First Innovation Academy took place from November of last year until May of this year. More than 160 participants formed 35 teams to work on testing the initial viability of their innovative ideas. In April, teams showed their product in demonstrations in TechChill, and on the 26th of May, 27 teams graduated from the Innovation Academy prepared for further growth and attraction of investments.
On October 20th, 2022, the second Innovation Academy program will begin. Innovation Academy is a pre-acceleration program of innovative, technologically intensive and globally ambitious projects. The process guides teams from totally early idea until the readiness of the projects to attract initial investments and prepare for rapid growth. The program is managed by the Riga Business School (a structural unit of RTU), and is funded in the frame of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia Technology Business Centre Norway Grants.
As a result of the past program we, as organizers of the Innovation Academy, gained a lot of valuable insights and have improved the program which will start at the end of October. Below, I have summarized my observations about what helped participants of the program to obtain better results and get the most benefit from the Innovation Academy:
Although participation in the Innovation Academy does not require a full-time involvement and can be combined with work, studies and other personal activities, participants have to understand that working on the initial testing of the potential of ideas demands a sufficient amount of time and regular involvement. Innovation Academy includes regular mentoring sessions, interim project deliverables, joint discussion of results and other elements of the program helping to focus systematically on the verification of the idea. However, participants should realize that they need to schedule regular work and make it a part of their daily life.
Just like other growth programs, Innovation Academy offers possibilities but using those opportunities is up to the participants themselves. Active involvement in lectures, team building camps, maximum use of the time offered by mentors and taking part in the events organized within the program visibly correlate with team progress. For its part, Innovation Academy has tried to ensure the best possible exchange of ideas and thoughts both in the communication channels used by the program and also during networking events in-person, as far as was possible within the pandemic limitations. It is up to participants and teams to use these opportunities for the development of their ideas.
The second part of the program is based on testing the potential and viability of ideas. It is difficult, sometimes impossible, to do it quickly enough alone. Participants who devoted sufficient attention to team building and efficient organizing of work, generally achieved better progress during the program than those acting alone or in teams that did not learn to cooperate successfully. As a result of the lessons learned, the team of Innovation Academy will pay additional attention to the team building and organization issues in the new program, promoting even wider mutual exchange of ideas between participants and stimulating team formation process in the joint camps and networking events.
Developing new products is a very practical undertaking. Although Innovation Academy offers valuable content adapted to the early validation process of ideas, the most important precondition for the progress of the projects is the practical application of the knowledge and insights – not theorizing on the potential of the planned solution but it’s quick, simple and as cheap as possible testing in practice. Teams that showcased practical activities achieved a significantly better end result than the teams that were satisfied only with only passively taking in knowledge and listening to advice from the mentors of the program.
Readiness to share
The first Innovation Academy gathered participants from various sectors, with different education and work and personal experience, and we can say without a doubt that during the second program we will see exactly the same. Participants know and are able to do a lot as a team – probably much more than any lecturer or mentor who takes part in the program. This knowledge, experience and education form an important asset of the program and we try to promote its sharing. The advice, contacts and support the teams gave each other during the program, helped them to generally achieve more and complete the program with better and more convincing results.
The first season of the pre-acceleration program Innovation Academy proved that there are many ambitious, technological ideas with global potential in Latvia. We also learned that systematic, proactive and practical work in teams on the development of these ideas allows engaged participants to achieve clearly measurable progress and helps to create an early, investment-ready flow of projects, thus promoting the ecosystem basis of Latvian start-ups. We are ready to accept applications from energetic participants for the next round of the Innovation Academyuntil September 23, it can be done electronically in the state platform business.gov.lv.