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DesignStory wins NOK 100,000 for being the most innovative idea of 2020

Rector Petter Aasen with USN Idea Competition winner Steven Mallam
USN’s Rector Petter Aasen congratulates the winner of USN Idea Competition 2020 Steven Mallam at a socially-distanced award ceremony at Campus Vestfold.

Steven Mallam at the Department of Maritime Operations wins NOK 100,000 for an idea that aims to effectively connect navel systems designers to end-users.


The Department of Research, Innovation and Internationalization at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) has awarded USN Idea Competition 2020 to Steven Mallam, associate professor at the university's Department of Maritime Operations. The award-winning idea, DesignStory, is a project connecting designers of safety-critical systems more effectively to the needs and demands of a system's end-users.

Bad systems can create dangerous situations 

“The idea is about connecting naval architects, ship and equipment designers to end-users, in this case, seafarers. There has traditionally been a disconnect between these two - engineers create a product, a ship and all the systems, and the seafarers who use them,” says Mallam.

He says the disconnect could, for example, be in a form of design that does not fit their user needs - which means more errors which could be potentially made, creates higher mental workload or perhaps puts the users in a position to potentially make dangerous decisions, in terms of their work process. 

International funding objectives 

Mallam says he has been working on DesignStory in different pieces - working with engineering and seafaring students so they can collaborate in classes, from an educational perspective. The idea is to start at an educational level, and through a couple of funded projects to test it out with some industry partners.

"To stress test as a proof of concept and the rollout could be global because shipping is a global industry and naval architecture education and design firms are worldwide," says Mallam at the award ceremony.

The eventual goal is for DesignStory program to get national and international funding.

"USN has been working to develop maritime education and research for many years, and now we know that this will be a priority for the government also towards 2030," says USN rector Petter Aasen.

18 ideas 

The Department of Research, Innovation and Internationalization received 18 ideas in total and Mallam's DesignStory - Immersive Storytelling for User-Centered Engineering won among top six finalists chosen by a four-member jury including Fredrik Jean-Hansen from Innovasjon Norge, Emanuela N. Rokke from Kjeller Innovation, Nils Kristian Bogen and Maaike Dooper from USN.

The competition aims to stimulate innovation and commercialization of research ideas. This is the second time the department has organized the USN Idea Competition.

DesignStory will receive prize money of NOK 100,000 as early-phase funding to develop the idea.