Linking Great Partners (LGP)
Course unit lectured at the University of Porto with around 250 students, from 5 different master courses fromthe Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP). LGP involves students from the Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering (M.EIC), the Master in Software Engineering (MESW), in Multimedia (MM), in Service Engineering and Management (MESG) and in Electrical and Computer Engineering (M.EEC). Adding to these students, all from FEUP courses, there are also students from the Degree in Communication Design (LDC), from Fine Arts, who carry out their project/internship in the context of LGP.
LGP is a living lab, providing students with a first-person learning experience of what it means to develop a technological product or create a technology-based company in a multidisciplinary environment. Students contact customers, partners, and competitors and encounter the complexity and uncertainty inherent to carrying out an innovative project and launching a start-up.
LGP is an experimentation centre that involves academic and non-academic staff from the Faculties of Engineering (FEUP), Economics (FEP) and Fine Arts (FBAUP) of the University of Porto. These different areas of knowledge enhance the development of pedagogical-scientific activities that promote transversal and multidisciplinary skills in future graduates.
The projects in the course are proposed by external organisations with a problem to solve or a challenge to present. These organisations are chosen as ‘clients’ or ‘partners’, and assume the role of the first client, monitoring the project’s evolution and assessing the degree of satisfaction of the product concerning objectives.
Initially, these external organisations were selected from the academic staff networks and invited to join this initiative. Nowadays, LGP is already widely known in the regional innovation ecosystem, and external organisations aks to participate and the students also have the possibility to propose projects.
LGP is a living lab designed to explore contexts that promote learning by innovating, offering its students the ideal environment to develop and practice skills related to innovation and entrepreneurship, such as the ability to mobilise and lead teams, initiative, ethics and sustainable thinking, as well as the ability to deal with uncertainty and risk.
Inspired by agile methods and experimentation, the LGP methodology allows students to apply knowledge and practices of product development and project management in creating technological solutions based on actual needs, which are validated by the market and add value.
Students are organised into multidisciplinary teams (involving elements from the different masters and bachelor’s), 8 to 10 students per team, and then they work as if they were a Startup. Each challenge proposed by an LGP client is assigned to an LGP Startup, which is responsible for developing the project/product proposed, its management, communication, and all the tasks a startup needs.
This creates the LGP ecosystem: LGP startup companies, Clients, and Advisors (from the faculty and other external advisors brought into the process). Every week there are two hours of theoretical classes, approaching different concepts related to project management, entrepreneurship, and innovation, and also counting with guest keynotes on the different topics. After this theoretical component, there are laboratory classes during which the Startups meet with their Clients and Supervisors and the progress of their work is evaluated.
The final event of this course reunites all the students, clients, and faculty members and provides some key learning moments with invited guests. These guests are mainly entrepreneurs and innovators who share their experiences with the students and provide feedback on the work developed.
1. PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Project phases: Project start-up; Project planning (project hierarchy decomposition, dependencies definition, effort estimation, resource allocation, time schedules, diagrams, project plan document, PERT and CPM methods); Project monitoring and control (project progress measurement, earned value management, periodic reporting, replanning); Project close-out (close-out report, lessons learned).
Knowledge areas: Integration management, scope management, time management, cost management, quality management, human resources management, communication management, risk management, and procurement management.
The working group, team, management styles and team organisation, team building, leadership and coaching, personal communication, meeting management, negotiation and conflict management, and logbooks.
3. INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Lean startup and lean experimentation, proof of concept (PoC) and minimum viable product (MVP).
4. METHODOLOGIES AND TOOLS
Methodologies for project management and organization of software teams: Team Software Process (TSP), Scrum, Rational Unified Process (RUP). Tools for project management and teamwork.
Application in concrete projects, carried out by teams of medium size, of the methods, techniques and ways of working presented.
This activity is a recognized course unit with 6 ECTS and mandatory in some of the Master courses, addingmuch more value to it and undoubtedly motivating the participation of students.
The final mark of the curricular unit will be calculated taking into account the participation and discussion in the theoretical classes and the work developed in the laboratory classes, focusing on the following aspects:
– Product development (customer value and quality).
– Business model and exploitation of project results.
– Communication, image and market (presentations, client communications, promotion of ideas and products);
– Project management (meeting objectives, individual and team dynamics).
– Attendance and participation in classes and meetings.
The individual classification is based on the overall classification of the respective team and may vary according to the self-assessment made within the team, the attendance and participation in classes and meetings, and the results of the monitoring made by teachers during the semester.
During one semester, students have the unique opportunity to experience the environment and culture of a deep tech start-up. Students are required to collaborate, organize their work effectively, and deliver products or solutions that meet the specific requirements of their “clients” or of the market. This collaborative approach allows students to enhance their project management skills, develop their problem-solving competencies, and strengthen their ability to work in teams. Motivated to create something new, students demonstrate that collaborative, creative, entrepreneurial spirits and commitment are instrumental for success.
The emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation aims to provide students with valuable experiences that could inspire them to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures in the future. Considering the ever-evolving nature of all sectors, the course seeks to prepare students to identify and seize opportunities for innovation in the long run, enabling them to bring about meaningful change in their organisations.
Over the last years, LGP involved more than 3000 students, developed more than 340 projects, of which more than 270 were for external clients, and created 195 LGP start-ups.
LGP breaks down the boundaries between education, work and society. LGP explores formal and informal learning contexts in an unstructured learning environment where students, start-ups and companies, non-governmental organisations and public authorities are involved.
LGP, through its teaching-learning model and the links it promotes and enhances between education, research and society, has a systemic impact on the university, helping to increase the capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship of its students and its contribution to the regional innovation ecosystem.
Key success factors / How to replicate / Sustainability mechanism
The course provided opportunities to collaborate and develop skills in project management, problem-solving, and teamwork. Entrepreneurship and innovation were emphasized, aiming to equip students with skills and experiences for the future.
Significant efforts were made to reorganize the course structure. This involved discussions and debates among the faculty team to ensure they were fully prepared to face the new approach. The objective was to create an environment that would work seamlessly for the students and the clients they were working with.
The importance of forging partnerships with companies cannot be overstated. These collaborations played a crucial role in supporting and contributing to the initiatives undertaken during the course. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships was emphasized as a vital aspect of the program. Fortunately, the clients displayed a positive and receptive attitude towards the changes implemented and were enthusiastic about being a part of it.