Tuesday, October 30, 2012


BIN@PORTO 2012, October 23rd - October 26th. It was again one of those events, where my mind initially could not really understand, why I decided to participate. However, as soon as I landed at the Porto Airport, I realized that I made a right decision. BIN@PORTO was the right place to be. The event attracted a group of people who “live” innovation, “live” internationalization, and want to cooperate. I gained a lot, made viable connections with colleagues from Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, England, and Belgium. I hope, how some of the “e-mails as points of connection”, I initiated between the participants and selected companies in Slovenia will manifest in business opportunities. In addition, there are potentials for others, especially for those who are interested in Americas (Brazil). Nevertheless, I established some important long-term relationships for Vibacom, too. But above all, those three days demonstrated widely in what I have always believed. How the future business should be as open spaces, respectful and friendly relationships, in-depth exchange of experiences and visions, cross-structural co-operations between business and research, between practitioners and theoreticians, youth and the experienced ones. Some strong and combined efforts of people that “do” innovation, “live” innovation, “create” innovation ecosystems for an open, connected, and cooperative world. Dr. Pedro Coelho, SICC/DCoop – Divisão de Cooperação/Cooperation Office, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, and his team were the organizers of the event. This is his story, along with the reflections of some of the participants.

V: What is BIN@PORTO?
The aim is that BIN@ (Business & Innovation Network) events are held in different cities all over the world. The first edition was in Porto, the second in Sheffield and the third one also in Porto. Next year, it will be held in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. This year, BIN@PORTO was a 4-day event promoted by the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) which comprehended a wide range of activities, such as technologies showroom, business workshop (including B2B meetings, institutional showcases and presentations), action tank sessions, complementary thematic events, open sessions and many other networking activities.

Photo: Dr. Pedro Coelho
Source: Vibacom archive

V: Why have you started the project?
We started this project at FEUP because we wanted to develop a sustainable international network of partners across industry and academia to support the sharing of good practices and knowledge transfer and to promote open innovation. Our goal is to help connect partners from across disciplines and industrial sectors to create opportunities for collaboration and cooperation, and hopefully support partnerships that can deliver value and impact. The BIN Network is a bottom-up initiative essentially based on trusty relationships. There’s a free-of-charge open access to participate.
“I came to bin@porto to let Uruguayan Biomedical Engineering prototypes, to be known, looking for partnerships for some of the prototypes to be adopted by industry and thus try to prove their benefit for medical use, and give rise to economic activity. I was also interested in learning how Europeans did actually transfer technology to industry. Finally, I was happy that Dr. Paulo Coelho found me in 2011 at Hospitalar fair in Sao Paulo sitting in the Uruguay stand showing our work as the University with Uruguayan firms.
Dr. Franco Simini, professor, coordinator of the “Nucleo de Ingenieria Biomedica (NIB) at the Universidad de la Republica (UR), Uruguay.
Photo: Dr. Franco Simini
Source: Vibacom archive

We intend to:
•    promote Innovation and demonstrate evidence of “connected Universities” leading by example in support for clustering, supply chain development and connecting to national and international networks and economies.
•    support and encourage research collaboration across disciplines and with external organisations
•    promote knowledge transfer opportunities
•    promote the creation of tech-based companies originated in universities
•    create tools to support the internationalization of SMEs
•    increase exposure to and engagement with industry
•    increase potential funding opportunities
•    engage with SMEs and develop activities specifically tailored for their needs
•    support the region’s agenda for Innovation and business growth
•    develop closer links to key national and international partners
•    support wider entrepreneurship agenda

V: How have you picked the initial partners?
As mentioned above, this network is a bottom-up initiative supported essentially on trusty relationships and I do believe how this is the most important factor to achieve a sustainable network. These individual relationships will certainly lead to institutional commitment. So first we picked the people, not the institutions! These colleagues are doing an amazing work promoting innovation in their institutions all around the world. I am talking about brokers, industry liaison officers, Tech Transfer Officers, R&D and Innovation managers, and many others.
The mission of our communication and cooperation service at FEUP is "to build trust relationships with stakeholders that foster the virtuous circle of knowledge valuation and brand reputation". We intended the event to be open and free for everyone, in order to allow for genuine collaboration.The main idea was to use the brand and network of the core universities involved to support an ecosystem where entrepreneurs, researchers, students, policy makers, investors, liaison officers, (…) could share and exploit common goals.
Carlos Cardoso Oliveira, Co-organizer of BIN@PORTO, Director of communication and cooperation services. Invited assistant professor in multimedia. Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto.
V: Have you seen any direct or indirect benefits of the events?
It takes time to start getting visible results. This initiative only promotes and enables collaboration but in the end it all depends on the delegates to actually start working together. Nonetheless, we have now clear results from the two previous events. There are new business joint ventures, new R&D consortiums submitting project proposals for EU funding, soft-landing agreements signed between institutional partners (e. g. between Sheffield Innovation Centres and FIPASE) other meetings (workshops, seminars, etc...) resulting from it, and many others...
“This year we had a couple of important meetings with a few companies. We had the opportunity to discuss our issues and concerns with experts of certain fields. For sure we are going to apply some of the advices we got to improve our business development in the future.
Patricia Ranito, Tecla Colorida (a spin-off of the University of Porto (Faculty of Engineering) and INESC Porto. Founded in December 2008, it specializes in softwere development and solutions for educational purposes. Its main product is schoooools.com, an educational and social platform, especially developed for elementary school. 
V: Have you seen any other positive effects of BIN@PORTO at the University of Porto, or at the Innovation Centre?
  I would like to believe how through the BIN activities we are contributing to the expansion of our international partnerships, creating awareness for the need to collaborate and share knowledge and proving the importance of the innovation networks. The results are showing up and our effort is being recognised by the senior members of the university.
Good morning, Mr. Pedro Coelho,
Many thanks for your invitation to participate in BIN@Porto and also for the kind accompany during the event. The participation has been a huge success to me to get in touch with some key people involved in Innovation & Strategy Consultation and also for the business of Green Pai Energy. Now it is up to me to explore the full potential of these contacts but without your suggestion to participate in BIN@Porto this would not have been possible.
I will also be in touch with Fatima @ UPTEC Creative Industry to reduce the illumination energy consumption in some areas of the building to half.
With best regards,
Rajesh Pai, Green Pai Energy Audit Lda., www.green-pai-energy.com 
V: What will be the next step? How do you plan to develop the concept?
The next step will be the development of a website for the network, which will allow us to structure roles, mission, partnership, activities and so on.
Next year, the Agency for Innovation of the University of São Paulo and FIPASE will organize and host the BIN@BRAZIL (12.-14. November 2013). I have great expectations for this event and believe that the team led by Prof. Vanderlei Bagnato will raise the bar and take it to another level.

Photo: Brigita Jurisic, Violeta Bulc, Carlos Cardoso Oliveira, Pedro Coelho
Source: Vibacom archive

V: What does it mean for you the cooperation with Slovenia?
The involvement of Slovenia delegates at BIN is a consequence of the previous events. Through one of our delegates I have met Brigita Jurisic, Founder and CEO of Bridge Partner, a consulting and international business agency for support of internationalisation of Slovene companies on the market of Iberian Peninsula and vice versa. Brigita loved our approach and immediately started to promote the involvement of Slovenian delegates. Due to her efforts we expanded the network to Slovenian and we are proud to have on board people like Violeta Bulc, Founder and CEO of VIBACOM. I think we (Portugal and Slovenia) share many similarities. For example, both are small European countries and both are suffering a lot with the European economic crisis, both countries have very innovative people with entrepreneurial spirit which easily adapt to changes. Regarding innovation networks, Slovenia has an excellent track record so I think we can learn a lot from our Slovenian colleagues.
“I find BIN@PORTO an important platform where business can be linked with academia and also with other businesses. I was honored to be invited to cooperate with University of Porto at this event and help them promote the event in Slovenia. It is of a high importance for knowledge-based businesses to be able to participate in the events like BIN@PORTO, since it enables us to develop important networking and exchange relationships. Based on that service companies like mine can grow and innovate, and serve clients needs. Portugal is interesting for Slovenia, because it offers access to Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, and Portugal itself. On the other hand Portuguese SMEs often need a partner to have the capacity to give response to big projects surging in African markets, in Brazil, and also to access the Balkan region.
Brigita Jurisic is an international business developer, a member of the VSI Consulting worldwide network, and a Director of VSI Consulting Portugal being responsible for Portuguese and Slovene market since 2010. www.bridge-partner.pt
Photo: Guests and lectures, BIN@PORTO 2012
Source: Archive of dr. Franco Simini

V: Is there anything else that you would like to point out....
I would like to underline that BIN is a collective belief in the power of the innovation international networks. It involves the work and vision of several people, like Mark Sanderson at the University of Sheffield, Prof. Vanderlei Bagnato at the University of São Paulo, Carlos Oliveira at FEUP, Clara Gonçalves at UPTEC and many others...

Let the event like this lead a way towards a new, thrivable Planet that is constantly searching for SMART innovation (S – smart, M – manageable, A – accessible, R – re-usable, T - thrivable).

That is our way, Violeta 

Additional links and publications:


Monday, October 1, 2012

Design thinking

Our systems are becoming ever increasingly complex. This complexity is everywhere around us: we can feel it (the public urgency for growth, speed, for more, for faster), we can see it (more and more technology everywhere, road systems, energy grids, etc.), we can experience it (diversification of products, services, life styles, values and needs).

Innovation is inspired possibility as a solution provider for all of the challenges that appear along the way. Yet, innovation within the complex systems, that addresses the core challenges that are a result of such complexities, does not lead to a thrivable Planet. I would argue even further, that such innovation is leading us towards delayed destruction. Life is becoming more and more resorceful, yet, more expensive and eventually unaffordable. In order to use innovation in a constructive way when addressing the challenges of complex systems, we need to get engaged in innovating into the foundations of any system.

We need to focus upon the fundamentals that will eliminate problems, and redirect our activities towards different perceptions. For example, care-homes for retired people are growing in number and occupancy; and with the rate that the retired sector of the population is increasing, needs will be accelerating, growing beyond manageable proportion. Let us search for a different approach, for example, new dynamic ways of re-integrating healthier older people into society as an active force based on their experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and willingness to act and also with consideration for their physical capabilities.

In order to generate solutions beyond the known and comfortable zone, we need a new type of thinking. The good news is that there already exist several different approaches. We know how to do it, but, do we use this new, creative ways of thinking also in the work environment? Do we create a (corporate/administrative) culture where unconventional thinking is perceived as something good, and it results in the increased number of new, innovative, bold ideas? This is where Oliver Kempkens's story comes in. A story of design thinking (DT). As one of those possible approaches that can make such a shift in perception. I hope the provocation reaches you, too, that he inspires you and that you will be confident to engage; yourself and colleagues.

V: Who is Oliver Kempkens?
Oliver Kempkens: Oliver Kempkens, 28, studied Law, Business, Psychology, and Mediation, certified Business Mediator, founder of several start-ups and author on innovation and Eastern European business topics. Alumni of the School of Design Thinking (Potsdam and Stanford), Business and Organizational Developer at the world's biggest ERP provider, SAP AG, in the Office of the CTO in Palo Alto. Oliver likes to read (trash literature + Dostojevski) and to consume soccer.

V: How would you describe DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
DT is a process to create anchors into the dark blue ocean to tap into the field systematically, by thinking out of the box. It is a collaborative and rational problem solving process.
Thomas Edison's approach was an early example of what is now called "design thinking" - a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives, and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.
Design thinking is a lineal descendant of that tradition. Put simply, it is a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What were your first experiences with DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
It is not enough to experience once what DT probably is; no. If you want to execute the process in its most effective way it is absolutely mandatory to have an emotional connection to what it is. That means truly and deeply understand the values!
Source: Oliver's personal archive

V: Could you share an example of DT that inspires you most?
Oliver Kempkens:
The most convincing DT project that is coming to my mind is a project of the D.School in Stanford. They had the challenge to address the high child mortality rate in South East Asia. They found that the problem is keeping children warm. Obviously there was the incubator, but it was too inflexible, too expensive and so on. Finally they developed a moveable low cost incubator for everybody; amazing: Stanford magazine: Baby, It's Cold Outside!

V: Which are the most important elements of design thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
Abilities to research! Whether it is observation or interviewing; the most important part of DT is the research phase, when you try to understand the behaviour of people.

Source: 12 manage, description Design Thinking

V: Where/In what kind of organization/environment is DT most successful?
Oliver Kempkens:
Probably, in every; the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change. If a company or an organisation can come to this point, everything is possible.
…the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change… 
V: Does DT require any specific form of organization?
Oliver Kempkens:
An open, willing to change organisation where it is possible to think outside the existing corporate policies or constraints.
Rok Stritar, M.Sc.(Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Economics, UL) about DT:
In my understanding DT is a transfer of solving problems, as used by designers, in the business world. The point is that extensive analyses and studies, as we are accustomed to in the business world, are replaced with deep empathy, customer-orientation and rapid prototyping. DT encourages interdisciplinary integration and development of "out of the box" solutions.We use DT at the Faculty of Economics at different courses related to business and entrepreneurship, because the design way of thinking is in many cases, very suitable for business, as it allows finding solutions to unstructured problems for which conventional analytical approaches often fail. We also encourage students to rapidly develop prototypes and test solutions on the market. Consequently, during the course students come to more iterations of solution.
V: Does design thinking require any specific type of people?
Oliver Kempkens:
Ideally people are open-minded (haha ;-)). If we think in corporate structures, everybody is good to be part in a DT project, mainly divided in multidisciplinary teams and inspired with enough personal freedom.

V: What are the differences (and similarities) between design thinking and systemic thinking? How would you describe systemic thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
To simplify: Systemic Thinking is for me the ability to overlook "all" interactions in a dedicated system, understanding that there is more than cause and effect, but a specific own dynamic, which is caused by a various number of variables, visible and invisible.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.

DT has occasionally the problem to create user-centered solutions (so finally, what the user's like, but not what they should like: for example...Burgers vs. health food). The systemic thinking approach in DT is called "human-centered" thinking. If you want, I am a Human Thinker, not a user-centered thinker.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What about the impact of DT on business and the society in the future? How strong will it be?
Oliver Kempkens:
From my point of view, the values of DT are not exposed enough in the business. Even at SAP: We are talking a lot about DT but in practical terms there is enough space to improve tremendously. I think, that we have to understand that DT is not solely a very convenient way how to understand the user, and how to create a nice scenario (marketing ready), but, how we can gain empathy for specific individuals, understanding that we are all humans, for a very limited time on earth; How can we sustain our life more effectively.

Thank you Oliver,

Kaja and Violeta

Additional links and publications: