hadn’t done extensive testing, so the game mechanism and rules would need improvement. Also, the target players and unique selling points were not clearly defined, so it is hard to judge whether it could be successfully accepted by the market. But hey – not necessarily everything we do in academia has to end up with commercial implications. If we can’t have to freedom to do things just for fun, we will not only the academic freedom, but also very soon the motivations and ability to innovate.

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