EPIC: Early-Stage Platform for Innovation Challenges
The aim of the EPIC-project is to create a multidisciplinary innovation platform for SMEs, regional research community and global leaders, such as International Space Agencies, to together develop solutions for complex global challenges. As a result new products, services and business opportunities are created strengthening the regional economy and its place at the global stage.
This platform is being developed out of the Epic Challenge educational program piloted in 2015-2016 in Joensuu. The EPIC-project will focus on bringing the means for bigger SME involvement and scalability of the platform. The project will yearly generate tens of technology pilots which will lead to an increased number of SME-lead commercialization projects, university spin-offs, basic and applied research. These SMEs will gain access to multinational student and researcher talent pool, potential solutions for challenges they might be facing and potential concepts for future business. On longer term, this project aims that this platform becomes a place where other global leaders will gravitate to, bringing new challenges and in this way scale up the platform.
In the EPIC-project platform, we identify three main stages:
- The Challenge Definition stage
- The Epic Challenge educational program stage
- The Commercialization stage
In the core of the EPIC-project is the Epic Challenge educational program. In Epic Challenge, students learn how to solve complex problems creatively by applying a problem solving method created by NASA astronaut Dr. Charles Camarda to complex challenges under the challenge theme of Sustaining Humans on Mars. To solve these challenges students form teams and work together for 2 to 6 months. These teams are formed in a way that they have students from different levels of education (from high school to PhD level) and with different background (from tourism to nuclear physics). Throughout the course, they will learn as a team problem solving and product development skills and while applying those skills develop a functioning prototype. To achieve this goal they come up with hundreds of ideas, which they will test, and through experimentation and cheap and fast concept failure, they narrow the solution down to one, final prototype. In the past three years over 300 students in Finland only went through the Epic Challenge educational program.
The novelty in the EPIC-project is in the way of how hundreds of students and researchers work on highly complex innovation challenges as part of their studies and how the SMEs in the region are integrated into the solution development process.