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How Machine Learning Can Be Used to Find Creative Business Solutions

SHANGHAI/SYDNEY – How do we find balance between technology and creativity? How will the future of work look for creative agencies? The partnership between University of Sydney and J. Walter Thompson China, Shanghai aims to answer these questions.

The collaboration will kick off in December 2018 with an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU), where 16 University of Sydney students from interdisciplinary areas will form small teams to develop creative, ethical and context-sensitive solutions. The University introduced ICPUs earlier this year, to provide units of study based around authentic problems and issues set out by industry, community and government organizations.


The goal is to advance technology and digital transformation to develop creative solutions for current and future business concerns.

“In what promises to be an exciting partnership, by bringing together innovation, creativity and education, the first project will seek to find out how technology can be applied so that it elevates the creative process in business functions and processes,” Professor Richard Miles, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise Engagement) University of Sydney said.

“Ultimately the partnership will work towards what actions creative agencies can take now to deliver efficiencies across their business, and to ensure creativity is able to effectively adapt to the implementation of artificial intelligence and new technologies,” said Chief Executive Officer of JWT China Carter Chow.

“We are particularly interested in exploring the connection between human and machine learning and how this will change roles in the future. We hope this is the start of many innovative and future facing topics that both JWT China and the University of Sydney can work together on solving for the creative industry.”

“Our interdisciplinary groups are where the magic happens, we bring students from different disciplines together to work on a common problem. With 16 students working in four groups to explore how creative processes can be automated at JWT China, you will get each student group bringing a fresh perspective and new way of tackling the challenge,” said Head of Stakeholder Engagement at the University of Sydney, Danielle Godbier. “Under the supervision of academic and industry experts, our students will consider if design thinking and machine learning can be used to strike a balance between automation and retaining the human element.”

Since ICPUs were introduced in Semester 1 this year, students have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects including a new business model for AirBnB, investigating artificial intelligence with Westpac Bank, examining the future of start-up community in China and Hong Kong with PwC.


How the projects work

Offered as four-week intensive courses, students will be based in Sydney for the first week, where they work through the project brief, background research and information, as well as country information. They then undertake intensive targeted research with their project groups. During weeks two and three, students work in Shanghai with JWT China. It is an opportunity to navigate the political, economic, socio-cultural, technological and legal context of unfamiliar international markets. The final week is spent back in Sydney, where they write up their assessment task and undertake interactive workshops to encourage critical reflection on their experience and transferability to career development. Along with China, the University of Sydney has international industry partners in Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom and are looking to increase collaborations with international organisations.

The ICPU initiative has been enthusiastically received by both industry and students, and to date 1000 students have been involved in 35 projects. Next year the University will double the number of places offered to our students to 2000, with the number of projects increasing to 50 in Australia and internationally.

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