Early Assessment of the Digital Innovators Ideator

Published: Posted on

The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) commissioned an independent report, produced by City-REDI, which evaluates the programme theory and impact of the Digital Innovators Ideator. Alice Pugh discusses the evalution.

The Ideator is a programme for young people (aged 16 to 24), focusing on young people at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training), which offers the opportunity for structured career and work experience.

The programme aims to enhance student engagement, confidence and motivation, through real-world work experience. The Ideator is delivered in partnership between Digital Innovators and employers, based on the Innovation Birmingham campus. The employers identify specific business issues that Digital Innovators develops into innovation challenges which provide the basis of Digital Innovator’s “learning by doing” approach where young people can build skills in a practical way by working on real-world issues faced by businesses, developing problem-solving skills, generating solutions for businesses.

Each Ideator project is staffed by a combination of learners (“digital apprentices”), experienced designers, developers, and project managers as well as seasoned industry professionals from Digital Innovators’ own staff, alongside those from local businesses. Facilitating the collaboration between young people in the region and employers through live work projects to produce tangible business improvements. This combination of learning by doing and specialist training enables young people to develop their employability, by developing key essential soft skills and exposing them to professional workplace and work.

The evaluation demonstrated that the Ideator is a strong example of a boundary-spanning project. Connecting learners, educators, sector specialists and employers to create a demand-led skills programme, providing real work experience and producing tangible business improvements. The project successfully helped learners develop key essential skills, improving the employability of learners in the future. Employers gained tangible business improvements through the innovative solutions that students developed.

Skills Development

Students found participating in the project was highly beneficial, helping them to develop a wide range of key essential soft skills including:


The experience that students had gained whilst participating in the Ideator, had helped them to build confidence in their own abilities. The exposure to professional settings and challenges had allowed them to gain experience in skills, on a standard academic course they would have been unlikely to be exposed to. The Ideator provided students with invaluable work experience skills, building their confidence in their own abilities.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Presenting was the main form of communication which students referenced. They found they had improved their abilities to present effectively in public settings, which had eased their anxieties about having to perform similar tasks in the future.

Often students conveyed their improved abilities to effectively communicate their ideas and opinions to peers and employers. Particularly highlighting their newfound ability to professionally engage and communicate with employers, which they thought would be a useful skill in the future, especially when applying for jobs and during interviews.

Teamwork and Collaboration

The students identified that they had learnt how to work effectively and professionally as part of a team. Employers had also identified collaboration as one of the key skills that students had demonstrated in The Ideator. Learning how to get the best out of team members, understanding the different strengths that team members offered and learning how these could be applied to the project challenges that they faced.

Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation

Employers found that students demonstrated a lot of creativity and innovation when developing problem-solving solutions to the project challenges they faced. They found that students brought fresh and unbiased solutions and ideas, to industry challenges. In some cases, highlighting their inexperience was beneficial. As students were unburdened by technical skills which might see them testing standard methods to resolve challenges, instead they could be more creative and innovative in their approaches to problem-solving.

Time Management and Organisation

Throughout the case study testimonies by students many noted they had developed their time management and organisational skills. Usually with regards to balancing different facets of their personal and educational life, this was particularly emphasised by those who were in part-time employment whilst working in the Ideator. This was also seen as a valuable skill by students, as it would be applicable to either their future careers or higher education studies.

Value for Money

The true wider economic benefits of the impact of this project would be difficult to estimate without a longitudinal study of the progression of learners, through their academic or career pathways. Research from Skills Builder has found that the development of essential skills through projects such as these could lead to a wage premium uplift of between £3,900 to £5,900, over a lifetime of earnings.

However, as a direct result of learners working on projects with employers, some students were offered apprenticeships. This was a high-level outcome that Digital innovators hoped would be achieved but had no control over. The impact of these apprentices being employed generated a net present value of £194,181 and a benefit-cost ratio of 3.59, after discounting, additionality factors and programme costs had been taken into account. This means that for every pound spent funding the programme it generated an additional £3.59 in the wider economy. Given only 8 apprenticeships were secured in the duration of the Ideator, there is potential for a much greater economic impact if a greater number of apprenticeships could be secured.

View the report – Digital Innovators Ideator Evalution

This blog was written by Alice Pugh, Policy and Data Analyst, City-REDI  / WMREDI, University of Birmingham.

The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI, WMREDI or the University of Birmingham.

Sign up for our mailing list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *