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Breathing new life into ICT innovation

EIT ICT Labs is one of the first three Knowledge and Innovation Communities selected by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) to help spark greater innovation in Europe. Six EIT ICT Labs nodes have been established, one of them in Helsinki.

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology was established in 2008 to help promote sustainable growth and competitiveness in Europe – by accelerating the speed at which ideas can be transformed into products, making it easier for products to make the leap from lab to market, and encouraging the innovators behind them to become part of a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) have been created to facilitate this: focusing on mitigating climate change (Climate-KIC), sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy), and information and communication technologies (EIT ICT Labs). Helsinki has been chosen as one of EI T IC T Labs’ six nodes – along with Berlin, Eindhoven, Paris, Stockholm, and Trento – to promote excellence in education, research, and innovation in ICT and work with leading academic and industry researchers to turn strong regional clusters into world-class innovation hotspots.

Helping entrepreneurs extend the scope of their business, reduce their time to market, and grow internationally forms a key part of EIT ICT Labs’ mission.

Bringing students, entrepreneurs, and researchers together

The activities of EI T IC T Labs’ Helsinki node are primarily focused on smart spaces and ubiquitous interaction, future media and networks, cloud computing, and health and well-being. The node has three core partners – Aalto University, Nokia, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland – and 12 affiliated partners, in the shape of other organisations and universities across Finland.

Co-location centres play an important part in EIT ICT Labs’ work in helping bring people from different countries, disciplines, and organisations together. The choice of the Open Innovation House on the Aalto University campus at Otaniemi as the base for the Finnish Co-location Centre was a natural one, as it is also home to the Nokia Research Center, the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, and other ICT organisations.

The Helsinki Co-Location Centre will play an important part in broadening industry partnerships and helping integrate students into its activities: by providing a home base for EIT ICT Labs Master School students, contextual learning journeys, and a Doctoral Training Centre, for example.

A new breed of entrepreneur

Equipping students, researchers, academics, and business people with the skills they need for developing their creativity and entrepreneurship is seen as especially important for EIT ICT Labs.

One of the start-ups to have benefited from this support has been Innorange, which helps service providers improve their sales by measuring and optimising people flow in their premises. Support from EIT ICT Labs, through coaching on the company’s business plan, marketing needs, and patenting issues, enabled Innorange to commercialise the results of a public research project very rapidly. With the help of other EIT ICT Labs nodes and the EIT ICT Labs partner network, Innorange has also been able to leverage this rapid start by growing its business quickly, not only in Finland but elsewhere in Europe as well.

> Marko Turpeinen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)