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Understanding Innovation Processes: Hasso Plattner Institute and Stanford form Research Alliance

Stanford University and the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) today announced a research partnership in which they will investigate the process of innovation using Design Thinking, a methodology that melds an end-user focus with multidisciplinary collaboration and iterative improvement to produce products, services or experiences. Leaders of both institutions signed an accord launching the program Aug. 18 in Palo Alto.

"We are interested in the Design Thinking method of innovation, which has been successfully taught at both institutions. Through joint scientific research projects we want to find out which factors ultimately contribute to the success of this kind of engineered and creative development of innovation for all areas of life," said HPI Professor Hasso Plattner, who is providing the funding for the eight-year, $16 million joint research program.

Stanford Engineering Dean Jim Plummer emphasized that the program highlights the importance of innovation in benefitting society: "As engineers we strive to apply basic scientific discoveries in ways that will meet human needs. Improving our understanding of that innovation process will help us bring better solutions to society more quickly."

Computer Science Professor Christoph Meinel, director and CEO of the Hasso Plattner Institute for IT-Systems Engineering (associated with the University of Potsdam) welcomed the extension of the cooperation between his institute and Stanford from the teaching of Design Thinking as a method of innovation to the scientific investigation of its technical, economic, and human success factors: "Together with our colleagues from Stanford University we are also going to probe how such innovation processes, which are brought forth by small multidisciplinary teams, could be further improved and developed."

At Stanford the research will be directed by Mechanical Engineering Professor Larry Leifer, who directs the Center for Design Research.

"The time is right to apply rigorous academic research to understand how, when and why design-thinking works to accelerate human-centered innovation," Leifer said. "It is time to create the next generation design-thinking methodology and supporting technology and we appreciate Professor Plattner's support of this endeavour."

Half of the prospective projects will be contributed by HPI in Potsdam and the other half by Stanford University, giving each institution equal weight in the innovation research program.

Individual research projects will be funded with up to $150,000 annually. The research program, which will also include joint workshops of all participants in Potsdam and Palo Alto, starts in early September. Among other issues, the projects will investigate how the Design Thinking method can be integrated with traditional approaches common in the technical realm and how spatial and temporal boundaries can be overcome in the cooperation of geographically dispersed development teams. The Stanford and HPI researchers are also interested in the role interdisciplinary cooperation plays in the development of innovative systems, how cultural factors influence the work of Design Thinking teams, and how individual impulses can promote inventive processes in a team.

About Hasso Plattner and Design Thinking

Science patron Prof. Hasso Plattner, 64, is co-founder and chairman of the supervisory board of the global software company SAP. In 1999 he endowed the Potsdam Hasso Plattner Institute for IT-Systems Engineering ( In 2007 it was expanded by the HPI School of Design Thinking ( The institution cooperates closely with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University in Palo Alto ("Silicon Valley"). The latter is also known as "" ( and is part of the Stanford School of Engineering.

About the Stanford School of Engineering

With more than 240 faculty members and more than 4,000 graduate and undergraduate students in nine academic departments, Stanford Engineering is dedicated to educating leaders and creating innovations, through research, to address important needs such as environmental sustainability and human health. The school offers key programs in design, centered in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Hans-Joachim Allgaier | idw
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