What you will study
Central to the module is a project in which you have the chance to apply some of the ideas and lessons which you have learned.
The module is structured into five blocks that explore various aspects of innovation.
Block 1 Introduction looks at what motivates individuals and organisations to invent, such as the desire to make money, technical curiosity, or a desire to help others. You will see how designers and technologists create ideas for new designs and inventions and consider why some succeed while others fail. The block examines the increasing complexity and cost of developing new technology and how this has changed the influence of the ‘lone inventor’; how the context for innovation has been revolutionised by information and communication technologies (ICTs) and how a concern for the environment has become an increasingly important factor for designers, technologists and consumers.
Block 2 Markets looks at how designers’ ideas are turned into saleable products through the consideration of peoples’ needs. You will see how responses to new ideas and products are identified and how markets shape the innovation process. Through case studies you will consider ways in which products are designed for potential users.
Block 3 Products looks more closely at how new product ideas and inventions are designed, developed and manufactured into commercially viable new products. The block introduces techniques for assessing and reducing the environmental impacts of such products, including the use of environmental assessment software. Through case studies of the practice and management of new product development you will examine the development of conventional products and innovations as well as the practice of, and limitations to, ‘eco-design’ and sustainable design.
Block 4 Diffusion follows through by looking at how products fare in the marketplace – how they diffuse into use, how consumers respond to them, and at the extent to which changing consumer preferences and concerns are influencing future technologies. You will look at examples where consumer concern for environmental protection has led to the development of specific new ‘green’ products and technologies. You will also examine the role of governments in steering the direction of technological and product development to meet environmental objectives.
Finally, Block 5 Consumption looks at what is needed to build a socially and environmentally sustainable future. The block considers whether pressures from consumers and governments, and the efforts of enlightened companies and innovators to develop new, more sustainable technologies, can bring about the change that is needed, or if it will be necessary to develop a more sustainable approach to consumption. The module raises some big questions such as does ‘sustainable consumption’ mean consuming less but gaining a better quality of life?
An important part of the module is a project that runs through much of the year. It gives you an opportunity to try your hand at parts of the innovation process by generating and developing a new product idea. You have the option of working either individually or in a small group. Support for your project work will be provided by your tutor, as well as through a series of booklets and the module DVD-ROM.
If you are considering progressing to The engineering project (T450), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.