One of the perks of my job is to serving on the Advisory Board of Design London, a joint venture between Imperial College and the Royal College of Arts. There, as in similar programs that bring together engineering, design, and business students, I get to see the exciting ideas and ventures that emerge from the mix.At Design London, MBA students from Imperial College Business School, engineers from Imperial College of Engineering, and Design students from the RCA come together to design, engineer, and grow new businesses. In addition to teaching an interdisciplinary design program, it also advances the role of design-led innovation for London's many small and medium-sized enterprises, and houses a business incubator that helps launch new ventures.
The New York Times "Year in Ideas" issue just featured one such company (Kitchen Sink), which formed when two design students recognized how a solution in one corner of firefighting could be used in another:
Yusuf Muhammad and Paul Thomas, industrial-design students at London's Royal College of Art, learned this after a school assignment prompted a conversation with members of the Chelsea Fire Station. The firefighters mentioned water mist, a firefighting technology used on oil rigs and cruise ships because of its advantages in a confined space. After picking the brains of specialists at the conference of the International Water Mist Association, the duo began prototyping a low-cost means of taking water mist into the family kitchen.
Their patent-pending product, Automist, consists of a ceiling-mounted heat detector that triggers a pump under the sink that sends water to a special unit at the base of the kitchen faucet.
There, six high-pressure nozzles emit jets of mist that rapidly turn to steam, creating an inert atmosphere that starves the fire of oxygen and reduces the heat of the room. "It's almost like being in a wet sauna," Muhammad says.
The team had previously won the James Dyson Award, where you can read more about the idea and company.