Laurea University Of Applied Sciences: Boost+Inno Project

We created a Boost+Inno service hub for innovators to boost innovations. Our university faced a challenge: R&D work was not generating innovations. The university could produce an excellent level of research and development activities (R&D) but in innovation activities the results were low. Hence, the context of this project was academia and the industry sector was university research.

Intro

Our university faced a challenge: R&D work was not generating innovations. The university could produce an excellent level of research and development activities (R&D) but in innovation activities the results were low. Hence, the context of this project was academia and the industry sector was university research.

An initial objective of the Boost+Inno project (name invented) was to boost the university’s innovation culture and commercialization process to increase the number of innovations. We started practically from the level 0 as our university had some first level innovation activities but not any official process or a process owner, and the experience of commercializing innovations was low. Before describing the activities, we would like to define three keywords that we use in this report:

1) Innovative idea
An innovative idea is an idea for a service/product that could through the commercialization process turns out to be an innovation.
2) Innovator
An innovator is the inventor of an innovative idea.
3) Project actor
By project actor, we mean those actors who were responsible for implementing the project. Actors like the project manager, service designer, project planner, graphic designer, and communication planner. In this report, we use the word “we” to describe this group of people.

The process

The project plan consisted of three main phases:
1) Setting up the project: January–March 2017
2) Commercialization activities and developing an innovation process: March–November 2017
3) Finalising the project: November–December 2017

From the beginning of the project, we adapted mainly service design and co-creation tools to engage innovators as we felt they are the best fit for the nature of this project supporting an innovative idea development and enabling all participants to co-create.

Pre-project activities 2016
As we described earlier, the Boost+Inno project was initially set up to boost the university’s innovation activities. In order to do this, we needed project funding. Thus, during autumn 2016 we created a project plan and applied for funding both internally from our university and externally from a national innovation funding programme. At the end of 2016, we were happy to hear that we had succeeded in
raising a budget of EUR 274,000 for a one-year project.

Setting up the project: January–March 2017
In the period January–February 2017 the Boost+Inno project kicked off. The first activities were:

  • choosing the project manager, a service designer, and a project planner;
  • setting up admin practicalities;
  • choosing the steering board with two members from outside the university;
  • communicating about the possibility within the university to join the Boost+Inno project; and
  • participating in the Innovation Jamboree event organized by the external funding body to benchmark
    the other innovation projects.

The beginning of the project was quite hectic and there were also a lot of “unknowns” as we did not know how many innovators would be interested in joining the project and what kind of an approach we should create to truly boost innovators’ innovative ideas towards commercialization. According to the project plan, we could support approximately 20 innovative ideas/innovators and we were actively spreading the word on “how we had now given a wonderful chance and resources to work with innovative ideas”. Finally, a total of 24 innovators with 15 innovative ideas were chosen to join - this meant some innovative ideas had more than one innovator. We felt that this was a positive beginning to the project.

In March 2017, we had the kick-off event for the innovators and we offered the first co-creation session to better understand an innovation process. We discovered that quite many innovators were thinking that the university would commercialize their ideas during the Boost+Inno project and it would be enough that the role of the innovator would be more as an advisor. As the project actors, we pushed them to take a more active role—a role where they would be responsible for boosting their ideas forward and we would both support them and seek external support when needed. We also clarified that this project aimed to be an innovator’s personal learning journey in developing innovative ideas towards commercialization and all the Boost+Inno project participants would be innovation ambassadors for our university. This was accepted and agreed and we started to take our first steps during our innovation learning journey.

Commercialization activities and developing the innovation process: March–November 2017
This phase was the most exciting one as we as the project actors took the responsibility for locating the best possible tools and supporting the innovators in each stage of development. We also understood that all these actions were also quite exciting for the innovators.
In this phase, we adopted the stages of the service design process (Ojasalo & Koskelo & Nousiainen 2015):
1) Mapping and understanding
2) Forecasting and ideating
3) Modeling and evaluating
4) Concepting and influencing

As the innovative ideas were all in different stages of their development, we started first with understanding their needs and the current state of their development. Thus, although we adopted the stages of the service design process, we did not follow the process as a whole group but we rather gave mentoring and tools on how innovators should move on with their innovative ideas. We also wanted them to understand that the service design process is not a one-way street but rather an iterative process in which you might move backward and forwards.

After the beginning, we soon realized that most of the innovative ideas would need to be better clarified in order to talk about them with possible users/customers and to seek perhaps external stakeholders. We also discovered that the commercialization process was not that well understood within our university. In April 2017, we took the innovators to a learning boot camp at the University of Cambridge, to the heart of one of the most innovative places where innovations are born out of research. The idea of a learning boot camp was to demonstrate real examples of innovations in a wonderful atmosphere and to give the innovators a few full days away from their routines to fully focus on their innovative ideas.

During the boot camp:

  • innovators used the CoCo Cosmos service design game together with the local innovation professionals to draft four initial models of the Boost+Inno innovation process,
  • innovators concept their innovative ideas,
  • we arranged a pitching competition,
  • innovators learned how to be more agile,
  • all participants learned more about design thinking,
  • innovators created personas and they took their first steps on how to prototype their ideas.

During the boot camp one innovator also “killed the darling”, meaning that he understood that the innovative idea he had would not be easy to develop further. The learning point of this was that once an innovator brings his/her idea out and starts to discuss it with others, he/she will get new insights and it is easier to make decisions. On the positive side, this innovator was agile enough to have a new idea by the next morning. The boot camp was a success. Based on the feedback, it provided a lot of strength, new tools, and skills. Moreover, the innovative ideas became more coherent and easier to understand also for the external stakeholders.

After the boot camp (May 2017) every innovator was given a task to locate possible users/customers/stakeholders of their innovative idea. We set up a co-creation workshop where they could better understand the needs and views of the users/customers/ other stakeholders. This was the first point where we discovered that the innovators needed more support as some of them found this part of the process a bit tricky. They seemed to think quite a lot about what kind of feedback they would get. For this co-creation workshop, we used once again the CoCo Cosmos service design game as it enables participants to build a common understanding and it visualises easily the value for the user/customer/external stakeholder. The workshop was very active and the users/customers/external stakeholders gave a lot of
valuable viewpoints (not all positive) for the innovators’ idea development.

In June 2017, we brought together all the innovators for an internal workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to self-evaluate what they had already accomplished so far and what would be the next steps. We designed for them a Roadmap to success template where they could fill in not only all the things they had done already but also what was still undone, what kind of support they would need and how fast
they would like to move on. We also had a steering board meeting to evaluate the results of the project so far and the guidelines for the autumn period. The result was that the activities, budget, and results were all accomplished on time and we were given permission to continue. In July 2017, we had a break for the summer holidays.

After the holidays we were all full of energy and we had workshops where we developed further the innovation process. As a development tool for this phase, we used gamification where all the participants developed themselves the content for the elements of an innovation process. The elements were actors, actions, incentives, scorecards, and metrics. Thus, we co-created not only the innovation process for our university but also co-innovated the Boost+Inno service design game for boosting innovations. At this stage, we also incorporated more actors into our project. In June, the innovators had stated that they would need to have more support related to legal affairs, communication, and marketing, visualising their ideas and how to search for funding. Thus, the lawyer from the university, a communications/marketing specialist and a graphic designer joined our team of project actors. We also hired an innovation funding consultant to advise innovators.

During September–November 2017, we focussed on developing marketing concepts, on how to find external funding and what kind of legal issues they needed to consider. The graphic designer also drew icons for each innovative idea and he also started to sketch the game cards for the innovation process. The board meeting also evaluated once again our activities, the budget, and the results and gave us permission to continue.

Finalising the project: November–December 2017
During November–December 2017, we focussed on wrapping up and communicating the results of our project. We set up the first gamified innovation process seminar/workshop where the participants (about 60 persons including also external stakeholders) from the workshop learned what an innovation process looks like. What kinds of actions there are, who are the actors, what kinds of incentives we need, what should be the result of this process (scorecards) and how to measure the results (metrics). We created a Boost+Inno story to explain to the wider audience what we had done. We published 25 videos. We collected all the tools we had used during our project (altogether 23 tools) so that others would be able to use them. We chose the innovation of the year within our university. And we enjoyed the extremely energetic atmosphere we were able to create together with our innovators.

The final activities of the project were the steering board meeting where the activities, budget, and results of the project were compared with the project plan and we reviewed whether we had accomplished what was set out to do. The result was that we had stayed on budget, but we had accomplished more as we not only created a more positive and effective innovation culture and an innovation process but we also created a new Boost+Inno service design game for boosting innovations and a better understanding of what an innovation process looks like.

Outputs

As stated in the previous chapter, the project not only achieved the objectives set for it but it also created a new innovative idea itself: the Boost+Inno service design game for boosting innovations. From the output perspective at the end, we:
1) boosted 15 in-house innovative ideas towards commercialization,
2) raised dramatically the knowledge of what innovation is and how to commercialize innovative ideas,
3) co-created a service design process model for boosting innovations,
4) co-developed metrics to measure the impact,
5) set up an Innovation of the Year competition and chose the first winners,
6) co-innovated the Boost+Inno service design game for boosting innovations, and
7) created an in-house innovation process and got permission to hire a process owner – an Innovation Activist.

We also collected feedback from the innovators. If we make it to the final competition, we are able to incorporate all the names behind the feedback. The original feedback was the following:
- The Boost+Inno project made me realise the importance of customer-centric service development from the beginning, this saves a lot of time and energy as well as focuses the process a lot.
- Based on my experience, the atmosphere in the Boost+Inno project was respectful towards all the innovative ideas. During the process, all innovators were pushed to test the clarity of their innovative idea from different viewpoints. It was also extremely valuable to be exposed to the continuous evaluation process that enhanced the development of our innovative ideas. Also, the Cambridge boot camp allowed us not only to focus on our ideas but also to share our ideas with local professionals. On the whole, an energizing and memorable project with concrete results.
- The project gave us working time and allowed us to further develop our service concept.
- The process was very carefully planned.
- Boost+Inno was inspiring and useful to further develop our idea.
- The project gave us new service design tools and encouraged us to have rapid prototyping and piloting. It also inspired us to focus more on commercialization possibilities.
- The outcome of the project was that I really started to boost my innovation into a business through co-creation, and I now have web pages and a promotional video so the business can start.

- The Cambridge boot camp clarified the possibilities for our product and opened up a new business stream.
- The Boost+Inno project gave time and space to stop for a moment and truly further contemplate, develop and improve one’s initial project ideas and creatively and with a hands-on attitude to think about the possible marketing angles and potential clientele.
- We got great new ideas on how to commercialize our web service.
- The project was outstanding. The tools developed really support the commercialization of an innovative idea. The materials and tools are clear and easy to use, and they are usable in many different cases.

Impact

The impact of this project could be measured as follows:

  • Before the project, there were altogether about 30 invention disclosures since 2008. During 2017 there were 10. This year (2018) until April there have been already 9. Thus, it seems that the project has boosted the innovation activities of the staff members.
  • Out of 15 innovative service ideas, 5–10 have the potential to go to the market, which is a much higher success rate than generally. Currently, 5 service ideas already have to pay customers and 6 have pilot customers.
  • The Boost+Inno Service Hub is up and running, and an even larger number of people are getting involved.
  • Moreover, the Boost+Inno service design process and the game has been tested and used with external stakeholders, meaning among 30 start-ups, two SMEs, two large corporations, and two public organisations.
    The feedback from the external stakeholders can be summarised as follows:
  • The game gave us a clear understanding of what kinds of activities, actors, and motivators are needed in commercializing innovations and what should be the result of each activity.
  • The game supported us in building our innovation process—great game!

Conclusion

To conclude, we not only co-innovated a new service design game that is about to be commercialized itself but we also co-created a whole new service hub—the Boost+Inno Hub to boost service innovations. Out of 15 innovative service ideas, 5–10 have the potential to go to the market, which is a much higher success rate than generally. Currently, 5 service ideas already have paying customers and 6 have pilot customers. The Boost+Inno Service Hub is up and running, and even a larger number of people are getting involved. To
describe the results of the project, we could say: “Yes, we did it together!”

References 
Ojasalo, K., Koskelo, M. & Nousiainen, A.K. 2015. Foresight and service design boosting dynamic capabilities in service innovation. Teoksessa Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. and Green, R. (eds.), The Handbook of Service Innovation. Lontoo: Springer-Verlag, 193 – 212.

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