Barcamp review: Interdisciplinary working groups

Barcamp review: Interdisciplinary working groups

As it is often said that creative companies regularly face the problem of not having access to some of the necessary skills for running a company (such as for example marketing, accounting etc.), one question that we stumbled upon during the research was the question on how to integrate all these skills within the  group of  founders. We wondered if this problem could already be addressed by the universities during the studies.

Dr. Oliver Mauroner from the Bauhaus University in Weimar volunteered to work on the questions “Are interdisciplinary working groups during studies an important pre-condition for the starting of a company (within the creative industries)?” Together with his workshop group of dedicated experts, he developed a list of further questions, such as:

  • Should we promote interdisciplinary teams?
  • How can we add missing competences (marketing, design etc.) to the team: by teaching the team or by bringing in other people (experts)?
  • How should/could we promote interdisciplinary teams (formats, programs)?
  • What is needed (Competences, personalities, experiences)?
  • What are the “places” to meet?
Workshop situation

Workshop situation

Within the workshop, the questions were mostly addressed at the support system bodies (university, support programs etc.) as those who should take action.

Interestingly, the group agreed that the customers needs define which competences should be included in the entrepreneurial team/company. This opens up the scope to a very user-driven approach: work with the customer not for him/her and make the customer believe it was his/her idea.

The participants agreed that there should be support for interdisciplinary teams in the creative sector but that there is not just one way/model how to do that. Possible models mentioned include:

  • support within the university AND AFTER
  • individual coaching to help the team embers close their individual gaps
  • bring in external experts to close the skills gaps within the team

How to meet the right people?
The identified problems in the university context are:

  • strong separation of disciplines
  • widespread fear of idea fraud
  • missing knowledge about ongoing research activities
  • poor networking culture

These are problems that should and can be addressed within the universities themselves.

How can / will companies be structured in the future?
Instead of looking at a company as a big construct one should open up to form groups of small companies with different competences. Participant Claudiu Danaila gave an example of his own working situation ( where different small companies with many competences co-work on projects. This is more based on the customer’s point of view („work with them not for them“). After the project, the group falls apart and the small companies form new groups to work on new projects.

What are the preconditions for promoting interdisciplinary groups/teams:
According to the participants, the most important preconditions are openness, trust and confidence in the success of the idea.
Openness means to be open to the customer’s needs but also to listen, first to yourself then to others and then being able to making the people listen to you. As one useful approach coaching is suggested.

Concrete ideas for action:

  • networking events organized by universities and support programs, where young or aspiring entrepreneurs can meet with other companies, future mentors and possible investors. One interesting event is arranged by the plug ‘n play incubator (Silicon Valley)
  • Crowdfunding as an open support system; it is a very good way to evaluate your idea and to test the market
  • Lean start-up: fast feedback and iterative product releases in order to shorten the product development cycles
  • the setting up of contamination labs for students from all disciplines with tutors, investors, incubators so they can work on their ideas, form groups at startup weekends, barcamps etc. (this idea comes from Denise Di Dio, Incubator Milano Speed Mi Up,
  • on an individual level: go to conferences, network, look out!

The group then agreed on a rephrasing of the question: From „How should/could we promote interdisciplinary working groups“ to „What culture/value should be supported“. This implies that the whole cooperation culture needs to be reworked towards more open approaches from both universities and students, but also from customers and clients, as well as from investors, business associations and so forth.

Further links:

Bauhaus University Weimar, Prototypen-Seminar

Brainstorm Crossmedia, Denmark

Plug and play tech center, Silicon Valley

Incubator Milano Speed Mi Up, Milan, Italy

Another example from Germany: Grüne Werkstatt Wendland and their Designcamp


© by Marie Jacobi (

© by Marie Jacobi (


Research trip to Denmark, Day 4: urban farming in the harbor and new ways of university cooperation

Research trip to Denmark, Day 4: urban farming in the harbor and new ways of university cooperation

Back in Copenhagen it was time to dive into something completely off track: the Copenhagen Oyster bank in the City’s harbour bassin. Inspired by similar projects in New York and Sydney, where oysters help to cleanse the harbour water, the Copenhagen Oyster bank is right now in an early pilot phase. If everything works out as planned, the first home-grown oysters will be harvested in september 2013 and the whole project will then be turned into an experience-based gastronomy and urban farming-project. We were interested in this project as it demonstrates how a city can develop new ways of appropriation of its space and how different stakeholders – the municipality, the citizens, the local businesses, the gastronomy and even nature – with numerous different objectives can work together to reach one common goal.

At the Copenhagen City harbor

At the Copenhagen City harbor

The oyster bank – somewhere out there ...

The oyster bank – somewhere out there …

One of these stakeholders is the architecture bureau Effekt which designed the construction for the bank itself as well as for the floating restaurant and other elements. We met Mads Olsen, project developer at Effekt and a gastronome himself. He came to get us at the hotel in the morning and drove us out to the harbour to show us the Oyster bank. There was not so much to see for the naked eye, but we were still able to gain an impression of the area – a new built apartment area in the harbour district, which still feels rather sterile and will most definitely profit from any kind of project helping to enriching the neighbourhood and fill it with life. We’ll definitely come back in autumn to have a look at the oysters!

Besides the Oyster bank, Effekt is also involbed in other visionary projects for a „user-friendly“ Copenhagen. One example is a sports and fairground project in the decaying space underneath an autobahn-bridge separating the two communities of Copenhagen and Fredriksberg. It sure did look and sound exciting and we wish them all best for succeeding with it!

(For more information visit: and


Our second meeting of the day was more institutional again and brought us back to CBS (Copenhagen Business School) which we already knew from our previous visit to Copenhagen in early November. This time, we met with Luise Noring Henler, project manager of CIEL – Copenhagen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, an alliance between the three major universities in Copenhagen (Danish Technical University / DTU, CBS, University of Copenhagen/UCPH) for joint efforts to develop and support initiatives with innovation and entrepreneurship for the benefit of students, industry, research and education within the region.

In short, CIEL is:

  • 3 partner universities
  • 3 target areas: research, education, students + corporate partners
  • 9 novel cross university-industry programs
  • 90 projects in partnership with faculty, student organizations and business

Luise sees herself as a facilitator and very action-oriented driver, whose work often consist more of politics then the content side. Currently, she is involved in about 25 projects of which the Entrepreneurship Research Accelerator (ERA) and the new Entrepreneurial Excellence Programs (EEP) “Green innovation in cities” (GIiC) are the ones in which she is the most involved. The latter one includes the Bejing-Copenhagen-Urban Challenge, an exchange program with universities in Bejing in 2013, addressing the global challenges of green growth and sustainability.

The collaboration with the business partners is established through the academic collaborators, where many relationships already existed. Luise takes care of selecting the right companies for each course and does the matchmaking. Over the years, a pool of corporation partners has been build up, of which most of the companies stay with the program.

These companies are not remunerated for their contribution, as a lot of them do not need funds. They are bound into the program, by sourcing out questions and tasks to the students.

(For more information visit: