SPARK is a new way to handle the relation between research and enterprises actors; it empowers researchers to think from a business perspective.
SPARK is born thanks to a peer-learning action funded under Horizon 2020 dimostrating that exchange of experience and collective learning have a real enabling potential to improve capacities. It’s a new way to approach the dialogue between research and companies, enlarging the number and categories of actors involved, integrating specific competencies of Business Idea development (based on the BMC) as well as a coaching function. Actually, innovation and research results coming out from research projects developed in academies are still far from becoming tangible products. Usually researchers don’t have an extended vision taking into account market request. SPARK started from industrial research projects, financed by Regional Authority, to bring them closer to the needs of the market, giving researchers the opportunity to understand the company needs and contribute to their competitive growth. SPARK puts at the same table researchers, innovation centres, associations, public and private authority, business experts, companies, potentially interested to the product, providing useful ideas so that the result of the research is actually useful to companies. It creates a context where researchers can measure real feasibility of research activities with a marketable perspective. Five editions were organized as working tables, corresponding to regional S3 regional: Agrifood, Culture and creative industries, Mechatronics, Building and Constructions, Health & Wellbeing industries.
To set up 5 editions 9 peoples have been involved for a total of 350 man days. In particular:
-3 people with expertise in Innovation for Enterprises taking care of ideation-planning-execution-monitoring phase
-6 people with expertise in Human Capital & Startup involved during execution phase.
Evidence of success
Thanks to SPARK, a research project can really become a useful product to the entrepreneurial system and above all "end users" may suggest modifications, improvements etc. The exchange of views also revealed uses that were not initially considered. Spark, involving 5 technopoles and about 250 participants, had a knock-on effect. The methodology has been replicated in order to organise activities at the local level and a new edition of SPARK as closing activity of INFRASAFE project.
The challenge encountered has been the transfer of open innovation concept to researchers. It has been successful enhancing the synergies between the players in the innovation ecosystem; encouraging the exchange of experiences through innovative tools, valuating research projects in business terms.
Potential for learning or transfer
SPARK is fairly easily transferable as it requires the combination of elements or “ingredients” usually available in all contexts: researchers with research results, companies, sectoral experts, start-ups, end users, interest groups.
ASTER itself has experimented the transferability of the model to different sectors related to the regional S3 priorities: Health, Building and Constructions, Mechanics and Mechatronics, Cultural and Creative Industries, Agrifood.
Useful competencies, often, are within the development agencies (that was the case of ASTER) and in any case easily available in the market.
SPARK allows also to valorize the role of innovation places - in our case the Technopoles. In fact , SPARK events had been organised at Technopoles where attracting the different actors of the regional ecosystem, thus strengthening the Technopoles identity as places where “innovation happens” and research results can become tangible products.