Project Overview

What is it?

The Global Innovation Project is a year-long research project in partnership with Deusto Business School to explore how innovation / entrepreneurial ecosystems function in different locations across the world. The central aims are to map out demographics of entrepreneurship in different cities and countries globally, and to identify successful models for fostering innovation in a community (from local to national scale).

Who am I?

My innovation background comes from six years working in corporate innovation for the British bank RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), of which I spent three years building an innovation scouting office in San Francisco, to identify new technologies emerging from Silicon Valley which could be used to improve the bank. I left my role at the bank to pursue a Master’s in Business Innovation at Deusto Business School and to carry out my research.

The background

In trying to understand how Silicon Valley was so far ahead of other areas on innovation and entrepreneurship, I saw the importance of building a strong supporting ecosystem for innovation. In Silicon Valley, this includes top tier universities producing talent, venture capitalists investing funding, corporate innovators seeking startup solutions, and a network of supporting companies like startup campuses. These mix together with a cultural acceptance of failure to produce a very high rate of innovation activity.

One of the common discussion points in Silicon Valley is how all industries are being disrupted by new technologies being used in new ways. Well known examples include the demise of Kodak for not recognising the shift to digital photography, and a similar fate for Blockbuster as movie rentals moved online. Peter Diamandis of X-Prize and Singularity University talks about the ‘democratisation’ of technology, lowering the barriers to allow new startups to innovate in traditional industries.

This democratisation should also level the playing field for innovation itself, and enable people from across the globe to innovate as successfully as Silicon Valley. This research aims to explore what is happening in other areas around the world, identify new hotspots of innovation, and find ways to support innovation in any part of the world.

The approach

I will be spending the year traveling around the world to gather on-the-ground research through observations and interviews with groups involved in their local innovation communities. This could be any sort of connection, but key examples include:

  • Startup founders

  • Investors

  • Corporate innovation groups (i.e. someone working for a large company

  • whose role is to seek or develop innovative solutions)

  • Government support schemes

  • Collaborative working spaces

  • Meetup groups and online forums

  • Universities

Research areas

The dimensions of my research will spread across four broad categories:

Company information

  • Volume of startups
  • Types of industries, sectors and target markets
  • Various metrics on startups - size, age, stage, valuation etc

Founder demographics

  • Demographics of startup founders - age, gender, background etc
  • Drivers to found a business

Capital sources

  • Availability and liquidity of capital
  • Nature of capital investment (venture, angel, bootstrapped etc)
  • Presence of corporate venture funds

Innovation infrastructure

  • Innovation network structure - groups, campuses, meetups, locations etc
  • Support from local government
  • Involvement of local businesses
  • Level of impact of innovation community from local to global scale
  • Innovation methodologies

The countries

The trip will be carried out in five separate legs, covering different areas of the globe. The itinerary has been kept purposefully loose to accommodate insights and suggestions from the people I meet, and also to allow for the very changeable nature of global politics and innovation systems. If you know any relevant contacts from any of the areas mentioned, please get in touch using the contact form.

Leg 1 (October 6 – November 15 2016):

  • South Korea (October 6th - 24th): I will be in Seoul for at least one week and will then travel around the country

  • Russia (Oct 24th - Nov 15th): I will be in Vladivostock Oct 24th - 27th, then flying to Moscow for Oct 28th - Nov 6th (attending the Open Innovations conference at Skolkovo Technopark on Oct 28th), and then in St Petersburg Nov 6th - 14th

Leg 2 - EUROPE (December 2016 – January 2017):

  • Helsinki (Nov 29th - Dec 7th): I’ll be attending Slush Nov 30th - Dec 1st

  • Tallinn (Dec 7th - 14th)

  • Riga (Dec 14th - 18th)

  • Berlin (Dec 18th - 23rd)

  • Poland

  • Hungary

  • Romania

Leg 3 - SOUTHEAST ASIA (February – March 2017):

  • Indonesia (Feb 5th - 15th)

  • Singapore (Feb 15th - 19th)

  • Malaysia (Feb 20th - 23rd)

  • Thailand (Feb 24th - Mar 3rd)

  • Vietnam (Mar 3rd - 9th)

Leg 4 - SOUTH AMERICA (March – May 2017):

  • Uruguay

  • Argentina

  • Chile

  • Brazil

Research outputs

The main outputs from the research will be:

  • Global Report: A comprehensive study identifying and comparing innovation centers across the world including forecasting of where we may see future centers emerge. A breakdown of startup demographics across the globe, identifying trends in types of businesses and their founders.

  • Follow this website for regular posts from the field. As I travel, I will be sharing insights related to the research as well as general commentary on my travel experiences.

Who will benefit from the research?

Governments: For any local or national government looking to improve their region’s performance within innovation and increase entrepreneurship, the results of this research will provide guidance on how to build a successful innovation ecosystem.

Large corporations: Having worked in corporate innovation in the banking sector for 6 years, I know first-hand how essential it is for large companies to innovate to remain competitive in today’s fast-changing business landscape. The insights from this research will help companies to understand the innovation ecosystems in their target markets and their bases of operations to help inform strategies for open innovation.

Entrepreneurs: This research aims to throw a spotlight on startup founders across the world and the systems that they operate in. A particular aim is to raise awareness of entrepreneurial activity in developing nations.

Supporting groups: For supportive businesses like startup campuses, coding groups, or small business development (legal, accounting etc), this research will identify potential areas of business opportunity.

Getting involved

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for the project, or would like to get involved in any way, please reach out through the contact form.

I would especially like to hear from anyone who would either like to be interviewed for the research, or can make introductions to someone connected to their local innovation ecosystem in any of the research locations mentioned. So if you know a startup founder in Nigeria, or a corporate innovation worker in Thailand, please get in touch!

Kathryn White