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The power of innovation ecosystems

By Ian Benedict Rosas Mia

“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” - William Gibson (August 31, 1993)

I was delighted to have participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Global Startup Workshop 2018 (MIT GSW 2018) held in Bangkok, Thailand on March 26 to 28. With the theme “Dream big, dream tech,” the workshop showcased how different emerging technologies such as blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and big data, among many others, are opening up massive opportunities in the business landscape. 

Together with my colleagues in the agritech startup Lungtian Solutions, I participated in the MIT GSW 2018’s startup showcase competition and got to meet venture capitalists, investors, students, professors and other professionals who have expressed interest in our venture. To say that the event was rich with experience and learning is an understatement. More than that, we got a wider perspective of the Southeast Asian and global markets.

If there was something valuable and actionable that I learned, however, it is the understanding and application of innovation ecosystems, which was consistently touched upon throughout the workshop.

Value of innovation ecosystems

But first, how do we describe innovation in its simplest form? It involves the generation of creative and practical solutions to problems. An example of innovation is the practice of design thinking in business, which involves a rigorous and cyclical process of inspiration, ideation and implementation of solutions to current problems. If we are to upgrade the conversation to an innovation ecosystem, this will involve the intermingling of various stakeholders such as companies, experienced business leaders, researchers, government officials and investors, among others, to work together and generate innovative solutions. 

Source: MIT REAP: https://www.ntnu.edu/ihb/about-mit-reap

During the workshop, MIT also provided a stakeholder model of the innovation ecosystem that helps us further visualize this concept.

Entrepreneurs, universities, governments, corporations and risk capital are all interconnected in several ways and contribute to the overall innovation ecosystem of a particular country, organization, or groups of people. A 2012 article by the Harvard Business Review stated three essential elements that enable the creation of an innovation ecosystem: (1) getting the right people involved (2) cultivating the network and (3) educating others. The first one makes sense, because we need to consolidate various experts before establishing the network itself and, later on, spread the pool of knowledge developed by the network by educating others. 

Glimpse of the PH innovation ecosystem

In the Philippines, what would be an initial glimpse of this innovation ecosystem when we include, for instance, the aspect of technological innovation?

For one, we have a number of business incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces including but not limited to the following: Department of Science and Technology, Impact Hub Manila, Kickstart Ventures, Ideaspace Foundation, QBO Philippines, Launch garage, University of the Philippines Enterprise Center for Technopreneurship, and DoST-Peza Open Technology Business Incubator. 

These organizations contribute to the overall innovation ecosystem such that they provide training and mentorship to the startups—mostly tech-based—that are being incubated. For instance, QBO Philippines is a public-private partnership between JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Ideaspace Foundation, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Science and Technology that was created to help Filipino startups grow and scale their business. 

With the use of emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), for instance, how do we maximize them to further contribute to this innovation ecosystem? 

Many initiatives are already in place, and it is just a matter of tracking them. MakeSense Philippines, TechForGrowth Foundation and Gawad Kalinga, for instance, organized an “IoT Hackathon for Agricultural Good” in January 2018 that aims to develop tech-based agricultural solutions that will help address the critical issues of the agriculture sector. An example of an IoT project that was developed involved the use of applications and sensors that will hel monitor the humidity, temperature and light intensity of crops. These will help optimize the growth of crops, which will then increase food supply and provide higher yield and production for farms. Moreover, this is still a piece of the entire innovation puzzle we have to solve, and more concerted efforts should be undertaken.

The great thing about these events is that it brings together people from distinct backgrounds but similar interests. In this case, the people from the IoT Hackathon want to help solve agricultural problems in their own, unique ways. In essence, this is what an innovation ecosystem looks like. Once we learn to gradually adopt this interdisciplinary approach, we will also develop better and faster solutions to societal problems. 

Ian Benedict Mia is an undergraduate student currently taking up AB Psychology and BS Business Management at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is currently working part-time as a research assistant under the DLSU Center for Business Research and Development–Social Enterprise Research Network (CBRD-SERN), and is an aspiring social entrepreneur. You may contact him through [email protected]

Topics: Global Startup Workshop 2018 , Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Gawad Kalinga
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