“Demola projects will present opportunity to both students and businesses to utilise resources”

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“Demola projects will present opportunity to both students and businesses to utilise resources”

The international innovation challenge platform Demola Global has entered Nepal joining hands with King’s College. Established in Tampere, Finland, Demola, which now operates in 17 countries, brings students and leading companies together to work to find new ideas and solutions in business.

Jere Wessman, Creative Director of Demola Global, was in Nepal to attend the launch event of its partnership with King’s College. He is a global process owner for Demola’s co-creation process between industry partners and academia. Wessman is also responsible for the development and global implementation of the design process optimising learning and fostering creativity and curiosity in multidisciplinary development teams. New Business Age caught up with Wessman to talk about the newly announced partnership with King’s College, its benefits, among other topics. Excerpts:

Tell us about Demola Global and how it works.
The story of Demola started in 2008. It was Nokia’s initiative. The Finnish telecommunications company needed a new kind of tool for its employees to think up non-IP critical and new ideas and challenges. So, we set up this platform where we connect both industry and academia to work together to identify social challenges our society has been facing. Now we are operating in 16 different countries and have been facilitating around 4,000 co-creation projects.

We designed case topics to get with our customers and then published these cases within our alliance educational institutions like King’s College. Students can apply to this challenge and work in a 4 to 6 member co-creation team consisting of representatives of companies and the students. They work in eight week long projects to understand the phenomena better and to create some new concepts.

Kings College has become a part of Demola Global alliance. What are the benefits of this association between Kings and Demola?
We have had the opportunity to work with Nepali talent. We came to know about Nepal through one of our alumni who was working on some Demola projects. He returned to Nepal after completing his studies and started to promote us here. So this is how we ended up being in Nepal.

We have an alliance of 50 universities and educational institutions. Nowadays, every educational institution faces the challenge of internationalisation in terms of becoming an international player in this highly competitive field of higher education. We bring our alliance partners from across the globe together with the joint student and research mobility and other activities. Of course, the internationalisation is one part. Then when it comes to this type of capability development, we believe that the 21st century working skills are something our universities are not teaching today. Our capability development exercises can help in ways to give that kind of education and prepare the students to face the challenges.  

How will Demola provide its support to King’s College?
Now that Demola has started here, we will provide all materials and templates for businesses and students according to the agreement. Of course, all the tools and processes are globally the same. So, for us it’s important that our customers get the same service experience if they are engaged in Demola projects wherever they are. We will conduct facilitator training programmes and enable King’s College staff to work as project facilitators. We will also facilitate some of the events together with our colleagues at King’s College.

What does this association mean for students of Kings College in terms of entrepreneurship and career development?
For many students globally, this will be their first time working as an expert in the projects. They might have worked where businesses have sponsored in some cases. But in the Demola projects, they are not working for the company, rather they are working with the company. We believe that this is one of the key benefits for the students to test out their capabilities and develop their expertise. Our teams are multi-disciplinary and multicultural as well. So the students can gain experience on working in multidisciplinary and multicultural environments.

Another thing that I would like to raise is creative confidence. The world is changing so fast, it’s full of uncertainty and the skills or tools needed today might be obsolete in five or 10 years. It is all about handling uncertainty and being able to succeed in such environments. So for the students, I believe the projects will be stepping stones for their career and also help businesses to see challenges from different perspectives.

What is the philosophy behind the ‘Co-creation’ initiative of Demola Global?
 Our projects are not student innovation projects where a company presents a challenge or problem in front of the students to create solutions and then the company comes back and collects the resources. Here, companies send their representatives to work together with the students as a team. The businesses who are the project partners will receive non-exclusive global licenses to utilise the results however they want. However, the ownership of the results will remain with the students. We see that it’s fair for all the parties; both students and businesses are putting their innovation and sweat into the game and they are both the parties who created and are creating the results. So both parties have opportunities to utilise the resources.

What role do educational institutions like Kings College have in developing a sound entrepreneurial ecosystem for youths?
I think for a long time there has been a challenge in the lack of cooperation between academia and the business sectors. In that sense, the business sectors haven’t been able to utilise the expertise that universities and educational institutions have. Likewise, universities haven’t been able to use their expertise for businesses and for the society. When it comes to entrepreneurial activities, or I would like to say intrapreneurial, it’s all about personal perspective and personal skills. Even though you would not be an entrepreneur and have your own company, you can have entrepreneurial spirit and working style within a larger organisation. If not colleges and universities, then who would have the role to raise the ambition level of our young generation and build that hunger and change things?

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