In my last blog post I wrote about the EIT Alumni Connect event, which was held in Budapest October 15-16. As I mentioned here there was also a second event, INNOVEIT 2017, which started directly after lunch October 16 and lasted until lunchtime October 17. INNOVEIT focused even more on the innovation capacity of the EIT community (and it turn out to be considerable).
Unfortunately, I missed a large part of the opening keynote since I attended a lunch meeting with the EIT Health Alumni board, where we had very interesting and most of all important discussions about our main goals and future board positions which needed to be filled with EIT Health Alumni participants. When I entered the big hall (with hundreds of places) where the INNOVEIT plenum sessions were held, the ongoing talk focused on carrier choices (there are of course risks involved as well as great learning opportunities when breaking e.g. an ongoing academic carrier to focus on a start-up idea) and the need to spot unicorns early on and help them grow.
There were three panels, each with 3-4 participants, during the INNOVEIT days. Two of these focused on the topics “Shaping innovation in Europe” and “Building a strong basis for Europe’s future” and the third one was based on a workshop activity which I will write more about below. The idea that at least some level of entrepreneurship should be covered in schools (on most levels) was brought up to discussion in several panels and being able to “encourage the young” was also seen as an important drive for innovation. Not surprisingly, the role of the EIT KICs (Knowledge and Innovation Communities) in driving and supporting innovation was also discussed. The final takeaways from the first two panels were that 1) education needs to be strengthened when it comes to entrepreneurship, 2) the EIT community needs to be further expanded and 3) EIT need to be better at reaching people who are not scientists.
During the last part of the first INNOVEIT day, there was an event called the “innovation tour”. This was a very interesting activity, where we, in small groups, got the opportunity to meet representatives for 22 companies which have been supported by at least one of the EIT KICs! We stayed on each station for about 10 minutes and then followed a guide to the next one. During the 10 minutes, the representative (often the CEO) first presented the product (or sometimes the process) briefly, after which the participants asked questions. It was very inspiring to take part in this innovation tour – so much potential and talent! During this tour it also became clear to me what an impact EIT can have through the different support solutions for start-ups. All the companies that were showcased were nominated for the EIT Awards in the categories “Change”, “Venture”, “Innovators” and “Public award”. One of the main ideas with the innovation tour (apart from showcasing the companies, of course) was to make it possible for all participants to make an informed decision about who should get their vote in the “Public award” category. After the tour 9 companies were selected (3 in each category), for which the representatives should give 3 minute pitches. After some coffee the winners were then announced. These were the winners in each category (follow the links for more information about these very promising companies):
Change: Chrysalix Technologies
Public award: ColdPlasmaTech
The second day started with a keynote from EIT Interim Director Martin Kern, who also spoke at the beginning of the EIT Alumni Connect event a few days earlier. He addressed the same issues as he did at the Alumni event and stressed even more the successful history of EIT (e.g. about 6000 jobs and 400 products). He also highlighted that EIT was ready to take the next step and be a global (not only European) innovation leader. At the end of his talk Martin mentioned a few areas on which the participants should provide input – areas which should be covered in the next EIT strategic innovation agenda. These areas were “Future societal challenges”, “Education for innovation and entrepreneurship”, “Delivering innovation to the citizens – the EIT way” and “Boosting regional excellence”.
During most of the remaining time on INNOVEIT participants split into four workshop groups, each focusing one of the themes (the groups had been formed already prior to the event). I ended up in the “Future societal challenges” workshop, where I focused on inclusion and integration. The task for every group was to brainstorm around a few key questions related to their assigned theme and then come up with recommendations about future directions of EIT in relation to those questions. After the workshops the one who led the respective discussions summarized the recommendations in plenum and after each presentation a panel asked clarifying questions. The overall aim of this activity was to work together to shape the future directions of EIT in the above mentioned areas – the recommendations will most probably be integrated in the next strategic innovation agenda for 2021-2027!