Factors affecting innovation in engineering design teams: An empirical investigation of student team perceptions

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Innovation is a catalyst for economic growth, competitiveness, and sustainability worldwide. Knowledge has been identified as a key driving force for innovation usually resulting in intellectual property as a reward for creativity. Engineers of today are expected to possess abilities for teamwork, creativity, and innovation in order to meet the challenges and complexities of the 21st century. However, there is insufficient empirical evidence explaining the organizational, social and cognitive processes affecting innovation among engineering student design teams—the engineers of tomorrow. The research addresses the question: What are the factors affecting Innovation in engineering student design teams? The study advances a framework for engineering student team innovation and uses survey data from a representative ABET accredited four-year institution of higher learning involving 709 participants constituting 210 design teams from 40 design sections across nine academic departments at a college of engineering during an academic year. Validity and reliability of the survey instrument were obtained by using pre-existing scales, a pilot test, factor analyses, and scale reliability analysis. Other analyses involved aggregation analysis, ANOVA, correlation, and hierarchical linear modeling. A validated 59-item survey scale was realized. Perceived engineering student team innovation is found to be significantly related to leadership, support for innovation, rewards, team size, communication, task orientation, effort, learning, cohesion, conflict and participative safety at the team level. Most study findings agree with general organization team innovation literature with exceptions of participative safety and support for innovation. Findings from the study have implications for the improvement of engineering design curriculum and provide a framework for endeavors to harness skills for teamwork and innovation among engineering graduates through enhancing or regulating the determinants of innovation. A linear model for assessing team innovation among engineering students is elaborated in the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1173
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018


  • Capstone projects
  • Engineering design teams
  • Innovation
  • Student teams
  • Teamwork


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