In the creative zone

Creativity is at the heart of a groundbreaking project that looks to help Lancashire businesses meet their commercial challenges through innovative problem solving and fresh ideas.

The University of Central Lancashire’s Creative Innovation Zone is a gateway for larger businesses and organisations to collaborate with students and academics from the cultural and creative disciplines.

It gives them the opportunity to engage with the five schools of the Faculty of Culture and the Creative Industries.

The Creative Innovation Zone team work closely with companies looking for disruptive thinking, innovative problem solving and fresh creative ideas.

Businesses like Coppull-based Screentek International, which makes and supplies office furniture under the Identity Furniture brand and cost-effective space dividing solutions, are benefitting from taking this different approach.

It is currently working with academics and students from UCLan’s BA (Hons) Product Design course on a cuttingedge creative project to develop the office furniture of the future.

ScreenTek is looking to benefit from the university’s creative disciplines and expertise to bring vibrant new products to market.

Commercial director Graham Banks is excited by the prospect. He says: “Furniture manufacturers, in general, use various designers. I saw this as an opportunity to use young designers who have fresh ideas and see what they come up with.

Screentek is looking
for disruptive thinking
and fresh untapped
talent to respond to
its challenge

“We tend to be influenced by what we’ve done in the past, what we think is going to be current and up to date. It’s good to get an idea from a young person’s perspective.”

Emma Speed, Creative Innovation Zone director, says: “Ordinarily manufacturers like Screentek would approach a ‘named’  furniture designer with a well-known reputation to work with them on such a challenge.

“However, Screentek is looking for disruptive thinking and fresh untapped talent to respond to its challenge.

The Creative Innovation Zone matched Screentek’s requirements to the academic teams and students on the product design course.

Academics Simon Sommerville, course leader in the School of Art, Design and Fashion, and Graham Hill, senior lecturer in the school, are currently working on the Screentek brief with a group of second year students. The work runs alongside their full-time studies.

It is a 20-week project and the students are working to develop conceptual ideas and new product directions that Screentek might implement.

Bev Wood, Creative Innovation Zone’s head of business engagement, says: “Screentek have been working alongside the students to guide their ideas and concepts to ensure they can be manufactured and have been ‘blown away’ by the quality and maturity of ideas and the way the students have fully embraced the brief.

“The students have visited Screentek, met with senior management and their design and production team and have presented their initial ideas and creative concepts.”

She adds: “The whole engagement process is proving to be an exciting journey for the client.

“And the students are gaining a valuable opportunity to explore the business in closer detail and understand the design, production and manufacturing challenges facing the office furniture market.”

India Morris is one of the students involved. She says: “I applied to take part in the project to help me gain better experience in the design industry and the jobs I could potentially go into. This experience will allow me to explore other opportunities in the future.

“I hope to create a design which Screentek really like and that could fill a gap in the market.”

All the businesses that take part are fully supported by university academics who help and guide students to ensure outputs are professional and fully respond to the brief.

Bev Wood says: “The Creative Innovation Zone team is here to make the process as seamless as possible.

“Organisations and business are reaping the rewards of this student-led offer and in turn businesses are embracing the opportunity to guide and influence the talents of the future.”

For more details visit www.uclan.ac.uk/ciz or call 01772 895995