Study at the intersection of univrsity and industry

Design Factory Melbourne is a culture for open innovation, supporting interdisciplinary collaboration (business, engineering, design, etc.) with industry partners.

By studying with design factory you will:

  • Gain real world experience by collaborating with industry partners.
  • Work on a unique project where you and your team decide the outcome.
  • Be part of the global Design Factory culture and open doorways to new career paths.
  • Be challenged to develop new technical and professional skills.

Learn more about your study options and how you can embed a Design Factory experience in your studies. Please drop us a line at and our team will be in touch!



Josh Bragagnolo

Industrial Design student Josh has completed both the local and global streams at DFM – read about his experience.



Read about how Business student Amelia Iverson’s experience with DFM shaped her future path.


Communication Design student Jaiden Gusti immersed himself in DFM’s vibrant community during his Honours year. Read about his experience here.


As part of Emily Cheesman’s Master of Occupational Therapy she is completing a stream of units with DFM. Read about her introduction to design thinking here. 


Undergrad opportunities

For undergraduate students across all faculties at Swinburne University we offer the Innovation Minor which is the perfect way to get a taste for DFM’s processes and mindset before undertaking our post-graduate courses.

Responding to industry partner needs and real-world challenges, the Innovation Minor cultivates the entrepreneurial mindset and necessary skills for launching a new project or business, such as creative problem-solving, self-direction, interdisciplinary collaboration and idea generation.

The innovation minor consists of:

Lean Startup Springboard

ENT20006 Lean Startup Springboard

Faculty of Business and Law

This unit guides students, step-by-step, as they put the innovation process to work, actively developing a startup in a range of settings including social and corporate, aiming for solving customer jobs and creating sustainable value in the market. Students will learn and apply early stage venture mindset, skills, tools and techniques facilitated by a blend of lectures, discussions, cases, readings, video material, workshops and expert guest speakers.

Toolbox for Prototyping and Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Toolbox for Prototyping and Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Design Factory Melbourne

This unit will introduce you to the concept of prototyping as a core method for creative problem-solving and develop a language for enabling interdisciplinary collaboration in the context of innovation projects. You will develop skills in a range of different physical prototyping techniques to generate ideas, test with potential users and engage experts.

Find out more here.

Innovation Challenge Project

Innovation Challenge Project
Design Factory Melbourne

This unit builds on Toolbox for Prototyping and Interdisciplinary Collaboration & Leanstart-up Springboard, providing you the opportunity to experience and understand the challenges of working as part of an interdisciplinary team. You will apply various creative problem solving tools and approaches to generate and develop innovative solutions in response to a real-world project brief.

Find out more here.

Honour’s and Masters: Local Program

The Local Program

The program is made up of two projects which run for one academic year. First semester is DDD40012(honours) or DDD80012(masters) DFM Toolbox: Innovation & Interdisciplinary collaboration 1 which focuses on imparting the skills and mindset needed to undertake the second semester industry project.

Second semester you undertake DDD40013(honours) or DDD80013(masters) DFM Practice: Innovation & Interdisciplinary collaboration 2, which is entirely focused on working as part of an interdisciplinary team on a project brought by an industry partner.

Teams normally consist of 6-8 students from design, occupational therapy, engineering, and business. These projects have a human-centered product, system, service, or digital proof of concept outcome.

Honour’s and Masters: Global Program

The Global Program

The global program is currently open to high achieving students, by application, from Design Honours and Masters degrees, Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Occupational Therapy.

Run in partnership with institutions and industry partners from the Design Factory Global Network (DFGN) and the SUGAR Network the global programs run for a full year, starting in semester two. Classes continue over the summer break, and wrap up at the end of semester one the following year, to match the European & American semester schedule.

The global programs are DFM’s most intensive and rewarding offerings. Your communication and collaboration skills will be put to the test as you work across cultures and timezones with your international partners or team members. There will be constant challenges as you learn new skills, adapt to coping with highly ambiguous briefs, and strive to deliver to tight deadlines.

As part of these programs, students are generally required to engage in some short-term travel internationally.

For more on the global experience read a 2017 Alumni’s reflections.

There are two different global programs which you can apply for:

  • CBI A3 or ME310-SUGAR (open to Design Honours, Design related Masters and Master of Entrepreneurship & Innovation)
  • PdP (open to Master of Occupational Therapy)

The CBI A3 program is run in partnership IdeaSquare at CERN, Switzerland, and partner institutions from the Design Factory Global Network. The program will challenge you to take advanced technology developed by CERN and find applications for the future that will have a positive effect on society.

In this program, you will learn how to use design innovation methods to take technology from the lab, to sustainable, socially beneficial applications. There is a focus on building business cases to ensure the outcomes are viable, and will affect social change.


The ME310-SUGAR program is run in partnership with Stanford University’s ME310 program, and partners from the SUGAR network.

In this program, you will be part of a globally distributed team made up of students from Swinburne and an international partner university that work together remotely.

The course teaches you how to use the IDEO/Stanford design process derived from product development, and is concentrated in practice-based learning. Your team will prototype, test and iterate in order to develop and implement innovative solutions to real world design challenges posed by multinational corporate sponsors. Projects can range from product engineering to service design. The final proof-of-concept prototypes are typically featured at the Stanford/SUGAR Design EXPE in June in California.



The Product Development Project (PdP) program is run in partnership with Aalto University, Finland. You will be one of two–three Swinburne students who join an interdisciplinary team based at Aalto University. Your team will be given a product development challenge from a manufacturing company seeking innovative solutions to emerging problems and trends.

The program is based on problem and project-based learning (PBL) and it lets you apply product development process from problem definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing to building proof-of-concept solutions showcased in May at the Product Design Gala at Aalto University.

We are currently recruiting for 2020-21 (CBI A3 + SUGAR/ME310), please submit an application and email Aaron Down, Global Projects Coordinator to express interest.

Post Graduate Opportunities

PhD Program
DFM offers industry engaged PhD’s, as well as elective subjects for all PhD students at Swinburne University.
Post-Graduate Electives

For PhD by course work students we offer two elective units that you can undertake. These are electives open to students from all Faculties.

DDD40007 Industry Engagement and the Problem Solving Space

The aim of this unit is to introduce you to collaboration between universities and industry partners using different cultures for research that lead to solutions for real-world problems. You will explore different ways of engaging industry and university stakeholders together in an innovative and inclusive problem space; and navigate research questions of significance for academic research and real world applications for industry.

Through this unit you will learn how to engage with a variety of industry and university stakeholders, critically evaluate and analyse complex information to respond to real world problems, synthesise and transmit research information external to the academy, articulate research significance in relation to a specific field of research, and demonstrate theoretical and technical knowledge of discipline practices for the academy and industries.

DDD80023 Interdisciplinary Research Practices for Design & Innovation

The aim of this unit is to introduce ways in which interdisciplinary research practices support design and innovation across the globalised world. Successful collaboration across various disciplinary perspectives is essential to respond to the complexity of real world problems. The unit will explore negotiating collaborative team work, framing research problems and methods from various disciplinary perspectives, as well as applying collaborative and creative thinking tools to support more innovative research outcomes.

Through this unit you will learn how to negotiate different academic research cultures, evaluate and apply collaboration tools to research practices, critically analyze and transform information using creative problem solving processes to generate designed solutions, synthesise and transmit information to others using prototyping, and demonstrate theoretical and technical knowledge of interdisciplinary research practices.

DFM Surf School
“There are no free rides to the future”

(Professor Ian Chubb, former Chief Scientist for Australia)

“Creating a culture of innovation should not be an add-on — it needs to be integrated into organisations and universities”

(Business Council of Australia)

These are types of comments that made Design Factory Melbourne completely rethink what a PhD should be.

Our answer? The Design Factory PhD Surf School.

In the Design Factory Melbourne PhD Surf School we embrace risk through the hazards of co -creation. We pursue ideas through transdisciplinary research that crosses local and global boundaries. We create collaboration between industry and research experts and research learners because no one can create the future alone.

What is the Design Factory PhD Surf School?
  • The PhD Surf School is a vibrant, living act of real world research.
  • It’s global, so our PhDs get the chance to move, think, research and create with our University partners across the world in the Design Factory Global network.
  • It’s transdisciplinary, so our PhDs can cooperate, integrate and operate across multi disciplines in Universities.
  • It’s industry integrated, so every PhD has a real life industry partner who’s grappling with real world problems, and together they solve those problems.
  • It’s a PhD that wants to make a difference, because in the new millennium world the social, economic and industry bottom lines will be shared to make a better human future.
  • It’s for risk takers and disruptive thinkers, so we welcome thinkers and doers who want to think and create sideways, obliquely and even back to front to uncover unexpected answers to unexpected problems.
  • It’s a true scholarly act, where scholarly means understanding what research is, how theories work to explain ideas, and how every PhD adds one more step in the giant journey of human knowledge.
  • And it leads to leadership because all our PhDs learn what industries want as team members, team managers and team leaders who will become the next generation of global leaders of innovation.

To pursue your PhD with the DFM Surf School, please complete the form below to register your interest and we will be in touch!

How to apply
If you are interested in studying your PhD with DFM, use the contact form below or email
PhD Research Areas

Design Factory Melbourne is building areas of research expertise across three interrelated fields

1. Technology and knowledge transfer through transdisciplinary design innovation
2. Innovation Ecosystems
3. Space and place experience

We apply these fields to research in health, agriculture, smart cities, social agency, experience design and coaching. We also apply them to new hybrid areas of research that support future industry scenarios, strategy and demand.

To learn more about these fields of research click here.

If these questions inspire you to come and do PhD research with us, contact us today!

“Embrace risk, pursue ideas and learn from mistakes”

Professor Aleksandar Subic, Swinburne Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Development

Contact Us

Got a question? or need more information? Get in touch with us to see you can embed Design Factory into your studies.

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