Monday 10. November 2014

Series of Innovation Courses

A new series of courses is beginning at the University Centre of the Westfjords, marking a milestone in the centre's operation. They are practical-led courses in Marine Innovation, designed to connect the Westfjords innovation economy with the university community in a more targeted manner. Courses will take place in three areas of the Westfjords: the first course starting this week in Ísafjörður, with the next courses happening in Tálknafjörður and Reykhólar in the New Year.

The courses’ target audience is mainly current master's students in related fields, such as Marine Innovation and Coastal and Marine Management, as well as those working in related sectors. The courses are, however, open to anyone who is interested and has the required relevant education or experience. Course teachers come from far and wide, both within Iceland and overseas.

The courses are short, at either one or two weeks each. The first one begins today in Ísafjörður and runs until 22nd November. It is entitled "Innovation and Sustainable Coastal Tourism" and is taking place with ten enrolled students. The teachers are Rodrigo Menafra from Canada, who is an expert in the field of marine protection with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and Sigríður Ólöf Kristjánsdóttir, a specialist with IMPRA, Innovation Centre Iceland. Course participants will visit various companies in the Westfjords and will be introduced to people at the forefront of innovation in the field, particularly in the tourism sector. These include Borea Adventures, West Tours, Fisherman of Suðureyri, and local tour guide Helga Hausner. Students can expect two exciting weeks of practical field trips, mixed with expert academic guidance.

The second workshop, based in Tálknafjörður between 21st and 28th March 2015, is called "Innovation in Aquaculture" and is taught by Peter Cross and Mary Maack. Peter is a lecturer at the University of Kiel, where he teaches aquaculture and marine biology, among other things, and runs his own aquaculture company. Mary is currently completing her doctoral studies in ecological economics at the University of Iceland.

The third workshop will be held in Reykhólar in the run up to Easter, immediately following the course in Tálknafjörður. The title of the course is "Utilisation of the Sea - Innovation and Sustainability", and will also be taught by Peter Cross and Mary Maack.

The courses are held in close co-operation with industry partners in the Westfjords, especially those companies using innovative approaches to gain a foothold in industries such as aquaculture and tourism. Students have the opportunity to study their work first-hand, in conjunction with academic studies. Traditional lessons are kept to a minimum, however, and it is expected that lectures will form only a small component of the overall programme. Instead, the emphasis is strongly on business visits, case studies, group work, and individual assignments with instructors.

The aim of the course is that students gain skills in applying methods and procedures that can lead to innovation. In this regard, it is important to give students the flexibility to apply new methods and procedures previously unknown, at the same time as coaching them in the skills needed for such experiments. By the end of the course, students should have acquired a good sense of the strengths and limitations of their own innovation and have found ways to extract the best from them. This project has received a grant from the regional development fund in 2013, and also from VaxVest.