Innovation Camps is a way of establishing value added for education institutions, students and SMEs with innovation, ideas and ambitions through facilitation.
A survey in 2011 among SME companies in the food industry concluded that app. 1/3 of the companies expected to operate in a different market segment (due to change in consumer demand, increased competition etc.) within the next 5 to 10 years. These companies expressed a need for new competencies to innovate their businesses, and at the same time a lack of knowledge about how & what means and competences to apply. Therefore, there was a need to establish new incentives and links between SME's & business education institutions. Development of policy instruments to address the need required pilot tests of various ways to establish interaction between the three parties. An Independent facilitator establishes the contact between 1 or more SME's & education institutions (Vocational, Bussines Academies, Business Colleges specialized within the food sector). Through facilitation, the SME & the institution clarify the key challenge related to the SME's business model & value chain. Together they decide the approach as to how students can be involved in working with the challenge & agree on time, terms & conditions. The process can be everything from a 1-2 day workshop on campus, to one or more student(s) in 2 – 10 weeks practice in the company. In some cases, the "product" can also be a practice based interim period or final thesis for the student. The methodology was developed and documented step by step over the period 2013 – 2015 sponsored by Central Denmark Region (CDR).
- CDR has spent 300.000 € in the period 2013 – 2015
- Edu. institution estimate 300.000 € in the period 2013 – 2015
- Companies not estimated.
Some of the expenses are a cost for facilitator screening & facilitation, cost for rent of education facilities, compensation for tutors involved etc.
Evidence of success
In total the period from 2013 – 2015 has achieved the following results:
- 24 Innovation camp initiatives involving:
- 738 students
- 52 companies
- 74 tutors
- 31 other keynote speakers/stakeholders
The SME's, students and tutors all benefited from this practice and in addition, all involved parties have established personal network relations of durable value.
Problem with the fact, that ESF funding (for the schools) & ERDF (for the companies) clash. Both in ambitions & strategy. The project itself has not been EU funded (CDR paid for it), but the time spent from the side of the schools & from consultants has partly been paid for by either ESF and/or ERDF
Potential for learning or transfer
The paramount key factor for success is the motivation and incentive structure for the educational institutions in the country in question.
Further, it requires a vast selection of small scale analytical laboratory and production equipment in the educational institutions.
The availability of skilled facilitators is also essential for market penetration. (It is our hypothesis that this service could be performed by a professional business consultant, that could make it a product in his portfolio)