The first one for establishing social enterprises will be held in Malta
The aim of the project is to boost innovation in the involved areas by means of the Open Innovation approach and by establishing Open Innovation Working Labs (OIWL). Their goal is to help develop four dimensions: public and private investments (Italian Innovation Fund, EU Funds, Start&Smart, etc.); cooperation between enterprises and universities; venture capital penetration; and cooperation among innovative enterprises. In particular, three Open Innovation Working Labs are being organized in Malta, Enna, and Messina.
Recently, the first OIWL for those who want to establish social businesses has been held in Malta.
A group of 12 shortlisted social enterprises in this year’s Malta Social Impact Awards (MSIA) have boosted their chances of success after attending a special, targeted workshop held during August at the TAKEOFF business incubator, University of Malta. Also present were representatives of the MSIA management team.
The Open Innovation Working-Lab (OIWL) aimed to stimulate social innovation through the exchange of ideas, projects and best practices.
Attendees were inspired by a presentation by a previous MSIA award winner, Natalie Muschamp from Step Up For Parkinson’s. Ms Muschamp explained the steps involved in starting up her social enterprise, which aligned closely with the goals of the I-KNOW initiative by improving the quality of life for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. Ms Muschamp spoke about her experience in entering the Social Impact Awards twice and gave this year’s semi-finalists some practical advice, saying they would need to have an absolute passion for their initiative, make sure they knew their numbers, and think outside the box to ensure their enterprise would be sustainable.
The presentation was followed by a thought-provoking Q&A session between Professor Russell Smith and Ms Muschamp, with attendees participating in the discussion, sharing experiences, and prompting some very relevant questions.
The OIWL event was the first part of a wider project to develop a practical ‘how-to’ guide that will break down the steps of starting and sustaining a successful social enterprise. The next stage will involve 20 interviews with beneficiaries, funders, professional advisers and Government representatives, including the President Emeritus. It is believed that this form of extended case study has not been undertaken before and that it will therefore be an essential component of the I-KNOW project.
Following the event in Malta, the two other OIWLs are being organized in Sicily: the first in autumn, at the University of Messina in the field of environment, and the final one at the ‘Kore’ University of Enna between January and February 2020 on the various topics of the project. They will involve experts in the field and researchers, and examples of real businesses will be presented to trigger an exchange of ideas, projects, and best practices among innovative enterprises, startups, and experts.
The OIWL will include: a) an Open Session to investigate the level of innovation and needs by involving public and private stakeholders who will illustrate the situation in the regions involved in the partnership and their entrepreneurial systems, alongside funding opportunities for innovative ideas; b) matching activities and one-to-one meetings; c) final open session involving operators dealing with venture capital or other private investment funds who carry an interest in finding fresh and innovative ideas or projects.
It is the core of the project; therefore, a big effort needs to be made in their organization given the high expectations the project has aroused.