Feet on the ground

 

The New Global is preparing for an Innovation Camp in Tanzania

The New Global is a multidisciplinary action research project from Aalto University. It aims at co-creating frugal innovations for emerging large and low-income markets while creating new business opportunities for Finnish companies. For 2014 The New Global is focusing on markets in Tanzania, India, Mexico and Brazil.

In May 2014 The New Global organized an Innovation Precamp for the Finnish companies participating in an Innovation Camp to be held in Tanzania in June. We talked to architect Helena Sandman and Business Engagement Manager Petri Allekotte from Aalto University as well as Sales Director Lasse Laitinen from Alshain. They shared their thoughts about emerging markets, cultural differences between rich and poor countries and their expectations for the Camp.

Increasing understanding

The New Global offers companies an opportunity to get insight understanding attractive low-income markets with emerging countries.

Petri, why should Finnish companies be interested in emerging markets? There are two basic reasons. First, emerging markets are the fastest growing markets in the world. Second, the global recourses are getting scarce all around the world. In the future we all need to do more with less. Emerging markets offer an excellent terrain for innovation. They make us to focus on simple and affordable solutions, things that work.

What kind of Finnish companies are participating in The New Global? We have five pilot companies ranging from big corporations to small start up’s. The main business areas include water management and health care. Both sectors have huge potential in East Africa, but conditions there are very different to Finland.

What are the major challenges that companies need to overcome before the Innovation Camp? The New Global concepts encourage companies look at these high potential emerging markets from a different perspective and tailor made or innovate new solutions Our philosophy is not based on working on presumptions but rather getting ourselves on the ground and observing what kind of real needs people actually have. For companies a key to success is to involve people with an open mind. Perhaps best results could deliver open minded employees rather than companies most experienced technology experts.

What are your personal expectations for the Innovation Camp? In March I participated in a similar camp organized in rural India. I saw there how keen the local community members were to work with a Finnish university and companies. I expect to experience same kind of enthusiasm in Tanzania. The camp will be a starting point for a long-term co-operation. The first phase is pretty much about increasing understanding local inhabitants’ daily lives and challengies, which in turn could be a great source for new innovations. It is a current trend that companies have also realized that co-creating with NGOs’ is valuable way for innovation, hence I expect smooth diaglogue between business, NGOs and local communities.

Aiming at Africa

Alshain is a Finnish company providing affordable measurement devices for water and soil quality. Joining The New Global was an easy decision for them.

Lasse, why did you decide to join The New Global? Our company is targeting at emerging markets in Africa and other continents. The New Global provides us a great opportunity to learn and develop our skills even as a micro company.

What did you learn in the Innovation Precamp? We learned about cultural differences between different markets and what to expect in Tanzania. We also had a chance to meet with the other companies participating in the Camp and discuss about co-operation opportunities.

What kind of previous experience do you have from Tanzania? I have previously visited Tanzania only as a tourist. I have travelled around Eastern Africa for about 6 months in total. I believe that I have some understanding of the African mentality and culture.

What are your expectations for the Innovation Camp? We want to understand what the market needs are and what type of products we should be providing. We also hope to establish good relations and organize meetings with the local water industry.

How are you preparing for the Camp? We have been reading reports on water issues in Tanzania, and made some market analysis. But to be honest, it is quite difficult to make any preparations in advance in Finland because the available information is very limited. We also want to keep our minds open and leave room for making decisions on the spot.

Boosting creative energy

Helena Sandman has a long history of working in different countries in Africa in poor communities. As an architect and teacher her focus is on environmental sustainability.

Helena, what was your impression of the Innovation Precamp? It was very good to meet with the company representatives and hear about their intentions. As I have been working only with students before and not with business people who need to keep the profit in mind, I noticed that there was a big difference in the atmosphere. We need to find a way how to boost creative and innovative energy in the companies despite their profit and cost concerns.

What should Finnish companies take into account while preparing for the Camp? They should keep their mind open and not look for immediate results during the first trip. They should focus on observing and letting the experience to take them further.

How can you and other teachers help them? We can provide contacts and experience. Since I am an architect with a very practical background, I have experience in practical things related to architecture, construction and communication in a foreign culture. I can help the participants by sharing my experience. You need to be patient and approach things with a smile.

What are your personal expectations for the Innovation Camp? I’m exited to follow the process and see how the new ideas emerge and how the companies start a life on their own in Tanzania.

This post was written by AGI

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