In the framework of the INNOTRANS project, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), which participates as a partner, has shortlisted a number of good practices identified in the Region of Central Macedonia, Greece. One of them is the initiative OK!Thess.
OK!Thess is a hub in the capital of the Region of Central Macedonia, the City of Thessaloniki, that brings together 9 institutions (indicatively mentioning: the Municipality of Thessaloniki, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Alexander’s Zone of Innovation) of the local innovation community. Established 2 years ago, it helps early-stage startups enter the real market by validating the potential of their business idea and making the next step towards its development. It also contributes to the development of an innovation ecosystem in the city by connecting all relevant organizations – startups, incubators, industry, universities, investors etc., by facilitating knowledge exchange and by creating a global network. In parallel, OK!Thess can be used as an open space where creative teams of Thessaloniki can meet, exchange experience, or simply help finding new partnership opportunities, which otherwise would never have existed. Through the continuing hosting of initiatives and events regarding innovation, it enhances the regional capacity building in all fields, including the transport sector. It is worth mentioning that the first event hosted by OK!Thess was the CIPTEC project’s co-creation workshop on public transport innovation in 2016. In the frame of the same project, AUTh organised another workshop on the potential synergies among social innovators and Public Transport sector in 2017. Another transport related important event hosted in this co-working space was a 2-day workshop, the “Weekend of Innovation in Urban Transport” in 2018.
OK!Thess acts a pre-incubator for future businesses, by providing three acceleration cycles each year that turn innovative ideas into investment-ready products or services through an intense entrepreneurial training, coaching and mentoring programme. The cycle comprises an intensive programme of master classes, as well as regular one-to-one coaching by an experienced professional who advises and guides participants through to the emergence of a good business plan. Since the beginning of the operation of OK!Thess 140 teams have applied for the accelerator programme. During the first six cycles, 47 teams have participated, whereas currently there are 14 teams going through the acceleration process. It is estimated that almost 125 people have been involved in these actions. Finally, 22 teams still continue their effort by receiving occasional help (Alumni teams).
OK!Thess (www.okthess.gr) comprises a successful example of cooperation among public and private actors towards the generation of innovation, the support of the small ‘players’ and the gradual growing of a business oriented mindset, especially focusing on the new generations of the local community in the Region of Central Macedonia.