Innovation is about putting concrete and daring initiatives that change, break and improve the status quo into practice. And if we talk about open innovation, even more so. A case in point is the recent work we’ve done with the Oper.Lab team from the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna.

Open innovation. It’s a subject that everyone talks about today, a few know what it’s about, but only the brave actually dare put into practice.

At wonnd we’re always on the side of the brave: we’ve made it an essential part of our mission to partner with bold people willing to embark on brave projects. We’ve been working recently with just such a team from one of Europe’s oldest and most renowned knowledge institutions, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna.

For almost six months we worked together with the Oper.Lab team, the Open Innovation Observatory of the Management Department of the university. Our challenge was to help them identify their target audience, and define effective communication and engagement strategies to attract the right people to their Open Innovation programs.

What is Oper.Lab?

The objective of Oper.Lab is to support the innovation ecosystem of the Emilia-Romagna region by analyzing, promoting and designing concrete and replicable open innovation models for organizations. But while open innovation isn’t a new concept, and its benefits are increasingly generating awareness among governmental, educational, scientific, and business organizations, there’s still a long way to go.

That’s why the Oper.Lab team, in partnership with the University of Enna “Kore” (Sicily), developed a program for improving scientists’ open innovation competencies.

This program, ABC4E – ATTRACT Behavioral Change 4 ERI scientists, sits under the umbrella of the ATTRACT EU project 1, offers training for researchers working in universities, research centers, and businesses to enhance knowledge exchange in open innovation processes.

But the adoption of new work models involves overturning barriers in behavior and learned habits, and negotiating with an academia system framework full of contradictions. In the researchers economy, investigators are not rewarded for collaborative innovation. So, what can we do to drive the change?

What we did

Our contribution was to provide the mixed experience we have accumulated working in innovation laboratories, on knowledge transfer processes, understanding human behavior, and developing communication strategies to engage with specific targets such as scientists, academics, and entrepreneurs. Based on this expertise we designed and led research to:

  • Understand different audience typologies and stakeholders: their needs and expectations regarding training opportunities.
  • Identify motivations, understand biases, and learn how to communicate benefits using the language of researchers and academics.
  • Discover the functioning of cultural codes and the systemic dynamics of the academic ecosystem: its rewards, behaviors and beliefs.
  • Propose strategies to engage the public better, and close the gaps between academics and professionals, academia and industry.

Based on all this work, we defined different communication strategies to meet different kinds of program objectives and targets.

Our conclusions and learnings

Change is difficult and uncomfortable. It’s necessary to push boulders up a hill like Sisyphus then watch them fall. But such initiatives are more than necessary. The increasingly complex problems of the world we live in force us to think of different ways of working if we really want to go further. It’s difficult to reset learned patterns and frameworks of thinking, even for the knowledge generation. However, that’s what real, disruptive and constructive innovation is all about.

Understanding and creating strategies for managing complexity is at the basis of the fight against the lineal culture of thinking and silos. Since creating wonnd, we’ve always insisted on the need to go against lineal culture, the silo culture. This fight is fundamental to our vision of working, and on every project we undertake, we try to improve and learn from collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches, to generate greater value, disruptive innovation, and learning.

We are very proud to have worked hand in hand with scientists, researchers, managers, entrepreneurs, and KTOs from the Italian ecosystem.

It was a very rewarding experience and we accumulated many learnings ourselves.

What an enriching journey. Not everything is done!

  1.  ATTRACT is an EU project to create a co-innovation ecosystem between fundamental research and industrial communities for developing breakthrough detection and imaging technologies for scientific and commercial uses. ↩︎
  • By Luciana Leveratto
  • June 4, 2024

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