ABB smart home tech inspires Ulster University digital marketing students



  • A unique active learning project was co-created by ABB and Ulster University academic team 
  • Students faced the team working challenge to develop a digital marketing strategy for ABB smart home technology 
  • The assignment provided students with a real-world challenge, helping them prepare for future marketing careers 

ABB has joined forces with Ulster University Business School, in Belfast, to upskill a group of 65 digital marketing students during the pandemic with a unique active learning program. 

Teams of masters students on two courses, MSc Marketing and MSc Business Development and Innovation, took on the challenge. They were set the task of producing their own digital marketing strategy for launching ABB’s smart home technology into a new market.

The project was initiated after a planned meeting between ABB’s David Nicholl, a former pupil at Coleraine Grammar School, and Dr John Bustard, Senior Lecturer in Digital Transformation at Ulster University, Belfast Campus. ABB experts worked with the university at every step, including developing the specifics of the strategic challenge, briefing students at online workshop sessions in spring 2021, and clarifying the business priorities to help the marking process.

David Nicholl, ABB Electrification’s Executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Smart Buildings and Smart Power said: “Projects like this are incredibly important for practical learning and development. Therefore, ABB jumped at the chance to get involved and help Ulster University bring digital marketing theory alive, allowing students to apply their learning to the real-world challenges we face as a leading industrial brand.”

After the initial workshop, students broke into teams to outline their proposed marketing strategy in a 5000-word report over four weeks.

As well as developing the practical marketing knowledge for all the students, the 9 highest performing students were recognized with a Strategic Digital Marketing Award from ABB, signed certificates from Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School, and a smart speaker. 

One of the winning students, Lawrence Breslin of Belfast, said: “The main things I learnt from the project were to be assertive and true to my vision. The recognition from this award tells me I can articulate a well-reasoned strategy, which is a confidence booster.

“The project was challenging as we were working remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions. Having the opportunity to do something real gave meaning to the module and being involved in a project for a huge and respected company was extremely motivating.”

Another winning student, Kamila Pas of Belfast, said: “This project helped me to improve my teamwork and cooperation, especially in a remote setting. I’m happy I was able to apply my knowledge and skills to grasp a better understanding of digital marketing communication.”

Having overseen the whole project, Dr John Bustard, Senior Lecturer at Ulster University, said: “Getting ABB involved throughout the project has set a high benchmark for our active learning projects. We like to update our courses so that students apply their thinking to current market trends. Therefore, the assignment for this year’s students will focus on a new sustainability start-up and how our student community can develop unique digital strategies to support such enterprises in the drive to carbon zero, all aligned to the UN’s sustainable development goals.  This is important work, and we are enabling a community of practice to address these challenges whilst completing their studies.”