In order to further facilitate cooperation between business and research, the Vidzeme Planning Region (VPR) together with Riga Technical University’s Design Factory implemented an experimental event: the Innovation Co-Creation Laboratory (ICL). The structure of the planning and organisation process, ready-made materials as well as lessons learnt and solutions generated serve as a particularly important resource for anyone working to strengthen cooperation between researchers and entrepreneurs. To transfer the already tested set of methods and tools to other co-creation organisers, Guidelines for Organising an Innovation Co-Creation Laboratory Online have been prepared.
The concept of “innovation co-creation” can increasingly be found in policy documents of various levels, project calls and action plans. In Latvia, however, we are just beginning to get to know it. What does it actually mean? So far, there have been no described prerequisites, methods or practical advice on how co-creation should be organised by public sector organisations, which have a mediating role in promoting business and scientific cooperation, let alone in the current conditions of remote working when cooperation becomes even more challenging.
Nevertheless, based on European good practices and a quest for experimenting, VPR initiated the organisation of an innovation co-creation laboratory in Vidzeme. Commenting on its course and necessity, Santa Vītola, ICL Idea Promoter and Project Manager, points out: “The research carried out a year and a half ago to evaluate the innovation environment in Vidzeme provided unequivocal confirmation that the strengthening of the dialogue between entrepreneurs and researchers is essential to foster innovation generation – to add value to the existing products and promote the creation of new products and the commercialisation of ideas. ICL as a method is a very successful solution that encourages both parties to listen to each other, understand and get to know each other, talk and eventually also cooperate. Only by going through this process with actual participants and working on real challenges, it is possible to understand what works and what needs to be improved. Therefore, may our experience and lessons learnt from the experiment serve as inspiration and guidance for others whose agenda is compatible with ours!”
The participants of the co-creation process – researchers from Riga Stradiņš University, the leading research, laboratory testing and knowledge transfer centre in the Baltics BIOR, Riga Technical University and other institutions as well as entrepreneurs operating in the food sector – worked for almost a month to address key challenges faced by the industry and individual entrepreneurs, meeting together twice. The participants were engaged in the process, making comprehensive use of the methods and tools identified for the co-creation, and provided active, genuine feedback on both the technical side and the content. The first innovation co-creation has resulted not only in successful generation of new ideas, but also practical subsequent cooperation of the participants for the development of new products and research. At the end of the event, at least four of the participating companies outlined a clear direction for further product development together with the researchers who took part in ICL. When contacting the participants several months after the end of the activities, they pointed out the ever-new collaborations that have evolved thanks to the newly acquired contacts and the understanding gained of the current developments of other specialists in the field. The goal of ICL – to promote the strengthening of cooperation between entrepreneurs and researchers – has been successfully achieved.
Close people-to-people contacts can both promote belonging to a place and strengthen the economic growth of the place. VPR will further pursue its efforts to make the business and innovation ecosystem in the region even stronger. Such a model of idea co-creation is an excellent way to bring together different perspectives on complex challenges and to understand how to implement it as successfully as possible in the day-to-day operations of various companies.
The Co-Creation Laboratory was organised by the Vidzeme Planning Region in cooperation with Riga Technical University within the Interreg Baltic Sea Region project “Strengthening Smart Specialisation by Fostering Transnational Collaboration” (GoSmart BSR), co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
Additional information: Santa Vītola, Project Manager of the Vidzeme Planning Region, [email protected]
Information prepared by: Marta Riekstiņa, Public Relations Specialist, [email protected]
Project website: https://gosmartbsr.eu/