Published on in EducationInnovation

Operation Innovation was established in 2017 to make Fujitsu’s technical expertise more accessible to the next generation of bright minds, and to co-create the next big technology innovation. We have had many successful years of delivering the education programme for 16-18 year olds, successfully pivoting to a wholly digital format in 2020.

In 2021 we partnered with West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to deliver Operation Innovation to students in the West Midlands to provide crucial project-based learning opportunities and virtual tech industry contact in these challenging times.

This year, under the guidance of programme lead Amy Lishman (Fujitsu Sales Development Manager & UK Co-Lead for Fujitsu’s Top Women Programme), each College was given a project brief to create an innovative new technology solution that would address a challenge in the increasingly hard-pressed Healthcare or Education sectors. In teams of four, the students were challenged to incorporate AI and robotics concepts into their project, utilising Fujitsu’s technology as part of the challenge.

Developing Digital Skills

Over the course of 4-6 weeks the students were invited to virtual workshops with Fujitsu experts to gain an understanding of Robotics and AI and business skills. This gave some of the College students their first insight into working for a leading IT organisation, and unique practical skills and experience that will enrich their applications to specialist jobs, apprenticeships, or further education.

Each College was required to submit a proposal outlining their idea, its commercial benefits, and theoretical support required from Fujitsu. The proposal gave the students an idea of what universities and workplaces are looking for when undertaking workplace projects. Fujitsu experts reviewed the proposals and put 5 submissions forward to the next stage, the Dragons Den.

Presenting at the Dragons Den

The five finalists competing for the podium at the Dragons Den on the 16th of June were Sandwell College, Walsall College, Matthew Boulton College, Coventry College and Sutton Coldfield College.

The students had to convince a discerning panel of expert judges which included: Ash Merchant (Director of Healthcare and Education), Ricky Patel (Head of Healthcare), Ian Leigh (Channel Sales Manager), Gareth Thomas (Head of Client Computing Devices), Nicola Richards (Head of Byte, North – Robotics specialist) and Louise Phipps (Strategic Delivery Lead – Higher Level Skills, West Midlands Combined Authority).

With only 20 minutes on the clock, each team presented the result of their project work: a solution to one of today’s major healthcare or education challenges. After much deliberation from the judges, the Colleges joined together for the Awards Ceremony at the end of the day – where Rebecca Sinnatt (Head of Products, UK&I) awarded 3rd, 2nd and 1st place.

The Winners

3rd Place was awarded to Matthew Boulton College with their idea “OMI” – A Mental Health App. The judges felt this solution was brought to life by how the team of students shared their own experiences of COVID. Matthew Boulton College were awarded £100 each for 3rd place.

2nd Place was awarded to Coventry College with their idea “Finn” – A delivery robot. The judges felt Coventry College presented in a very professional manner which showed true business skills throughout. The idea was well developed, creating a brand and success was demonstrated throughout the presentation. Coventry College were awarded £250 each for 2nd place.

1st Place was awarded to Sutton Coldfield College with their idea “P.A.C” – A Personal Assistance Carer Robot. The Judges felt Sutton Coldfield College stood out due to their great research and innovative concept. The team really understood the concept of AI and discussed the longer-term advantages their idea could deliver. Sutton Coldfield College were awarded a LIFEBOOK U729x laptop each and the College was awarded an Innovation Hub.

All finalists were also awarded Picnic Hampers & Certificate of achievements for their participation and outstanding work in Operation Innovation 2021. Alongside this, each College has been offered a Fujitsu Mentor, Presentation Skills Workshop and a Hiring Managers Workshop all hosted by Fujitsu.

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It was an absolute honour to deliver Operation Innovation in partnership with West Midlands Combined Authority. I really enjoyed working with the students and supporting them through their tech 101 and business skills workshops to see their ideas develop into such fantastic business start-up opportunities. Each team should be so proud of what they have achieved throughout this project. It was an honour to deliver a programme that really benefits students and opens up pathways to these students considering careers in technology/with Fujitsu

  • Amy Lishman, Operation Innovation Programme Lead 2021

“Operation Innovation was first launched in 2016 and it has proven enormously successful in helping to develop the digital skills and talent that tech employers such as Fujitsu are seeking. Every year the quality of the submissions and idea’s that are being put forward just keep getting better and better, this year’s standards were of the highest quality that we have seen. In these challenging times I am delighted to see the students being given this fantastic opportunity to engage with industry and help prepare then for future careers in tech industry. Hopefully we are seeing future leaders of UK PLC coming through Operation Innovation!”

  • Ash Merchant, Education & Healthcare Director, Fujitsu Products UK&I

“It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to see the amount of work that had gone into the innovative ideas that were presented on the day. Choosing a winner was extremely difficult and all of the students should be proud of what they managed to achieve”

  • Louise Phipps, Strategic Delivery Lead – Higher Level Skills, West Midlands Combined Authority
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