How Startups And Universities Collaborate To Innovate In Urban Development

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An increasing number of universities from all over the world are setting out new projects and programs to develop, accelerate, and incubate startups, or simply to work with them. We'll take a look at one university in Italy that, with the help of entrepreneurs, aims to innovate urban development.

Innovative startups are a great potential for universities, in order to connect themselves with their territories and its entrepreneurial ecosystem. Differently, universities are often blamed for insufficient educational programs that are needed to form the skilled workforce that the market and startups, in particular, need.

However, there are also examples that prove universities are making the effort and try to fill this gap. In the North East of Italy, a land historically characterized by medium & small entrepreneurial activities, the Venetian Ca’ Foscari University started a program called “Urban Innovation Bootcamp” (2015) in the city of Treviso.

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The main idea of the program is to accelerate 5 startups or new entrepreneurial initiatives that offer a real contribution to solving some of the city’s issues. In fact, the Bootcamp aims to promote and sustain products and innovative answers for the city of Treviso which involves a large variety of urban activists and students.

During every program, startups have the possibility to work on their ideas in order to exploit and upgrade them, in collaboration with teams composed of students from different universities (students from any university can apply, no restrictions). Following the directions of the mentors, they receive the right tools and methods to improve the product or the service created, while they also have the opportunity to present and share issues and ideas with teachers and different public and private institutions (from the municipality to industry or trade associations).

Talent Factory

The efforts of the University, in this sense, are oriented to connect startups with their stakeholders on their territory to encourage and sustain the reinforcement of a rich and active ecosystem. In this way, Ca’ Foscari wants not only to offer a strong program to the startups and innovative solutions for Treviso and its citizens, but it also offers its students and the entire campus the possibility to build new skills and competencies, that the workforce of the next generation should have to succeed in this field. With methods like Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Business Model Canvas, students and innovators are taken on a journey of roughly 6 weeks, that allow them to create, test and develop ideas inside the walls of the University but also outside, in the entire city, making their impact visible.

The program is composed of different kind of activities, that reverse the traditional frontal approach that is used in Italian Universities, in favor of a more inclusive and cooperative one. For each edition, there are different urban issues waiting to be solved: from sustainability to social inclusion; from tourism services to mobility. The ultimate purpose for all batches remains Social Innovation.

Experiences like the Urban Innovation Bootcamp testify that the potential innovative startups and entrepreneurs hold, is seen as a great opportunity to generate positive effects on cities, among other fields. Products and solutions created by startups can be rapidly adapted to fit specific urban issues, and more and more public and private programs are created to enforce these changes.

Universities like Venetian Ca’ Foscari University are starting to create solutions and programs to intensify this phenomenon, introduce their students to new skills, and increase the positive outcomes for startups. For students and startups interested in the program, the third edition will start in the summer of 2017, all information is available on the program’s website.

 

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