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The first stage of FUTUREquipped, Scotland’s largest college innovation project, has concluded with lecturers working across disciplines to produce more than 30 new innovative lessons in smart housing.

Co-led by the Digital Health & Care Institute (DHI) and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), the project’s first workstream saw 27 college lecturers come together from 13 colleges across Scotland.

“The whole concept was bringing together three sectors who don’t normally interact – in this case, ICT, Construction, Health and Care,” said Garry Ross, who lectures in electrical installation at West College Scotland.

Participants received a joint introduction at CSIC to the concept of ‘Smart Homes’, which use automation and sensor networks to control everything from light switches to heating.

“I was aware of assisted living as a concept but it wasn’t something I really associated with my discipline as an output,” he said.

“So it was quite eye-opening actually, to have people look at what we do on a daily basis in a different way. For example, how building technology can be utilised to help people monitor and maintain independence in their own home.”

After taking part in a five-day learning programme held over six weeks, the lecturers worked across disciplines and colleges to put together over 30 ‘micro-lessons’ related to Smart Housing. These lessons covered topics across the three sectors, from modular construction and energy storage solutions to the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The idea was for us to produce a ‘library’ of short courses, so that colleagues in relevant fields like Health and Social Care, could deliver relevant lessons to people who aren’t specialised in those areas,” he said.

“That posed a challenge because a lot of the terminology isn’t common to people, so you had to watch how you developed the lesson. It made us take an empathetic approach towards the people who require the technology we specialise in.”

“The programme is a pilot so there were a few lessons learned in how to pull everyone together to produce the work required, particularly at the start of the academic year.”

“However, having said that, everyone bought into the programme and we’ve got a lot of content to show for our efforts. I really enjoyed working with different colleagues across the sector, and it was just refreshing to do something out of the ordinary.”

The new courses will be trialled in the second FUTUREquipped workstream, which will focus on students. A third workstream focused on colleges and industry working innovatively together is also planned.

SFC has awarded £307,605 from the Scottish Government’s College Innovation Fund to FUTUREquipped project.

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “FUTUREquipped is bringing together colleges, businesses and innovation centres in really exciting ways. 

I am delighted that the Scottish Funding Council is enabling this project’s unique approach and believe FUTUREquipped will provide a boost for the role Scotland’s colleges have in supporting business innovation, growing the productivity of the wider economy.”

Dr Sanna Rimpiläinen, DHI Research and Skills Manager said, “FUTUREquipped looks at complex, real-life issues that are facing the Health and Care, Construction, and ICT sectors. Specifically, how they respond to rapid changes in the required skills, how they ensure their future workforce is prepared, and how digital solutions can be scaled up to help people to live independently in their own homes for longer.

It’s a prime example of innovation centres in action – bringing the right people from different sectors together, and giving them the means to identify and solve joint-problems together. Colleges are at the forefront of meeting these challenges, and it’s really exciting to be co-leading FUTUREquipped with CSIC and working with such a variety of talented people from across Scotland.”

Lisa Deane, CSIC Skills and Training Manager said, “We work with many companies from across the Scottish Construction industry, who have articulated concerns surrounding skills gaps both now and in the future.” 

“Through FUTUREquipped we’ve had the opportunity to work with colleges from across Scotland to design a programme of innovative training, focused around Smart Housing for an aging population, to support lecturers in addressing the needs of the industry and develop a workforce fit for the future.”

“The focus for the first phase of the project has been to help colleges to innovate by exploring new, inter-disciplinary teaching methods. Phase two will focus on students, and the benefits they can realise through inter-disciplinary teaching methods.”

For more information, visit the Digital Health & Care institute (DHI).