Reuben College runs '1kn' Need-Led Innovation Process training programme

Successful innovation requires solutions to real needs that have been voiced and validated by the market. Around the world, we can still observe a tech-push that is often decoupled from real market needs. Many start-ups end up failing because there is no real market need. 

The need-led innovation methodology is a well-proven framework that overcomes that pitfall. Entrepreneurs and innovators are trained to do a thorough needs identification before even proposing a solution. The 1-KN programme is an introduction to the Need-Led Innovation Process, which is a systematic and proven approach to the identification of unmet user needs, and the creative design of new technologies that take important stakeholders into account.

The 1KN programme comes from the idea of the challenges that the world will face in 2039, which is exactly 20 years after Reuben College was founded. The 1KN programme is an initiative aimed at identifying the underlying needs of specific global problems and creating solutions, which are socially sustainable. The name ‘1KN’ comes from the idea of representing the year 2039 as a Base-36 system (1KN is just a different way of writing 2039).

The programme consisted of weekly sessions that took place during Hilary Term. Three student teams worked on identifying and verifying global needs. The hands-on approach allowed for in-depth discussions about the needs that were being explored and it created a stimulating environment for everyone involved. The programme ended with the presentation of the final needs and the teams showcased the unique insights they had found.

The projects

Handei Couriers – Dennis Mazingi, Tafadzwa Matika, and Chido Chigwedere

"During our time with the 1KN innovation program, we worked on our idea for a last-mile delivery platform for small-scale horticultural producers, building on a previous project we had worked on together. We are aiming to improve the efficiency of the horticultural produce supply chain, solve the growing food waste problem and improve small-scale farmer income in Zimbabwe.

"During the 1-KN innovation program, we learned how to think deeply about the holistic market and how our product was going to impact all stakeholders along the value chain. It made us most aware of what problem we were trying to solve and crystalized our goals. I see this need-led approach as exactly the panacea needed for entrepreneurship in LMICs where technological solutions are often pushed without consideration of the actual needs. Thanks to the program we emerged as better, more conscientious entrepreneurs and we now approach the process of innovation much more thoughtfully and deliberately. We are very grateful to Jeroen and Peter who were excellent instructors as well as the rest of the team."

Need-led Innovation Process to mitigate Multi-Morbidity – Sami Adnan, Ishbel Henderson, and Ambre Bertrand

"Through the Reuben 1KN programme we were able to identify different levels of unmet stakeholder needs that relate to multiple long-term conditions (multimorbidities) using the Need-Led Innovation Process. The sessions helped us incrementally narrow down problem areas and further analyse stakeholder interactions. Through the process and the feedback we received, we are now better equipped with the understanding of the levels and scope of the needs of patients, healthcare providers, the health insurance market, and the pharmaceutical industry. This overall mapping of the problem can help in the creative design of new technologies that takes the perspectives of the stakeholders into account."