Witnessing one in three of their graduate friends still unemployed, young Greeks might feel disheartened with their own graduation prospects. Alternatively, they might find themselves driven to advance from the category of desperate “job-seekers” to that of ambitious “job-creators”, as entrepreneurs in times of economic difficulties. While entrepreneurship is widely considered to be one of the most viable options for reducing unemployment levels in Greece, such efforts require an established entrepreneurial culture, supportive ecosystem, and committed universities to foster the process. Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB), is one of those institutions which drives change via targeted programs, and supports young entrepreneurs on their journey.
Developed by the Athens Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEin) within AUEB, the Innovation Design and Entrepreneurial Action (IDEA) programme assists students and alumni to unravel their entrepreneurial potential through open innovation. The IDEA programme connects insightful young pioneers with innovation-seeking companies for creative cooperation. By nurturing entrepreneurial spirit in students, alumni and engaged businesses, IDEA addresses contemporary economic and societal challenges while producing tangible outcomes for its regional and national communities.
The programme was originally initiated by ACEin in collaboration with Athens International Airport, as part of the airport’s corporate social responsibility activities to support youth. Once proven successful, the IDEA concept has been further applied to other UBC activities, and transformed into a series of programmes with different focus areas. Currently, the IDEA umbrella incorporates various initiatives in fin-tech, e-health and connected home & car appliances. The IDEA concept embraces an open innovation model, where innovative propositions from students are encouraged by companies and become freely accessible for them.
IDEA open innovation process
The IDEA open innovation process is built upon close interaction between entrepreneurial teams and organizations in need of innovative solutions. It incorporates four phases: first, the multidisciplinary teams identify problems in collaboration with the organizations and generate ideas for solutions. Then, they develop a business model for innovation taking industry feedback into consideration. After a rapid mock-up development, prototyping and testing of a new product or service, the teams are ready to move to an actual product pitch to the industrial partner. The most promising models have the chance to be further commercialized. Teams are supported with education/training, networking and mentoring services by ACEin at all stages of the process. The teams are further invited to participate in the entrepreneurship and innovation competition ‘Ennovation’ for talent search, organized by 18 university partners and coordinated by ACEIn.
A recent example of IDEA open innovation process is Interamerican project, undertaken together with Interamerican health insurance company, a prominent player in the insurance sector in Greece. The IDEA programme invited applicants to propose innovative customer communication solutions for the organization. The competition has resulted in a number of outstanding proposals. Exemplary projects that entered the final list included a mobile application for monitoring the user locations of minors or of elderly drivers, as well as a medical history tracking service and medication manager. Three applications from the final round of the selection are already in the cooperative development stage. After this process, the products will be introduced to the Greek market.
IDEA’s added value
Complimentary to generating numerous outputs in the form of new technologies and services, the participants of the IDEA programme develop invaluable transferable skills and competences to sustain their entrepreneurial future. Acceleration programmes, such as IDEA, cultivate an open innovation and entrepreneurial culture which can help revitalize national and regional economies. IDEA host university (AUEB) has been recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship efforts, and become the first Greek higher education institution to receive a “Distinction for Excellence” from European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM).
To learn more about the IDEA programme’s supporting mechanisms and success factors, a detailed case study is available here.
 Eurostat. Employment rates of young people not in education and training by sex, educational attainment level and years since completion of highest level of education. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Employment_rates_of_recent_graduates
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