The Inovation Center's mission is to teach and deliver innovation through corporate sponsored classes, labs, and programs.


Innovation ≠ Invention

Innovation is the application of abstract knowledge in a new way.

Innovation is applied and good innovation moves away from more traditional applications. The work we do is in pursuit of solving a specific problem for a partner. It cannot live apart from a need. How the need is identified, how we define the problem, how we view the current landscape, and the way we bring technology into the solution are all ingredients for innovation.

We practice integrative thinking: a way to reconcile competing or conflicting desires or realities.


Integrative thinking is inclusive. Problems, people, and users are complex. So are the ideas that need to account for multiple stakeholders in a system.

Innovation is collectively created and integrative thinking allows for a diverse range of complex solutions, as well as a diverse combination of innovators. Interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to the process because personal perspectives, histories, socio-cultural background, race, and gender all contribute to framing and solving a problem.

Our process

Our Innovation process is divergent, convergent, non-linear, and multifaceted. In reality it is uncomfortably ambiguous. Our process is based on a framework that uses a compilation of tools from Business, the Social Sciences, Engineering, and Design.

Our innovation process in reality. The innovation process is often uncomfortably ambiguous.



Partner History

Our partners range a variety of industries and have unique needs. Through our proven process we are able to approach, understand, and innovate around complex problems for our partners.

Our Offerings

The Innovation Center works to bridge higher education with industry partners and commercialization through classes, sponsored labs, and consulting projects.


  • About IXD

    Interdisciplinary (X) Development is an interdisciplinary innovation curriculum allowing students to practice their skills in an educational hybrid: the exploratory setting of a classroom with the real-world experience of working with a corporate partner. Our classes apply innovation to a variety of problem areas—products, services, systems, and experiences. X represents any one of these problem areas, depending on the identified need.

  • Partner Benefits

    Students provide fresh perspectives and are unencumbered by traditional mindsets. Multidisciplinary teams deliver human-centered views on entrenched problems, hypothesize solutions, build interventions, and test them with stakeholders. The broad range of research and solutions from five to six multidisciplinary teams is the point of value for our partners.

  • Student Learning Outcomes

    Students will gain experience working with professionals on a real problem. Teams will be exposed to the full range of problem solving through design-thinking, a structured approach that provides definition to the process of innovation. Students will learn how to approach problems from a human centered perspective and work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team.

A breakdown of an IXD class. An IXD class included 24  students, in 6 interdisciplinary groups of 4. It is a 32 weeks class with engineering, design, business, medicine, and public health students.



Corporate Labs

  • About

    Our interdisciplinary corporate labs are what drive exploratory development at the Innovation Center. Small teams of dedicated student employees and advising faculty work collaboratively on longer-term projects. Each lab has a unique focus and uses design thinking tools and methods to identify needs, generate new ideas, and develop prototypes.


  • Partner Benefits

    Labs are a more dedicated environment for projects to fully develop. Each lab team concentrates on a focused problem, bringing fresh perspectives and the ability to do high-level research. As members of a research university, lab teams are able to fully utilize their access to resources and subject matter experts, and work alongside dedicated faculty.

  • Student Learning Outcomes

    Students will gain paid professional experience through working with corporate partners, advising faculty, and interdisciplinary team members. Through the scope of a project, students will learn and implement user research techniques, prototyping and testing methods, and presentation skills.

Medical Labs

  • About

    Our medical are focused on medical devices and services, with the college of medicine. Teams of dedicated student employees and advising faculty work within multidisciplinary teams on medical challenges brought to the lab by clinicians. The lab assesses the needs and viability of proposals before moving into solution development. Teams move though observational research, concept development, and prototyping, in an effort to bring products to potential commercial partners. See an example of an ORBIT Lab project, published in the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology.

  • Partner Benefits

    Medical labs are a resource for a variety of clinicians who are dissatisfied with current methods, tools, processes, or communication approaches. Our distinct medical labs concentrate on surgical tools and methods, urological devices, ophthalmology tools, and health applications to improve communication between providers and patients.

  • Student Learning Outcomes

    Students from multiple disciplines learn to work in teams to solve problems in very unfamiliar territory. Often, radically new approaches are developed by teams that approach problems from a distinctly non-medical point of view. Insights from the uninitiated allow for new ways to think through problems, or bring adjacent arenas into the solution development.


  • About

    Project Lab is staffed by full-time Human-Centered Designers (and UIC alumni) with vast experience working in interdisciplinary teams. Project Lab works with faculty on innovation curriculum development, internal development needs within the Innovation Center, and operates as a consultancy on projects for corporate and university partners.

  • Partner Benefits

    Project Lab has the capacity to focus on individual projects with a deep exploration into a specific topic, allowing partners to explore a project without the full commitment of a lab or a class. Project Lab members are experienced in approaching problems from a human-centered perspective and delivering innovative solutions for corporate partners.

Innovation Workshops and Training Modules

  • About

    Our workshops and training modules guide and educate practitioners through the innovation development cycle. We use a human-centered approach that builds empathy for the user, delivers insights, and helps us solve for unmet needs.

  • Participant Benefits

    Our offerings introduce participants to different parts of our process and how to approach big problems from a human-centered perspective. Participants will learn different skills and new tools depending on the workshop or training module chosen.