The deliverable 11: “Innovation Laboratories in Belarus and Ukraine: Concept Development” is now available on the INNOLAB website.
The aim of the current report is to develop the concept of innovation laboratory for the project’s partner universities in Ukraine and Belarus. It is based on the idea that universities are part of an open innovation system connected through their knowledge exchange activities to external partners. There are a variety of open innovation models including platforming, idea competitions, collaborative product design & development, and innovation networks.
Organisationally an Innovation Lab is a concept closely related to open innovation that creates an environment of experimentation where businesses, authorities and citizens are involved in the product/service/technology development. The important components are openness for stakeholders with different backgrounds, public involvement and policy support, wide scope involving suppliers, users and other actors in the value chain, realistic and sustainable settings. There are a variety of examples of open innovation platforms (innovation laboratories), idea competitions and action research examples in different educational institutions in a variety of countries presented also in the report below.
As a method action research and action learning embody the ideas of open innovation as the responsibility is shifted from the researcher/teacher to other parties in the research/learning process. Action research and learning in enterprise education entails supporting student start-ups, mentoring and incubator facilities, high degree of student involvement, building networks between students, entrepreneurs and other regional actors, experiential and collaborative approaches to learning, peer evaluation, collaborative activities, goal-driven tasks.
The development of the concept of innovation laboratory in the partner universities of Ukraine and Belarus has to take into account the needs and expectations of local enterprises and the previous experience and resources of the universities. For that purpose a survey of 200 enterprises was carried out and 40 experts in universities were interviewed in the partner countries. The partner universities have a long-established cooperation with industry and consider it valuable. Still, the results indicated that cooperation from the point-of-view of enterprises between universities and industry is scarce, but the enterprises are interested in it especially in the areas of personnel recruitment needs, market information and customer demands and technology constraints and provision. Since enterprises vary in their degree of innovative activity, the results showed that radical innovators (enterprises innovative at national and international level) are the most interested in cooperating with university, but also incremental innovators (innovative at regional level) and marginal innovators (not innovative) should be included into knowledge exchange activities between universities and industry.
It is suggested within the framework of the current project that open innovation platforms (innovation laboratories) that are developed in partner universities include the following components: collaborative product design and development, idea competitions, creation of network of entrepreneurs and mentors and supporting the development of action based enterprise education. Collaborative product design & development supports R&D activities through open innovation environment and increases the commercialisation of university R&D as well as supports innovation in enterprises through networking. It allows teacher-student-entrepreneur teams to work on finding solutions for specific problems faced by the industry. The idea competitions focus on supporting students to present their business ideas and motivating them to develop business models for implementing their ideas as well as supporting student enterprises as start-ups.
The creation of the network of entrepreneurs and mentors is meant to contribute to the enterprise education. The establishment of an electronic regional innovation ecosystem platform is foreseen in each partner region/ partner university that enables universities to manage the relationships with enterprises working with the innovation laboratories and to understand and develop their innovation ecosystem further. Finally, the development of action-based enterprise education is the basic principle, which can be supported by the activities of the Innolabs in universities. This can be achieved through educational efforts with the focus, primarily, on developing creativity, critical thinking, and reflection among individuals using action-based education, encouraging students to generate experience in entrepreneurship in order to develop their enterprising and entrepreneurial skills and abilities.
On the whole innovation laboratory is a means of supporting the development of entrepreneurial learning environment that resembles the one where entrepreneurs act and learn. Potential structural and systemic changes via implementation of innovation laboratories in universities support also innovation in universities, enterprises, other actors and in the region as a whole.