This year’s focus of Vidzeme Innovation Week – responsible innovation

At the end of February, the annual innovation week was organized by Vidzeme Planning Region where lectures, experience stories and masterclasses for entrepreneurs and business support organizations on responsible innovation were held. GoSmart BSR project was one of the key players with its powerful innovation capacity building event with lectures and workshops on innovative solutions in entrepreneurship, internationalization experiences, sustainable use of resources, circular economy and design.

One of the keynote speakers, Gundega Skudriņa, the leader of the association “Skudras Metropole” gave an inspirational story on how to innovate across the borders. She has become the Latvian taste ambassador in the world. Working together with recognizable chefs they have created innovative gastronomic surprises, performances, unforgettable dinners and other celebrations. Also, participants heard good practice examples of how to create new products from production residues. The company “Labas saknes” Ltd. representative emphasized the challenges faced while finding research institutions in Latvia that could provide with necessary solutions for the right product packaging. Zane Vītola from SEB Innovation Centre shared her knowledge on the situation in the Latvian market regarding companies’ ability to innovate emphasizing that entrepreneurs in Latvia are average innovators.

An important and widely attended part was the session on sustainable use of resources, circular economy and design principles. It aimed to introduce small and medium-sized enterprises, public sector organizations working in the field of management, processing and marketing of natural resources to the circular economy and design principles as well as practical examples to promote the sustainable use of resources, including the wise use of logging surplus.

Session moderator, Project expert at Ecodesign Competence Center and a researcher at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences – Jana Simanovska introduced a circular economy as a necessity and a driver of innovation. “There are limits to the use of resources, we need to learn how to use them for long periods without getting into the waste. Otherwise, 20 years from now there will be more plastic in the sea than sea animals and our actions are the key,” she said.

Senior researcher in Latvian State Forest Research institute “SILAVA”, Dagnija Lazdiņa, introduced with principles of circulation in the forest ecosystem and research in the field of bioeconomy. She encouraged entrepreneurs to collaborate with the research organisations and break stereotypes as they are difficult to access and complex organisations. In turn representatives from The Latvian State Forest Research institute “SILAVA” and “Biolat” JSC shared a good example of how innovative products are created as a result of a collaboration between researchers and businesses. “When we started, it wasn’t easy to convince the clients that with the forest remains — needle foliage — one can produce very valuable and useful food products,” says the Head of Latvian company JSC Biolat.

During the Vidzeme Innovation conference in Latvia, Dr. art Aija Freimane, postdoctoral research fellow in design, Associate Professor in Academy of Art of Latvia, emphasized circular design to explain how design combined with the idea of meaningful use of resources creates innovation. She said that end-user appreciates the products which are comfortable, useful, aesthetic, lasting, personal and safe.

Many experience stories presented during the conference gave an insight into the importance of professional support for entrepreneurs in situations where it is necessary to operate in foreign markets.

GoSmart BSR Innovation Broker Ilona Platonova was at the conference and during the day provided consultations to entrepreneurs on business growth opportunities.

A practical masterclass took part at the end of session where participants identified main barriers in their operations that are stopping them from integrating circularity in their business models, and later, during the day, brought these conclusions to a panel discussion with the representatives of Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia and Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia.

Watch a video review from Vidzeme Innovation Week 2020: