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Minister of Enterprise and Innovation Drops in on Students at UID

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On March 28th, Mikael Damberg, the Swedish government minister for enterprise and innovation, paid a visit to the Umeå Institute of Design. The minister and his entourage were given a tour of the school, led by rector Johan Redström and vice rector Maria Göransdotter. The visit focused on meeting students in their working environment, as they kicked off their final projects of the spring semester.

After a brief introduction of the school Mikael Damberg was shown around a newly opened exhibition presented by students of the one-year-course Industrial Design Intensive (IDI). The exhibition posters showcased upgrades of certain components in cars from renowned car manufacturers such as BMW, Volvo and Lexus. Mikael Damberg asked students how they had ended up in Umeå and why they had chosen IDI. With widely different backgrounds - from engineering to communications to fine arts - the students all agreed that the IDI course was a unique opportunity to shift gears, towards a new career in design.

The next stop on the tour saw the minister drop by a group sharing session with the first-year students in the Master Programme in Advanced Product Design. The ten-week project, focusing on product solutions for digital health with Nokia, was in its first week as students performed basic research and presented analogue material on boards.

Mikael Damberg spoke to students about the possibilities of connecting digital health products, such as wrist wearables, with the overall health care provided by society. "Those who will be able to connect these gadgets with real health care solutions could have a real impact going forward. If we can get these start-up companies, along with big companies like Nokia, to actually get involved in the development of health care on a larger scale, then that's really exciting."

The visitors then joined the kick-off meeting for another project, this time with the first-year students of the Master Programme in Interaction Design. The project, called Mobility Justice, is about trying to encourage future sustainable modes of public transportation for Umeå while also trying to address issues such as gender, power structures and affordability in relation to public transport.

Mikael Damberg saw a connection with the project and the government's efforts to promote sustainability. "This really taps in to the government's priorities where we look at the big societal challenges. Two of our key priorities are promoting smart cities and next generation transport and travel. This project ties into those challenges in a very real sense. It's great to hear that you are pushing the limits on these issues"

The visit ended with a brief tour of the main workshop where some of the key infrastructure that the students use to create prototypes was demonstrated.