FOSTERING CURIOSITY

Demola is a co-creation programme between students and external organizations to deliver challenge-oriented ideas. It was created in 2008 within the innovation ecosystem of Tampere, Finland, thanks to the collaboration of municipality, local universities and the private sector. Building on a question or concept brought forward by the organization, Demola makes use of its extensive network of universities to select a multidisciplinary team of students that will complement the company’s current expertise.  

Demola offers the externalization of facilitation functions to access a larger collaborative network. Present in 17 countries and with over 50 universities being part of the framework, it can benefit organizations by delivering highly effective co-creative projects with multidisciplinary groups that improve the quality of the research. For students, it allows them to experience high pressured environments, with the added recognition in the form of university credits.

Demola embraces the need for multidisciplinary approaches for the educational community as well as public and private enterprises. Evolving around the concept of global megatrends, Demola reckons no organization can succeed without connected thinking. One of the priorities for Demola is to provide a co-creative ecosystem that is fair and reasonable for students. In order to achieve that, proposals from the challenges belong to the team, with the possibility for organizations to invest in the development of those concepts. The succession of feedback and internal assessment culminated in the development of New Factory in 2012, which operates as a hub for open innovation activity and Demola’s local co-creation centre.

OBJECTIVES AND IMPACTS          

The structure designed by the Demola team presents clear roles of students and organizations through the process. The nature of this framework protects the engagement of students and enhances the impact of their input in the project. By encouraging this equality in the dynamics within the group, Demola creates an environment that optimizes outcome via lack of hierarchy.

For example, enterprises have the opportunity to purchase exclusive usage rights to the results of the project. This distribution of ownership reinforces the direct relationship between students and organizations, with Demola providing a framework to regulate their negotiation for the usage of intellectual property.

The Demola program is a unique and innovative initiative connecting students with organizations in order to find creative solutions through collaborative partnerships. Some of the program objectives are:

  • Offer professional facilitation for companies to participate in co-creative activities, encouraging existing employees of public and private enterprises to experiment through co-creation with university students.
  • Develop a wider understanding of complex urban challenges, exposing the municipality to different perspectives and diversifying their approach through innovative thinking.
  • Offer a structure for students to access development opportunities outside the standard channels offered by their institutions, including new work methods and a different range of professional expertise, in order to cultivate skillsets that will equip them for their future career.
  • Provide a platform that connects the interests of companies and universities, allowing employees of enterprises to grow their skills while enhancing the teaching activities of the HEI.

Demola’s approach to collaboration sets itself apart thanks to the priority given to the relationship between students and organizations. This direct communication facilitates a greater focus on the specific challenge proposed by the partner. The Demola Alliance and its international reach allows companies to access a much larger pool of talent. The externalization of facilitation services provides a homogeneous co-creative process, optimized to the expectations of municipalities and businesses. The multifaceted, supportive, and expansive ecosystem created can be a valuable reference point for similar initiatives in the future.

Main Partners:

The Masters of Regional and Urban Strategy (Stratégies territoriales et urbaines, STU) prepares students for professional practice in the field of urban policy and governance. A key component of year 1 is the module ‘Projet collectif’, in which students are exposed to real life scenarios. The module runs from October until June and provides an opportunity for students to engage with a variety of stakeholders in order to develop suitable proposals. Topics focus on the implementation of sustainability principles, public participation and social cohesion, in order to complement the theoretical content of the Master’s programme.

The STU Masters programme is a combination of theoretical background and exposure to professional practice. The group project module exemplifies that plurality of inputs, and challenges students to complete a research project that fulfils not only the academic requirements of their course, but also the expectations of professional practitioners.

The programme puts students into groups of four based on their interests and diverse backgrounds from their undergraduate studies. The topics of interest are submitted by the local stakeholders and are then chosen after an internal evaluation. A mentor is then chosen to overview each of the projects. This individual can be a representative of the university, industry or municipality, and the selection is based on their area of expertise and the proposed methodologies. An example of topics treated during the 2018-2019 year were:

  • Use of numerical data for the optimization of urban regeneration projects
  • Change of dynamics for municipalities and regions within the renewable energy markets through the use of urban policy
  • State of public participation in medium-to-large sized settlements

Students must attend scheduled sessions while also developing their line of investigation, collecting and analysing data, and defining proposals. Students must also allocate extra time in order to complete their in-depth research. This includes the arrangement of interviews with specialist practitioners, communication with stakeholders, field trips for data collection and observation, and assessment sessions with members of the municipality. At the end of their second semester, students must submit an extensive report that summarises their findings, research methodology and proposals, as well as make a public presentation of their concept.

DEVELOPED SKILLS AND COMPETENCES

This interdisciplinary approach gives students an opportunity to gain first-hand experience, build a network, receive expert feedback, expand their research skills, and pursue a Master’s degree. The design of the programme combines the traditional research structure with guidance and methodology suggested by representatives of the municipality and other practitioners. There were several noted impacts from this programme, which varied based on the stakeholder engaged.

For the Urban School and Sciences Po University:

  • A more robust connection between the theoretical background explained during the course and the reality of professional practice

For the students:

  • A set of soft skills that will facilitate their transition into the professional career
  • Increased technical capabilities in the use of professional software such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and statistical analysis
  • Potential employment opportunities for postgraduates

For the local community:

  • A good quality document that can inform future lines of investigation for municipalities
  • A new dimension for the municipality, with up to date information and relevant use of the available data
  • Potential recruitment considerations to strengthen the capabilities of the department
  • Innovative ideas and research paths instigating a conversation within the government agencies to implement change within their structure
  • Consideration of the allocation of resources to pursue solutions that were explored by student groups

The structure of the group project for their urban studies courses are already being replicated by other universities. The basic framework is easy to transfer to other contexts. However, the success of the project requires the accumulation of an extensive network of practitioners and collaborators. This one year module built into a larger Master’s programme can be a valuable reference point for similar initiatives in the future.

Main Partners:

Urban School   

Sciences Po University

  France Urbaine

ITS FACTORY COMMUNITY SEEKS SOLUTIONS FOR MOBILITY CHALLENGES THROUGH CLOSE CO-OPERATION OF THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS

ITS Factory is a public-private collaborative platform that aims to maximise synergies to develop innovative solutions in the field of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Reflecting the complexity of modern urban challenges, the ecosystem facilitates communication between the public sector, academia and businesses.

The development of solutions through the ITS structure creates a two-way exchange, from which developers and researchers gain access to the available data from public sources, and the region benefits from the production of the latest concepts in urban mobility. For the student community, this collaborative environment creates an opportunity to gain exposure to the iterative process that informs technological creativity, and to become more aware of the social component that is attached to the development of solutions for the modern urban environment.

Modern mobility solutions, and the application of technology, relies heavily in the collection, storage and distribution of data. There is an increasing awareness of the potential for open data to unlock unlimited solutions to deliver the promise of smart communities and sustainable urban ecosystems. The main objective of the initiative is to generate a collaborative community specialized in the delivery of intelligent transport solutions. By attracting as many stakeholders as possible, ITS Factory aims to make Tampere an international pole in the field of mobility innovation.

COLLABORATIVE NETWORK

Together with the constantly expanding network of private actors, there are several institutions within public governance and education that participate in a more permanent role to provide infrastructure, data, and financial support. The different partners are allowed to develop their own ideas and execute specific projects within the realm of ITS. Some of the core activities include:

  • ITS Factory development
  • Commercialization and marketing activities
  • Facilitation for developers
  • Testing facilities
  • Interaction with end-user

The integration of ITS Factory within the Business Tampere structure allowed for a more streamlined co-creation process, resulting in the following impacts from this collaboration:

  • Commercialization of products and services
  • Creation of new research and development opportunities
  • Development of industry standards for the creation, exchange and management of data
  • Access to innovative transport solutions for the City of Tampere, the Tampere Region, and the citizenship
  • Associated societal impacts, including a more efficient transport network, reduction in emissions, optimization of costs, road safety, accessibility and public health

In order to reach the highest levels of innovation and co-production, ITS Factory aimed to create an ecosystem in which all stakeholders felt free to engage in research, collaboration and development of concepts. The flexibility of the creative model allows for extensive adaptability to the needs of developers and researchers. Due to the wide range of projects that can be integrated in the ITS ecosystem, the structure offers the possibility to benefit from the platform, including access to public data and real-life testing, to any type of venture. This perspective on stakeholder engagement, as well as the model developed, can be a valuable reference point for similar initiatives in the future.

Main Partners:

City of Tampere

Council of Tampere

Business Tampere

Tampere University