In order to develop and design new products, the institute has introduced the course Product Innovation (formerly: Product Innovation Project). It is a unique course in Austria, inspired by the one-year program in Design Thinking at the d.school of Stanford University in California (USA). According to the concept of Experience Based Learning, the course offers students the opportunity to work on real-life tasks directly provided by industry partners. In addition to the task, the students receive a project budget to implement the best of their numerous ideas. Some of these ideas have already led to new products and even patents. During a full academic year the students work in teams on the task of the industrial partner and go through a complete product development process throughout that time. In addition to the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and soft skills, the students gain practical experience and ECTS credits for their studies. The industry partners in turn make contact with highly motivated students and potential future employees.
Typically, the results for each company include several new product ideas, a product concept, a business plan and a functional prototype.
International and interdisciplinary student teams are recruited for the projects by the IIM Institute. At the beginning of the course, interested students have to prove their abilities. Internal and external experts support and train the student teams continuously in workshops in which they learn about e.g. design thinking, creativity techniques, presentation techniques and much more. In addition, after completing a basic training course, students have access to the Schumpeter Laboratory for Innovation to hold meetings and workshops and to create prototypes of their ideas and concepts.
At the grand finale of the annual Product Innovation Project, the Innovation Gala (formerly Final Gala or Innovation Festival), the student teams present their results to the public as well as representatives from industry and science. The gala provides the perfect setting to present the results of the projects and to celebrate the successful completion of the project.
The Product Innovation Project was first carried out in 2006 with one team of students. Since then, the overall project managers Dr. Hans Peter Schnöll, Dr. Alexander Pointner, Dr. Thomas Böhm, Patrick Herstätter and, most recently, Marion Unegg have been responsible for leading and further developing the course. Indeed, one can rightly speak of a successful model, as an increasing number of students and projects shows, which led to a record number of nine projects in the academic year 2018/2019. Several exchange programs and cooperations with Pace University (New York City/USA), Aalto University (Helsinki/FIN) and the University of Maribor (SLO) have led to an even stronger international orientation of the project. Through consistent further development, additional formats for product design such as a "Makerthon" or "Design Thinking and Rapid Prototyping" were created.