New qualification round of SME “Champions League” was closed September 7. Karostech  has been assisting four companies to apply for Phase 1 funding by the last cut-off date. In this blog we share some cumulative experience and observations from the recent SME Instrument journeys with our customers.

Horizon 2020 SME Instrument funding is generally considered very beneficial for companies. Indeed, 50 KEUR grant is issued by the European Commission in Phase 1 just for the feasibility assessment and business planning. Furthermore, up to 2.5 MEUR is available in Phase 2 for SME’s with disruptive business ideas having the potential to become global market leaders.

In terms of volume and impact this grant is comparable to venture capital investment, still not diluting the ownership and decision making power of current shareholders.

Sounds like any entrepreneur’s dream! However, since the launch of SME Instrument program, only 328 out of 5388 applications have been approved to Phase 2 funding (after Feb. 2016 cut-off). These figures clarify why the European Commission calls SME Instrument beneficiaries champions playing in the Champions League for European SME’s. So is applying worth of effort, if only 6% of applications get funded?

It’s quite common nowadays that informal application is enough to attract funding. Both public and private investors often make their decisions mainly based on pitching performance. Formal business planning quickly becomes legacy, especially within the agile and hyperdynamic start-up culture. Following very strict and formal requirements of SME Instrument make the application procedure time consuming, which might be mission impossible for many companies due to many practical reasons. First, very few SME’s are so structured in their business planning that filling the application with up-to-date data could be done by copy-pasting from the existing documents. Second, very few entrepreneurs are able to realistically evaluate the business potential of their companies. Typical problems here are either the excessive optimism (“we have unique technology and no competitors”) or too narrow local focus with no clue of global markets. Finally, for most of entrepreneurs spending a month of their time to the application with such a low success expectations feels just unreasonable. There are more important things like, for instance, sales which have direct impact on company’s business. And delegating the responsibility to lower level simply doesn’t work in case of SME Instrument application process.

The founders and management team have to be personally involved in order to make a successful application.

One of our recent customers wondered “how can it be so formal, no entrepreneur has time for this!”. Yep, that’s an opportunity for an external expert to step in and guide the company through the process. Well, it takes the consultant’s time too, but company’s own resources can be used for those “more important” things, in other words for everyday business operations. An effective external expert is able to put together a high quality application after having 3-4 intensive face-to-face meetings with the entrepreneur. All other information can be gathered from public sources, material provided by the company and his own business experience. And yes, it takes at least four weeks time to do it properly from the start to the final submission. Usually, the customer wants the consultant to do the writing. It’s just fine for us, we know how to do it. However, in order to ensure company’s engagement with project’s objectives it’s important to dedicate at least one person in the company, who’s closely involved in the process.

Another important thing to remember is that each application is evaluated by four independent evaluators possibly having very different backgrounds. Some may have academic or technical background, while others may come from finances or business development. The applicant has no chance to make personal impact on evaluators, the evaluation happens based on the written application only. So it has to be well balanced to satisfy evaluators with diverse backgrounds.

A good application can be well compared with the business plan.

In fact, not many start-up or growth companies have such a detailed business plan. Why don’t you get one as an extra bonus!

So is it worth of trouble afterall? NO, if you’re personally not so structured, but still not ready to outsource the process to the external expert.

YES, if A) you feel having real potential to reach Phase 2 funding, B) you consider the point of view of experienced external consultant worth of small investment.

Some of our customers especially appreciated the impact the application process had to streamlining company’s marketing communication. For instance, companies start using parts of application text and figures produced for the application in their marketing. The core message becomes clear and that immediately affects sales. One of the customers said that the company has benefited from the application process no matter what the final result is. However, the positive funding decision will definitely be a nice bonus both for us and the customer. The best thing a consultant can hear after the process is the question whether his services can be further used in the project implementation phase. We hear it each time after the submission is done. Hopefully, in October we’ll face a positive problem, when multiple applications get positive funding decisions.

So far Karostech has made seven applications for five customers, four from Finland and one from The Netherlands. Two out of three have already passed the evaluation and been approved.

Our customers have so far received 2.1 MEUR from the European Commission.

See you in the Champions League!

Platform thinking is gaining momentum and for a good reason. It has disrupted many industries already and it will re-shape our business ecosystem thinking in the very near future. The consequences of this evolution process will be huge and therefore it’s fundamental for us to adapt as early as possible to these changes.

The first conceptual definition of platforms, which I have noticed was by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in their brilliant book “The Power of Pull” (2010). They introduced the notion ‘pull platforms’. The authors defined the new phenomenon as following:[1]

 “Pull platform is used metaphorically to describe frameworks for orchestrating a set of resources that can be configured quickly and easily to serve a broad range of needs”.

With a wide set of case examples the authors were able to explain in beforehand, already few years ago, the vital benefits of platform thinking. They also predicted with amazing accuracy the vast implications, which platform thinking will bring to out business environment.

The fundamental changes that accompany every shift in the industries, which are getting transformed by the platform thinking are[2]:

1) new networked markets get created

2) new sources of supply start to emerge

3) new consumption patterns will be developed.

4) new and unique combinations of competences will be created.[3]

The first three (by Sangeet Paul Choudary) are certainly valid when talking about traditional platforms, but I added also the fourth dimension, which is available by the use of competence platforms.

John Hagel et al have analyzed ‘pull’ driven platform thinking and they conclude that to exploit the opportunities created by uncertainty, pull platforms help people to come together and innovate in response to unanticipated events, drawing upon a growing array of highly specialized and distributed resources. With this feature a pull platform becomes a real asset for ecosystem builders and in orchestration of distributed freelancer organizations.

In the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigous (VUCA) conditions the developments and the encounters often are unexpected and hence unpredictable. Pull platforms and the concrete implementation of them called competence platform will help to prepare for the unexpected and act accordingly. The self-organizing characteristics, the agility and open access are the fundamental features of competence platform and vital for survival in out contemporary business environment, and unfortunately not offered by the traditional communication tools.

How do the Devil’s Advocates fit into this thinking, why do we need them? That is a question, which has recently obsessed my mind. And the answer is finally found from Gary Klein’s wonderful book ”Seeing What Others Don’t – The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights”. According to Gary Klein insight, which is the key outcome of serendipity process, will be triggered by (the picture below)[4]:

–      Connections                                                             Klein

–       Coincidence

–       Curiosity

–       Contradiction

–       Creative Desperation

Actually a contradiction is a very strong catalyst for unexpectedness. And there are many wonderful stories in the history of serendipity about cases where especially contradiction has ignited the final insight for a great discovery. Let’s figure out how we can benefit from this approach.

Creating contradiction by purpose is easy, just make sure that there will be enough diversity in your platform and if needed ask some people to play the Devil’s Advocate role. For harnessing serendipity purposes this will certainly be a great alternative. Putting people in front of unexpected contradictions will sparkle their creativity and lead to insightful results.  The role of Devil’s Advocate might be a real catalyst in many communities and companies, as long as it’s understood the right way. Contradictory opinions can stimulate the serendipity process in various ways. Often innovation communities are way too homogenous without any contradictions; the ability to tolerate uncertainty and different kind of thinking is the key to fruitful discussions and hence disruptive solutions in any business ecosystem.

The critical success factor in introducing Devil’s Advocate principle to a competence platform is to design the matching algorithm in a way that also people with totally different values and competences are invited to certain swarms, partups or whatever they are called in various services. The alarming trend with just mixing people with similar interests and values is not encoruraging contradictory behavior – vice versa. So, as a platform operator you will be more successful and have better results with great impact, if you encourage the Devil’s Advocates to do their job properly.

(During the canonization process employed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Promoter of the Faith (Latin: promotor fidei), popularly known as the Devil’s advocate (Latin: advocatus diaboli), was a canon lawyer appointed by Church authorities to argue against the canonization of a candidate.[2] It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_advocate

[1] John Hagel III, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison: ”The Power of Pull – How Small Moves, Smartly Made. Can Set Things in Motion”, Basic Books, New York, USA (2010), page 76

[2] http://platformed.info/platform-stack/, Sangeet Paul Choudary.

[3] Ilkka Kakko, Mika Lavikainen, Tatiana Glotova: ”netWork Oasis: New Practises for Emergent Collaborative Working Environments” p. 338 in a book by Luis Camarinha Matos, Hamidesh Afsarmanesh, Martin Ollus (eds) ”Network Centric Collaboration and Supportive Frameworks”, Springer, NY, USA (2006)

[4] Gary Klein (2013): ”Seeing What Others Don’t – The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights”, Public Affairs, New York

 

Have you ever thought what an ancient marketplace – like Agora has in common with Airbnb – a six -year-old company currently disrupting the global hotel industry?

To understand the similarities we have to study the background of Agora. According to Wikipedia: The Agora  (Ancient Greek: Ἀγορά Agorá) was a central spot in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens was the best-known example. The notion itself is based on the two Greek verbs ἀγοράζω, agorázō, “I shop”, andἀγορεύω, agoreúō, “I speak in public”

Indeed, they are both platforms, the hot topic of contemporary business leaders.  They both enable low-entry, almost zero-friction interaction between a diversity of participants. So in fact, we all have experienced weak signals of this exciting movement every time we have visited any market square. The analogy to Agora helps us to understand a platform as an organized setting where producers and service providers meet with the customers and consumers, where their roles may swap freely according to the personal preferences. Platforms are places where ‘I shop and I speak in public’ – principle is highlighted and respected. The format and infrastructure of platforms have evolved and diversified in recent years enormously, but they still carry some of the ambience of ancient market squares.

Platforms – what are they then? How can we, as business owners, communities or private persons benefit from them? Is there any good reason why we should try to understand the mechanisms?

The first conceptual definition, which I noticed was by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in their brilliant book “The Power of Pull” (2010), in which they introduced ‘pull platforms’. The authors defined the new phenomenon as following: platform is used metaphorically to describe frameworks for orchestrating a set of resources that can be configured quickly and easily to serve a broad range of needs. With a wide set of case examples they were able to explain already four years ago the vital principles of the platform economy pretty accurately. And they also predicted the vast implications, which platforms will bring to the market place.

But four years is a long time in disruptive economy and we have witnessed an enormous shift towards the platform driven business environment.

Even though platforms have been a natural place for interaction since ancient times they have just recently become a hot topic, because the vivid discussion around the most prominent business cases has taken the notions ‘platform’ and ‘platform economy’ to the limelight. Platforms are here to stay and surely also to flourish; new implementations of platforms with revolutionary characteristics are in the pipeline – or should we say emerging from these already existing platforms.

Disruptive business models are gaining momentum and changing rapidly the fundamentals in the global business. The triumphant business endeavours like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber etc. are showing us the way to the Postnormal Era. Platforms will change our understanding of the value creation processes and leading business principles. They have already changed many industries – like publishing, media and hotel businesses – not to talk about the eminent power of social media platforms even within the (still) traditional businesses.  According to Sangeet Paul Choudary there are three fundamental changes that accompany every shift in the industries that are getting transformed by the platform thinking:  new networked markets get created, new sources of supply start to emerge and new consumption patterns are created. With these kinds of impacts we surely can make a statement that this is going to be a revolutionary shift

My personal and later on Karostech’s interest in this topic begun already ten years ago when the first drafts of a visionary community platform – GLOW – were introduced in Joensuu Science Park, Finland. My team was able to draft and pilot the very first version of a virtual collaboration tool, as it was those times called – a 1.0 version of a ‘competence platform’. Even though that experiment ended up pretty quickly due to the management changes in JSP,  it enabled us to experience the virtues of such a revolutionary tool and was enough to keep my curiosity alive since that. That experiment had also a fundamental effect to my personal life, after the disappointment of not been able to elaborate GLOW further, I started my second entrepreneurial career by founding Karostech with my partner and keeping all the time in my mind the potential benefits of a well working competence platform.

During the last years one part of our business has been to follow the development of innovation environments, especially the co-working movement and the development of various supportive tools, such as platforms.  We are highly interested in the type of platforms, where serendipity can be harnessed. The complete solution might consist of physical environments, artifacts, virtual community/ collaboration platforms and most interestingly hybrids, where the key features are integrated in a productive way.

The vital elements of a configuration of such a comprehensive system are today already in disposal. The new type of solution – a competence platform as we call it – will be in the future a vital part of business generation and freelancer movement.  Competence platform creates a natural home base for vibrant communities. It supports coincidensity – a mix of diversity and density – in an optimal way. But it also offers enough tranquillity and solitude for insights and value creation. So in that respect it offers an ideal solution for harnessing serendipity. With competence platforms we are able to launch workspaces of the future, they are more a ‘collective’ than a coworking space or an office, more a breeding environment than an infrastructure. It’s clear that our solution is different from the other types of platforms, but in a strange way it still has some ambience and attractiveness of the ancient Agora.

There are many classifications of platforms according to their purpose and features. Because our competence platform is an emergent feature there is not a clear position for it in the classification tables and we have therefore classified the platform universe in four types illustrated below:

Platform classification

This classification expresses our way of thinking. We understand that there is always overlapping between the various types of platforms, but anyhow the separation between exchange and development feels natural.  To give some clarification of our approach we give examples:

  • Communication platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Enterprise Social Networks like Yammer, Jive etc.
  • Trading platforms – Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Elance etc.
  • Technology platforms – Apple and Android ecosystems, Linux. Ubuntu
  • Competence platforms – emerging, single elements already in the market

It is somehow surprising that the deployment of the three types of platforms (communication, trading, technology) is rocketing, but so far the competence platforms have been neglected. Innovation intermediaries, like traditional science and technology parks and several types of incubation and acceleration services provided by the institutional players and regional development organizations  have so far been safe from the disruptive power of platforms. They have survived with their Triple Helix – Quadruple Helix mantra for a long time, and for some reason even the poor results and mediocre reputation have been ‘acceptable’. But the disruption will come, that’s for sure – and it’s coming in the form of competence platforms!

Why will the competence platforms disrupt the innovation intermediary market in the near future? Shortly, because they are more effective, engaging, interactive, agile and they are based on ‘respect serendipity’ principles. Competence platforms are supporting the vital phases of idea elaboration and business creation in several areas:

  • Team building and competence sharing according to the serendipity management principles
  • Idea generation and sharing
  • Combined idea and business model elaboration with an embedded business model canvas
  • Implementation activities with integrated project management tools

In a well working competence platform the interaction happens without the help of an outside moderator (like a traditional science park), if some moderation is needed it is based on peer-to-peer- communication and support.  Competence platform creates a low-entry and almost a zero-friction environment providing both physical and virtual solutions to participants. But maybe the most important feature is, that this type of platform supports in an organic way the growth of an innovation ecosystem.

Are the big corporations loosing the race for attracting and motivating talent? Is Michel Serres right by stating that: ”I see our institutions shining with a brilliance similar to constellations which astronomers tell us they are dead since a long time”?  Do our established institutions have means to win the race?

The increased power of social media, the introduction of open innovation principles and the concept of extended entreprise have changed the innovation landscape.  Still in many cases the practices and even the tools used in corporate world are from the industrial era. They are not flexible and agile enough to support companies gaining from the ambivalence, discontinuity and unpredictability of our postnormal era. But there is hope.

For completely understandable reasons, enterprise social media tools and platforms like Yammer, Chatter, Jive and Sharepoint have been branded as great ways to communicate, engage, collaborate, coordinate, update and share information. That’s largely accurate. But those pretty verbs obscure where the real action is taking place.”

If properly used these platforms may help to find the initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company.

This statement is from HBR blog, which suggests that enterprise social media platforms – like Yammer – might help to support communication and collaboration, but the main point of the writer, Michael Schrage, is interesting. He claims that these tools can really support also the engagement and empowerment of the employees. And that is good news. If properly used these platforms may help to first find the initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company and then even support them in their actions. This is how Schrage describes the increased power of individuals even in the corporate world:

Initiators and intrapreneurs aren’t just using social media to make their efforts more transparent and accessible, they’re using these platforms to improvise and organize new ways to get the job done. They’re using these tool and technologies to add value to existing processes or, indeed, to create new “just-in-time” processes (and programs) that the C-suite and other senior managers had never envisioned. Social media inside the enterprise and out lower the costs and increase the power of individuals to productively coalesce and coordinate on their own initiative.

This also opens up the huge potential of serendipitous findings also outside the firewalls of the corporation.

This also opens up the huge potential of serendipitous findings when social media platforms are actively and widely used inside and, if possible, also outside the firewalls of the corporation. The proper usage of these platforms might be the key to improve the innovation practices and to build the desired competitive edge. Schrage continues to explain the benefits of the platforms and he mentions undesigned and unplanned processes as part of the outcome:

The rise of social media platforms inside the enterprise and out now means that entire managements now see “emergent” leaders and processes. These aren’t designed for or planned; they materialize directly from the perceived needs of concerned individuals and teams who now have the ability to self-organize inside the firewall and out because of these media.

The challenge is in understanding, how much self-organizing is beneficial and how the emergence of unplanned and undesigned activities  is accepted and supported. Or do the managers still believe that in these turbulent conditions they are the ones who know best what kind of combinations of competences are needed in any given task and where they can be found inside the corporation. Or even if the given tasks are the most  productive ones…

What is the role of serendipity in this context?

Our approach towards serendipity has developed during the early years of Karostech, when we were involved in the development and management of some of the leading coworking scenes in the world – like netWork Oasis in Joensuu Science Park. The lessons learnt were valuable and the core message today is that innovative workspaces has to be designed keeping the serendipity aspect well in focus. This applies both for the design of physical space and the configuration of virtual collaboration platforms.  The outcome is a ”hybrid space” where innovation activities are supported  continuously. And the benefits can be harnessed best, when using serendipity management principles.

From innovation perspective we definitely need to encourage the new combinations of competences to emerge.

In a corporate world, where we are too busy to innovate, where employees are getting more decision power  and where “don’t make any plans, keep your focus in sagacity instead” – principle is becoming a winning formula, we surely have to respect the value created by serendipitous encounters and events. From innovation perspective we definitely need to encourage the new combinations of competences to emerge. The conclusion made by Scharage in the end of his blog makes an elementary point.

The bottom line: the most important impact of social media technologies comes from who — and what — they empower, not just the information they exchange. Do organizations appreciate and understand that these tools put them in the “empowerment” and not just the “better communications” business?

To empower the whole organization and especially those still unidentified initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company will give serendipity the chance to benefit your business, providing the much appreciated boost, which is needed for your company to thrive.

netWork Oasis - a coworking hub inside Joensuu Science  Park

netWork Oasis – a coworking hub inside Joensuu Science Park

The early signs were recognizable already years ago

”Traditional business incubators will fade away, replaced by new kinds of spaces for entrepreneurship and collaborative research. Pop-up labs, co-working hubs, mobile incubators and disposable research parks will provide flexible physical spaces for R&D. Rather than warehousing workers, they will meet a need for communal collaborative meeting space in a world of increased mobility within and between worksplaces. They will be neutral places where networks of investors, entrepreneurs, hackers ans customers converge for collaborative knowledge creation and trust building, cementing relationships initiated and  cultivated online.”

Rather than warehousing workers, they will meet a need for communal collaborative meeting space in a world of increased mobility within and between worksplaces

This is how the report from Institute for the Future described in 2009 an emerging trend called ”The Social Life of Small Research Spaces”. Sounds familiar ?  Later on that year I was interviewed by a reporter from an independent supplement of Media Planet within the Wall Street Journal. The article ”What is the Future of Research Parks?” was part of the publication  and my outspoken vision in December 2009  was pretty incisive:

“There should be places where people could meet more randomly and ad-hoc. Research parks should work on trying to increase the diversity among their clientele. So far, it looks like science parks are no longer very attractive to the younger generation. Young people feel the parks too rigid or too business like. They like this more relaxed environment. You have to develop methods for “serendipity management” and “open innovation” to discover ways to best facilitate the ad hoc collaborations. Otherwise it will happen in coffee shops and bars.” 

Today we will see this happening in ever increasing speed and mostly outside the walls of STPs.  The new innovation scene is attractively set mainly by coworking spaces and by new innovation platforms like netWork Oasis, Demola, Urban Mill etc (this was discussed in my previous blog.)

 

Location, location, location

While the coworking movement is gaining momentum and STPs loosing it,  maybe we should analyze some of the fundamentals behind this trend. My understanding is that one of the decisive elements is location.

There are hardly any STPs in the downtown locations of the metropolises.

Coworking spaces are mainly located in downtown areas, where the people density and diversity is high naturally. The STPs are located in suburban areas, in university campuses or industrial zones. There are hardly any STPs in the downtown locations of the metropolises. Why is this an important difference?  Watching the old classic by William ”Holly” White – a 55 min film ” The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces -The Street Corner” might give you insight. 

The vibrant and random action on the streets and the possibility to serendipitous encounters  – the coincidensity! – can be harnessed in the nearby located coworking spaces but not in the STP glasstowers in suburban locations.  And like the video proved even small changes in the settings can be decisive. Our behavior is very context dependent!

 

Linking surrounding communities into the innovation processes

A week ago Stowe Boyd published a great blog where he interviewed Jennifer Magnolfi. Jennifer is widely acknowledged for her reputation in the field and the visionary way of thinking. Her applied research work explores coworking and co-creation, the technologies and practices that support workspaces for innovation, collaboration and community development. In 2012, Jennifer teamed up with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to support the company’s new headquarters redesign.  Jennifer explains in the interview the magic of coworking spaces:

“Coworking spaces have the capacity to support productive work because of the very human-centric approach to how they are created: the community, or network, comes first, followed by studying and stabilizing the network, and then creation of an environment that supports the behaviors and needs of that network.”

The creation process was based on self-organising principles and the core tribe members were selected because of their passion to the topic.

We surely can confirm that. In our 3GSP pilot project we noticed that the implementation of netWork Oasis, a coworking space inside the existing STP, was the vital element in understanding how the communities are created and supported. We discovered in the very beginning the importance of the core tribe. The creation process was based on self-organising principles and the core tribe members were selected because of their passion to the topic. Actually to be precise – our idea of creating a revolutionary collaborative working environment (CWE) – like it was called at that time (2002) – was so attractive, that it was evident that we could gather the masterminds of this topic into our planning team. The community building was further supported by using our Training Camp approach. As a result we had in the spring 2004 the most diverse and motivated team consisting of core tribe members, substance experts and networking members. By the way, who would have imagined that our task attracted also a monk, Father Andreas, from nearby Valamo monastery to join our team….So passionate lead users and core tribe members were leading the way to create the concept.

 

Harnessing the benefits of a vibrant coworking space

A properly organized coworking space is essential in hosting various communities. The design of the physical space is extremely important, like Jennifer explains :  “The properties of space –- volume, texture, materials, proportions, light — have the capacity to trigger neurochemical reactions in the brain. It is believed that when this is understood correctly, it can be a tool to design for a certain kind of behavior: concentration, energy, focus.”  In fact with the design and implementation of netWork Oasis we went one step further, our leading design principle for  the space was to support and generate serendipitous encounters of people with diverse backgrounds.

And as important as the physical space is the virtual collaboration platform. Like Jennifer says: “Our digital social space has implicit laws (it’s based on distributed networks), speed and acceleration. It also creates new emergent behaviors in users.  For businesses, the purpose of understanding this social context is to describe and possibly predict its future evolution. In other words, understanding these emergent behaviors helps businesses innovate faster, and thus achieve competitive advantage.

That kind of attractive and open space will work as a camp site, similar to those of the ancient nomadic communities – a campfire which gathers the surrounding communities together to reflect, to create and to enjoy.

A vibrant coworking space is the core platform in our 3GSP tool box! It works because the communities are alive and hence able to attract more inspiring people with diverse backgrounds to the space. That kind of attractive and open space will work as a camp site, similar to those of the ancient nomadic communities – a campfire which gathers the surrounding communities together to reflect, to create and to enjoy. And like Jennifer Magnolfi mentioned earlier on,  these mental campfire places can be created. The most attractive element in netWork Oasis in fact has turned out to be the logfire place in Serendipity Cafe, where you can watch the flames of the logs burning live.  It’s a general wisdom that  campfires are one of the most relaxing phenomenons a mankind have ever created.  Our experience shows that a natural campfire ambience is by far the best way to create insightful moments in a built environment. And insight really is, what is needed in our communities!

 

Photo courtesy – Finnish Game Jam / Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151279405885369&set=pb.256699080368.-2207520000.1364371251&type=3&theater

 

 

 

 

 

I have been involved with international science and technology park (STP) development for more than a decade. One could assume that since the world has changed hugely during that time, also STP world would have transformed accordingly. Let’s have a look if that has happened.

The outlook is a bit scattered, the overall picture is that nothing has really changed in the STP scene. However, one may see encouraging signs at least in Finland, which is widely recognized to have one of the most productive innovation systems in the world. I will describe our findings later, but first let’s have a look at the fundamental foresight work completed.

One important milestone in a global STP world was the publication of the results of the scenario work organized by Institute for the Future and Research Triangle Park in 2009. The report ”Future Knowledge Ecosystems – The Next 20 Years of Technology-Led Economic Development” presented three scenarios for the future STP development:

1)   Science and Technology Parks 3.02013-03-12 08.50.50

“The progress is incremental, new parks are upgraded versions of the predecessors, but the structural change in surrounding environments will  stay unnoticed. The main highways of Science 2.0 pass by the parks, but not through them”

2)   The Rise of Research Clouds

These workplaces are peppered with sensors that “mine reality”, helping the inhabitants be more effective and engineering chance encounters. They are a place of open discourse among people from business, academia, startups, craftsmen, policy people, amateurs etc.”

3) Dematerialized Innovation: Parks in Decline

“Existing parks fail to provide value to virtual networks, and don’t create local and regional systems to create sticky know-how. High energy costs, falling R&D productivity and global recession will force to cut the costs and STPs are in trouble in getting funded.”

The report was published in the connection of IASP World Conference in Raleigh, N.C., USA, and can be downloaded here. As expected, it generated future related discussions there at the event, but to our surprise, it never really had an effect to the mainstream thinking in the STP field.  One could even sarcastically note that in many STPs the future is predicted and actions planned by looking at the rear view mirror. This approach really reminds me about the statement by Yogi Berra (who wasn’t really recognized as the brightest guy on earth): ”You gotta be very careful, if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there!”. Sad enough, it’s true in too many organizations still today.

Almost four years after the launch of the report, many of the trends indicated in the report are getting momentum. One may observe at least following trends affecting the landscape. We will analyze these in our forthcoming blogs, here is just the list.

  • The Group Economy3D printing workshop at ADDLab
  • The New Scientist
  • New Global Map of Science
  • Lightweight Innovation
  • The Social Life of Small Research Spaces
  • From Knowledge Diffusion to Sticky Knowledge
  • From Research Parks to Regional Knowledge Ecosystems

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Photo: 3D printing workshop @ADDLab

It’s great to discover that at least Finnish innovation players are taking the scenario of “The Rise of Research Clouds” seriously and adapting their activities by implementing the third generation science park model in practice.  The interesting point here is that while the long time leading Finnish STP, Technopolis, has become a sole provider of facility management services with a strategic decision of the publicly quoted company’s board, other players have entered the scene. There has been a rapid development of new innovation environments, an emergence of several operational models and widespread commitment to link different communities to harvest the innovation potential. The key actors in Helsinki metropolitan area at the moment are Aalto University and Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. Such newly evolved platforms as Design Factory, Startup Sauna, Urban Mill, Open Innovation House with AppCampus, Aalto Digital Design Lab, FabLab and InnoOmnia are the physical spaces where ”hacker-space”, ”maker-space”, coworking and startup cultures are flourishing. This ecosystem located at Otaniemi campus will soon be served by several coworking spaces currently under development  in downtown Helsinki.

These workplaces are peppered with sensors that “mine reality”, helping the inhabitants be more effective and engineering chance encounters. They are a place of open discourse among people from business, academia, startups, craftsmen, policy people, amateurs etc.”

This new operation model is creating Virtual Breeding Environments (VBE) also outside Helsinki area. Tampere, Lappeenranta, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Oulu have followed the model because Technopolis has bought their STPs and started to offer their general service palette in these locations. The incubation activities and development projects have been moved to separate regional development companies. So the traditional STP model is scattered between new organizations and sometimes is even geographically dispersed.

Tampere is showing an inspiring example of a new innovation platform called “New Factory”, which is not dependent on an existing STP or any single university. It consists of three elements: Protomo is a space where ideas and talent meet to create new companies, Demola is a platform where businesses and students work together and Suuntaamo is an environment where users test products and services. The proof of the concept has been validated, Protomo has established units in eight Finnish cities so far (the latest in Lahti), Demola is operating in Tampere and Oulu and some international locations are starting their operations. When Tampere innovation scene was ten years ago dominated totally by their STP Hermia, now the leading innovation actors and intermediaries are new operators, which emerged from nowhere just few years ago.

For us the most interesting development scene is Lahti, where we have the opportunity to pilot Karostech’s own 3GSP model. Lahti has changed the structure of its innovation companies and given also up the traditional STP approach. Since the beginning of 2013 there is one big player in the field, Lahti Development Company – LADEC Ltd as a result of a merger of Lahti Science and Business Park, the regional development company LAKES and Lahti Region Enterprise Agency. But because LADEC is located in the industrial area far away from downtown and Lahti has also other significant innovation organizations like the subsidiaries of Lappeenranta University of Technology and Palmenia unit of Helsinki University, we are currently involved with the development initiative called MALSKI. Being a neutral environment, MALSKI will become a connecting factor of all these actors and the brilliant downtown location in an old brewery building. While the construction work is still under development (opening 2014) the temporary site, CoMalski – a 400 m2 coworking space just opened few weeks ago. That will serve as a piloting platform for collaborative business models and give a lot of insight towards the further development of our 3GSP concept.

If you want to surf on the wave of change, then your STP should maybe consider following the Finnish innovation organizations and take distance from the ”best practices” of the international STP field. Thinking in terms of 3GSP model, the sustainable community building, the implementation of virtual collaboration platforms and geographically dispersed coworking locations, highlighting the importance of global approach and connectivity are elementary. Forget traditional business idea competitions, where the teams are by definition gathered only from local talent and their ideas are presented only in written format to the jury often full of  local ”innovation bureaucrats”. Instead encourage and train your prospects to participate in national competitions,  like the ones organized by Startup Sauna, or  even international ones like this by Y Combinator .

The crucial question to be answered at the moment is which scenario resonates with our own thinking.

In that scheme you support the building of development teams with diverse competences, you encourage also other type of entrepreneurship than startups – like effectual entrepreneurs, freelancers, social entrepreneurs, virtual teams and virtual organizations. You put a lot of passion to develop and promote your global connections and help your customers to find the best contacts on the global scene. You facilitate the collaboration between your customers and also between the customers of other STPs and you expand the collaboration possibilities also to the dynamic innovation communities globally.

The postnormal era is here, it’s time to open our eyes and start thinking how we can keep the existing STP customers and how we can adapt our operations to fit to the demand of the future. The crucial question to be answered at the moment is which scenario resonates with our own thinking. Looking at the rear view mirror will guarantee that the ”Parks in Decline” scenario is reality before you even notice it!

 

By the way mammoths didn't survive.....

By the way mammoths didn’t survive…..

This is the opening blog for the new forum, where emergent management paradigms and fresh ways of thinking and even revolutionary visions are presented and discussed. If you are responsible of opening up new ways of thinking for your company  or community, if you want to learn the use of new tools and inspiring facilitation methodologies – or if you just want to find inspiration for your every day activities, this is the right forum to visit regularly!

We believe that in this interconnected global business world the competitive edge comes from understanding that:

1)     the fundamental and useful information is flowing instead of being stocked somewhere

2)     the most effective form of organization is a movement

3)     the leading actors are individuals and communities

4)     the driving force is passion

5)     the competitive edge evolves from diversity

6)     the  success comes from respecting serendipity

7)     the sustainable work-life integration is the ultimate way to happiness

Our own formula for success c=km2 has proved to be a great trailblazer and highlights our philosophy when digging into the challenges of our customers. We believe in networked business models, where CNOs (Collaborative Networked Organizations) are essential elements. The impact comes from the flexibility and higher motivation levels in a structure, where passion in many cases is the driving force. There are some Living Lab initiatives and other good cases of community involvement, but overall the importance of this issue is not widespread understood in the contemporary business world. With well organized community facilitation methodologies the companies and the regions can revitalize their talent pools and attract motivated people.

 The impact comes from the flexibility and higher motivation levels in a structure, where passion in many cases is the driving force.

Knowledge alone is not useful, if the motivation on individual, community or company level is the limiting factor. Even the big institutions are focusing more on talent and shifting their focus from engagement to passion. This was a clear message at IBM Connect 2013 just few weeks ago. For the big conglomerates this might be the mission impossible, if they are not able to attract the surrounding communities into their business processes. The same applies for innovation intermediaries like science parks, incubators and regional development organizations. This blog will keep following actively all those various issues related to community building and facilitation. The importance of vision and leadership,  different types of communities and their life-cycle management, CNO issues, and various types of entrepreneurship will be discussed.

Some people just follow their passion, the others have to be engaged.  Here is an insightful clip explaining the fact that even though engagement is vital, it can not be managed.

The leading thinkers and advocates for the future solutions of business ecosystems and innovation environments – John Hagel and Stowe Boyd – will be some of the figures we will follow actively.  Both are enthusiastic, future oriented  and  have an ispiring touch when illustrating  the possibilities of the ”Pull society” – like John and his colleagues in Deloitte have named it  – or ”Post-normal” era – like Stowe likes to call this new business landscape we are entering.

Pull society or post-normal era  – anyway, it reflects the fundamental shift in the ways of people’s thinking, how business is evolving,  how innovations are created, the ways we communicate, interact and get excited, the drivers we feel passionate of.

Pull society or post- normal era – we could call it also the era of movements, the era of  passion, the era of community empowerment, the era of respecting serendipity. What ever the name, the time has come. Be prepared!


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Post-normal era and new paradigms, future oriented consultancy company with vision and great partner network.


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