Sprint Innovation Festival – Engaging students to innovate the future study and career pathways for manufacturing industry

Written by Janika Miettinen and Nina Rilla

20 May 2024

As a part of the Tampere region pilot activities, the TetRRIS project partnered with the Sprint Innovation Festival in November 2021, the largest innovation event within the Tampere higher education community, and proposed a challenge for the participating students.  The week-long festival offered us an excellent channel to engage the students, the most relevant stakeholder group, to innovate new solutions for the manufacturing industry’s need to shake off the obsolete mental image that persists strongly. Getting rid of the old-fashioned image is crucial in order to keep the manufacturing industry up and running. The sector desperately needs to attract fresh minds, new and diverse skills.  

We asked the students’ solutions to the following TetRRIS challenge: Industry as the enabler for sustainable future – how to create attractive study and career pathways for manufacturing industry needs? How can we create more sustainable,  diverse and equal industry? 

At the beginning of the festival week, the Tampere region pilot team introduced the challenge to 34 students who were interested in our challenge. In fact, the TetRRIS challenge was among the five most attractive challenges in the SPRINT innovation festival – a great achievement! 

In the challenge, we emphasised how the need for multidisciplinary experts is growing in the manufacturing industry and how the industry could benefit from inclusive approach in attracting future talents. As a food for thought, we also discussed how the manufacturing industry is already producing sustainable solutions and how attracting people with diverse backgrounds and skills could further increase the development of manufacturing industry to more responsible and sustainable. 

With this information as a source of inspiration, the students, divided into five multidisciplinary groups, put their brilliant minds and skills in use for the rest of the Sprint week in developing their own solutions to answer the challenge with the help of coaches and mentors. Also, the Tampere region pilot team in a challenge owner role had a chance to coach teams during the week. However, at the end of the week, we were amazed of the progress the teams had made while the final solutions were pitched to the jury which was formed of TetRRIS partners and manufacturing industry representatives. 

Great ideas were presented by all five teams and the winning team proposed a comprehensive approach which included elements in raising awareness towards the manufacturing industry from kindergarten to graduate degree. In their solution, special attention was paid in social media opportunities in breaking the old-fashioned mental images strongly linked to the manufacturing industry and in reaching the right target groups. The winning team had recognized that manufacturing industry is especially lacking the ability to attract women. In addition, their solution embraced diversity, and emphasised the co-operation between schools and manufacturing industry companies. Finally, the great importance of qualified student counsellors and their role in motivating students was brought into daylight. It was seen important that the development of manufacturing industry should be made visible not only to the students but also to the student counsellors to spread diverse and up-to-date image of the industry. 

The Sprint Innovation Festival week was a truly inspirational experience for the Tampere region pilot team since it made possible for the TetRRIS project to genuinely engage the students in solving a real-life challenge in the Tampere region. 

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About the Author

Janika Miettinen, Research Scientist and Nina Rilla, Senior Scientist come from VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

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