NETKITE PROJECT, developed through a two-years long work during 2014 and 2015, aimed to enhance and improve innovation strategies and to establish an effective transfer process of innovation in the territories concerned, resulting on one side into the generation of new enterprises in strategic sectors for the local economy, on the other side into pathways for introducing and managing innovation into mature productive sectors, creating new professional positions. NETKITE was inspired by Open Innovation philosophy and used Living Labs approach, meant to support innovation transfer in order to make it functional to the growth and modernization of local economic systems and to the generation of new, qualified and sustainable jobs. NETKITE was in particular designed to convey innovation generated in the research labs into the industrial system and promote the mutual exchange among young spin-off companies and more mature enterprises already operating on the market, according to a model successfully implemented in several business incubators and technology transfer bodies in Europe.
Knowing the area and the field of action
The project, first of all, successfully experimented a comparative frame on innovation ecosystems actors and figures in the Mediterranean partner countries.
This was made through a process including:
– STEP 1. Identification of pilot themes to implement technology transfer and business development innovative models
– STEP 2. Building an overview of the status of research and innovation in the territories (structures and policies)
– STEP 3. Creation of a roadmap for technology transfer and new enterprise development
Building up a community of people
In order to build local ecosystems and let them arrive to the concept of user-driven and open innovation, the NETKITE project then used a second process which started to be a first small community (through organisation of Focus Groups – 10 people key actors of the territory), then ETMs (electronic town meetings) called ECM (Electronic Community Meetings – 100 people involved) until the Living Labs (not realised but in the methodology) and the Open Innovation Platform (framework for 1000 users). The process was therefore an open consultation with local stakeholders to devise innovative models to foster technology transfer and business development in the Mediterranean Partner Countries.
RESULTS of the process of building the ecosystem:
- 7 focus groups realised in all partner Countries
- 4 Town Meetings realized in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC) with IT-aided participatory tools, involving at least 50 participants each, to design roadmaps for technology transfer and spin-off development in strategic sectors for local economy
- Methodology of Living Labs
Setting up new companies
The objective of the NETKITE scouting process was to recruit and sensitize young people and researchers interested in conveying their research results into business ideas, to exploit the business potential and contents of technical innovation and pilot the spin-off and new enterprises development.
The original plan of intervention in the NETKITE project foresaw that, through a progressive process of selection, mainly based on training and mentoring young entrepreneurs in the maturation of their ideas, the most innovative ideas could be translated into business plans and become enterprises in the market.
The start-up generation process was developed according to the following steps:
1. Recruitment of the target group for sensitization activities
Target group for scouting business ideas was mainly composed by post-graduate students, PhD students and young researchers, contacted through plenary meetings and door-to-door visits to main academic departments, faculties or research groups. Innovative and practice-based methods were used to stimulate innovative mindsets among young people and enhancing their creativity as the first step to entrepreneurship, as well as their personal initiative and adaptation to change.
2. Identification of business ideas
Most promising business ideas arisen from the scouting activities were picked up and the promoters were coached to transform their ideas into innovative products and services, ready to satisfy real market needs.
3. Feasibility studies
Preliminary analyses of the chances of business ideas to be successful on the market and to be innovative with respect to the technology state-of-the-art were carried out. Both the best potential in the business ideas received and their link with the strategic pilot themes were assessed. The business ideas which proposed technology solutions to the real-life business challenges set on the Open Innovation framework were privileged.
4. Managerial mentoring & consultancy on technical innovation
Through face-to-face meetings and through interactions with experienced entrepreneurs within the Open Innovation framework, potential entrepreneurs learned from mutual exchange. The support to exploit the innovation potential of the business ideas took account of technological maturity, intellectual property issues, industrialization process analysis, in order to assess possible pathways of future start-ups.
5. Coaching potential entrepreneurs to check market feasibility
The analysis of appropriate market niches, the comparison with existing competitors, the production capacity, the profitability and potential viability of the facilities, marketing innovation strategies were carried out. The estimation of commercial opportunities were carried out during the development of business plans. Mentoring and coaching support on legal, financial, contractual and commercial issues, as well as benchmarking with best practices, were provided by senior entrepreneurs and experts within the NET KITE partnership.
6. Highlighting good practices of spin off generation and impact as TT catalyser
On the basis of the quality of business plans and relevance of the technological solution proposed, the young researchers were selected to participate in the transnational training programme and mobility schemes (see chapter 6).
A road to market analysis (business modeling, industrial application, exploitation of entrepreneurial potential) and a pilot incubation programme per sector per MPC region were designed. Information gathered were poured into a technology database linked to OI environment for thematic technology and competence mapping.
NETKITE: A Mediterranean Innovation Lab
The last step of the process was the realisation of the Open Innovation collaborative framework, with at least at 1.000 access and interactions, using purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate innovation.
The Open Innovation paradigm was in fact identified as the most applicable to the context of the project, in order to generate a dynamic business ecosystem in which the innovation is flowing without restriction between R&D producers and users and not in a top down process.
The goal of the NETKITE Open Innovation Environment is to design labs inspired by the Living Lab approach, where the experience achieved by the users and the producers of technology can provide inputs to the decision makers. The system consists of a collaborative environment for the management and sharing of knowledge and integration of technology transfer services, the exchange of experiences and the repository of information, but above all scouting for business, managerial coaching and matchmaking between supply and demand of innovative solutions. In the Open Innovation environment it is possible to discuss ideas and projects, meet people and collaborators, with formal and informal cooperation methodologies.
The Open Innovation framework encourages co-creation, user-driven process, exploits the advantages of ICT tools and unveil the energies from all actors concerned to design and activate new services optimizing existing resources.
The Open Innovation framework has been designed to be functional to dynamize the scouting process and to start up early interaction among the potential entrepreneurs and wider innovation community. This has taken place in a crucial time for MPC countries both from the political and economic side. Moreover, the scouting phase of business ideas, meant to get significant results both on the quantitative and qualitative side, flows into an open call matching with the concept of the Open Innovation as a virtual place for ongoing uploading of innovative solutions to real problems, evolving into business experiences.
Together with the open innovation platform, the project developed an e-learning platform where users (above all potential entrepreneurs) can have free access to training contents and exchange information and knowledge, and a geoblog a narrative tool where young entrepreneurs tell their personal history and their entrepreneurial ideas.
NETKITE project adopted this approach in order to create a sharing and co-planning community which can be the base for fostering innovation in Mediterranean countries. The idea is to create a place, a virtual platform, a Mediterranean lab, where it will be possible to exchange information and knowledge through an e-learning platform, to communicate through an Open Innovation platform and to use storytelling through a geoblog in order to have a positive impact not only on technological innovation but also on social innovation.
Watch this video about Netkite Vision & Methodologies.