top of page
About ME310/SUGAR

About ME310/SUGAR

ME310/SUGAR is a nine-month design thinking program at the Kyoto Institute of Technology where leading companies work with students around the world to develop innovative products or services. Starting with a loosely defined project brief, teams utilize design thinking methodologies to discover unmet user needs, conduct rapid prototyping and testing, and deliver a detailed concept. Many of the final concepts developed in the program have been further developed by companies and brought to market.


The types of projects in ME310/SUGAR vary greatly. In the past, there have been projects focusing on agriculture, air travel, autonomous driving, consumer electronics, digital transformation, disaster relief, elderly care, industrial machinery, textiles, and more. ME310/SUGAR's approach to innovation can be applied to many different industries. Be sure to check out the past case studies in the PROJECTS section.


The history of ME310 dates back to 1967 at Stanford University where the program began as a project-based-learning course for mechanical engineering students. At the turn of the century, the program became globally distributed, bringing together leading universities and students from around the world. This movement lead to the birth of the SUGAR Network. The Kyoto Institute of Technology has been running ME310/SUGAR since 2009. For more details, check out the HISTORY section .

The Design Thinking Approach

Our approach to Innovation

ME310/SUGAR's approach to innovation is what is now known as design thinking, the methodologies and mindset that originated from Silicon Valley and spread around the world over the last decade. Design thinking focuses on the three core principles:


・Deep understanding of human needs and context

・Rapid prototyping, experimentation, and iteration

・Innovative culture that brings the best out of teams ​

While traditional product development methodologies may lead to incremental improvements, design thinking takes a more disruptive approach to innovation. Radical ideas are not disregarded from the beginning, early ideas are quickly tested through rapid prototyping, and users are always at the center of the design. Kyoto Institute of Technology has been at the forefront of design thinking education in Japan and routinely runs not only programs for students but also workshops for companies. ​

website diagram DT.png

Program Structure

Program Structure

Every project in ME310/SUGAR is undertaken by students in two different universities bringing cultural and skill diversity, which is known to correlate with breakthrough innovation. In order to sync with the academic calendars of universities around the world, the nine-month​ program begins in late September. For the first month of the program, the students learn the ME310/SUGAR approach to innovation through various warm-up exercises. The corporate project begins in late October, around the time of the SUGAR Global Kickoff Workshop which brings together many of the universities in the SUGAR network. This is where the teams who will be working together meet for the first time and start coordinating the collaboration. ​ ​


Once the projects begin, student teams will be based in their home institutions with intermittent travel to each other's universities. Regular lectures cover specific design thinking tools such as need finding, benchmarking, and prototype testing. Each team meets with the teaching team (professors and teaching assistants) in weekly small group meeting sessions to get feedback on their topics. Regular milestones guide the teams through the design thinking approach so that they can reach interesting results sooner.