The Student Perspective

The SDT Program - so much more than a course !

The Service Design Thinking is more than a usual lecture in your study plan.

You will learn what it really takes to be an innovator. You will receive education in the human-centric innovation approach Design Thinking, work in small but interdisciplinary and international teams on real business challenges over the course of nine months (September ’19 to June ’20). You will collaborate directly with mentors from your partner company as well as with fellow students from renowned universities such as the University of St. Gallen. Along the way, you will visit international destinations known for being innovation hotspots and will be on stage at innovation events that draw an audience of several hundred participants.

Sounds exciting?
Below you'll find all the information you need to know for signing up to your personal SDT-journey!

I want to be part of it !

SUGAR and Service Design Thinking

The SUGAR Network is a global network that brings together students, universities and companies to facilitate the application of human-centered innovation and design through a new learning experience. Please find more information on SUGAR in corresponding section on this website.

Currently, the main focus of the SUGAR Network is the SUGAR Program. The universities of the SUGAR Network run a synchronized educational program, teaching the Design Thinking innovation approach to their students over the course of nine months.

The local instantiations of the SUGAR Program at the participating universities usually have individual names. Given the general focus of the Karlsruhe Service Research Institute (KSRI) on (digital) services, the local name at KIT is the Service Design Thinking (SDT) program. Moreover, since the SDT program consists of one module and the module comprises of only one course, SDT program, SDT module, and SDT course are used synonymously.

The SDT Program Cornerstones

Who can participate in the SDT program?

We welcome applications from master students of all departments of the KIT. However, in terms of crediting the program for your study, we only have formal agreements for students studying Business Engineering (M.Sc.), Information Engineering and Management (M.Sc.) or Computer Science (M.Sc.) at KIT.
Nevertheless, we have had participants from other departments as well. In these cases, we worked our individual arrangements with the respective examination office.

When does the Program start and end?

  1. Start: The Modul Service Design Thinking (SDT) starts once a year mid September. Yes, that’s between our semesters. But since this is an international program and the timing of semesters is different everywhere we needed to agree on something.
  2. End: The program ends at the end of June or beginning of July in the subsequent year.

What important Dates and Milestones do I need to know?

  1. In mid-September the program starts with a 1.5-day warm-up in Karlsruhe
  2. The official international SUGAR kick-off takes place mid/end of October.
  3. First interim presentation (fall presentation) beginning December.
  4. Second interim presentation (winter presentation) will take place beginning of March.
  5. Two final presentations (SUGAR network and partner companies) will take place end of June.

The presentation dates 3, 4 and 5 are held either in Karlsruhe or at one of our university partners and each have a duration of one day.

Working Mode

Which attendance dates should I schedule for the program?

Weekly appointments:  

  1. We conduct weekly coaching sessions of approx. 60 min length with each student team, so-called Small Group Meetings (SGM). The appointment is selected together with the team.</li>  
  2. There is also a weekly course in which all teams participate together, the so-called Large Group Meeting (LGM). LGMs last about 90 minutes, have some lecture character with very strong interactive part or are forum to discuss intermediate results together. The LGM usually take place on Mondays from 18:00 to 19:30.</li>  

Note: The attendance dates take place during the entire 9 months, i.e. also during the semester holidays.

What is the amount of work I should calculate?

You should plan with 2 days per week per student (including semester holidays) – depending on the project situation it can be more.

What does teamwork mean in the SDT program?

Within the framework of the SDT module, international student teams work on real innovation challenges of renowned partner companies. Each team is composed of 3-4 KIT students and 3-4 students from a foreign partner university (e.g. St. Gallen, USTC, Linkoping University, Aalto Helsinki, Trinity College, …). The teams are working on the challenge of their respective partner company for over 9 months (e.g. September 2018 – June 2019). The teams receive a contact person on the company side, with which they regularly exchange information on the project stand. To cover travel expenses and some purchases, each team gets its own budget. The teams are encouraged to organize themselves.

Will we receive any support for solving the challenges along the way?

Throughout the program there will be weekly lecture-like teaching units, sporadic one-day workshops for the student teams in collaboration with the teaching team, as well as weekly coaching sessions of each team by a coach, called the Teaching Assistant (TA). Finally, as a teaching team, we occasionally engage in team coaching directly.

Lecturing Mode

How are the lessons structured and designed?

Methodologically, the program is based on the Design Thinking approach taught at Stanford University and applied internationally. To learn this approach, we run a Kick-Off event at KIT at the beginning of the program. Afterwards an international kick-off of the SUGAR Network takes place, which includes additional lectures on Design Thinking. Throughout the program, there are weekly classes (called LGMs). The teaching program is often supplemented by guest lectures. In general, the lectures are more interactive than a classical classroom lecture. To you, they may feel more like an exercises or seminar.

Who teaches the SDT program?

The teaching is done by the so-called teaching team (TT), which comprises of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Satzger, Niels Feldmann, Anke Holtmann-Plog, and Laura Kienzle.
The teaching team is supplemented by so-called teaching assistants. These are students of the previous years who will assist you with SGMs, preparation for presentations etc.

Your Benefits

The program sounds like a lot of effort. Why should I take part?
Indeed, the effort for the program is not to be underestimated. But there are also some attractive benefits for you:

  • Credits: You receive 9 ECTS for a complete module “Service Design Thinking”.
  • Methodological Knowledge: You build up an extensive knowledge in the Design Thinking approach. This human-centric approach to innovate services has been a strong demand in industry for many years.
  • Practical Experience: Experience in solving a real business innovation problem by applying the renowned Design Thinking methodology as developed and taught at Stanford University.
  • Working with Corporate Executives: Working with high-level corporate representatives, you will be trained in communication with senior executives.
  • Event Participation: You will participate and play an active role in events that draw hundreds of participants from academia and practice.
  • Network: You are building a network of international contacts to attractive companies, high-level corporate representatives and leading universities from the SUGAR network. In fact, you will be part of the great SUGAR network of universities, companies, coaches, and students yourselves.
  • Soft Skills: You learn to work in international teams (including remote work). In doing so, you collect valuable experience in the area of intercultural communication and project management.
  • International Travel: The program includes international travel to innovation hotspots. Trips to the start and/or closing event as well as to the milestone presentations in Europe are part of the program. In addition, you will occasionally visit your teammates from the partner university.
  • Spirit: Many of our participating students mention the spirit of the entire program as a memorable benefit.


What do we expect from you?

  • Excellent achievements, enthusiasm and willingness to work together in a small team.
  • Willingness to work diligently on a nine-month-project: 110% for your team, for your tasks, for your company. This is why we expect you to be present in Karlsruhe for the duration of the project.
  • Good grades are important. But the same is true for your personality and, if applicable, your experience in Design Thinking.

How does the selection process work?

The selection process consists of three steps:

  1. You apply on the WiWi portal. In this initial application, your letter of motivation, curriculum vitae and transcript of grades is sufficient. The application can be submitted in German or English. Based on the impression of the documents, we invite to personal interviews/discussions.
  2. These personal interviews (usually a single and a group interview) are done by the teaching team. 1:1 with Prof. Dr. Satzger and the group interview with 2 other candidates and the KSRI teaching team. As a rule, the interviews take place in July (provisional). Concrete dates are still to follow. The result of this round is a provisional list of participants as well as a „waiting list“.
  3. Depending on the number of firm commitments made by partner companies, we will finally give you a final confirmation.

What are the selection criteria for participants?

There are many criteria for the selection of participants. Of course, your grades play a role, but it is only one criteria among many. Your letter of motivation, your CV and, above all, your experiences and skills that are evident in these two documents are very important. We not want to include only brilliant students in the program, but also to put together teams that cover a wide range of skills. Finally, our impressions from the interviews are important too. The program includes intensive international teamwork. In this respect, teams need to fit together not only professionally but also personally.

How can I apply?

The application is made via the KIT WiWi Portal and can be done until sometime around Mid June. Please check the KSRI Homepage for the exact dates.

I want to be part of it!

Further Information

You’ve got more questions? Well, here is what you can do:

  1. Info Event: Every summer semester, we offer an Info-event at the beginning of the application phase. At this time, we will give a brief overview of the method and show examples of what kind of tasks will come to you over the nine months. We have also invited some of the participants of the previous year to be able to answer any questions.
  2. Contact Us: In case of any further questions please feel free to contact us