One of the great advantages of being a part of the Network for Future Global Leaders (NFGL), is the unique chance we get to participate in exciting conferences, activities, events and educational forums all over Sweden that we would otherwise not have had the opportunity to be a part of. NFGL is a network created for Swedish institute scholarship holders in Sweden with the aim of enriching their study experience. I have always been interested in innovation, particularly social innovation especially after spending 9 months working with social entrepreneurs in Stockholm. I was therefore super excited to visit the beautiful industrial city in Sweden, Eskilstuna- the birth place of large global companies such as Volvo.
As soon as I walked through the door of The Munktell Science Park I could tell it was going to be a good day. There’s a sign at the door that says “making space for innovators” which immediately gives you the impression of a place filled with a buzz of interesting ideas being born. The interior of the building is a beautiful contrast to the age of the building which has been in existence since 1890. It is painted with warm colors, has a very intimate co-working space, a nice kitchen area, and an interesting event-seating arrangement which includes the placing of comfortable cushions on the staircase. All these gave me the impression that it is a relaxed environment and furthermore, the staff’s warm and welcoming hospitality led us all to instantly feel at home.
As I settled in and began mingling with the other NFGL members in attendance, I quickly realized how we had one unique thing in common: a general enthusiasm for innovation! We all came from a diverse background of Medicine, Engineering, Communication, Entrepreneurship, political science, sustainability, and information systems; but the beauty of innovation is that it does not belong to any particular field as innovators exist and are required in every field. I was amazed by some of the NFGL students who are already working on building their own innovations, for instance I had an interesting chat with the founders of Scholarship Finder, currently available for download on Google Play, a platform created to help students around the world find scholarships in an easy and efficient way.
There were a number of activities planned for the day which included a detailed introduction of the science park, a do-tank workshop on idea-creation, and different lectures on developing innovation capacity in the companies of today, successful development of start-up companies, as well as a closing speech on venture capital and business angels.
I was so motivated by the founder and CEO, Thomas Karlsson, speaking so passionately about the science park. He spoke about the history of Munktell Science Park, which is named after Theofron Johan Munktell, the man behind Sweden’s numerous innovations in agriculture, infrastructure, and social reforms. He explained that a science park is an organisation managed by professionals and designed to promote innovation by managing the flow of knowledge and technology among universities, institutions, companies and markets. Munktell Science Park focuses on capturing innovators with great ideas, and making great innovations out of it through various stages including incubation, acceleration, and international scaling. There are currently about 100 start-up companies working within the science park in Eskilstuna.
The highlight of the day was the do-tank workshop of about 3 or 4 in each group. The process of idea creation was very practical as we brainstormed and came up with a sustainable business that would help to solve a certain problem. It was a demonstration of how ideas do not have to be so complicated, but could come from thinking of ways to solve certain problems in society. After that we had to do a 60 second pitch of our ideas on camera which was very interesting as we learned the art of pitching which entails knowing how to sell yourself or your business in the quickest and most interesting way possible.
Pitching is part of our everyday lives; we pitch at the work place, to get someone to buy our idea about something, and even to convince someone to go on a date with us. Movie trailers were given as an example of excellent pitching techniques because in just a matter of seconds of watching the trailer, one chooses whether it is a movie they’d be interested in spending about 2 hours of their time to watch. In the same way, your customers choose to come to you based on your pitch-so you have to find their need and make it interesting for them.
“For instance, your friend has a headache and you offer him/her a milkshake instead of a painkiller; while the milkshake sounds interesting, it certainly is not important to his need at that particular time.”
It is therefore vital to understand one’s market/customer needs before pitching, then go for it! The four main points to note for a good pitch were given as: 1. Focus, 2. Be quick and straight to the point, 3. Understand your customer’s pain, and 4. Remember that your customer chooses to come to you based on your pitch.
There is definitely a need for an increase in science parks to facilitate growth and development in every city, and the goal of the Munktell Science Park is for science parks in different cities to work together with the aim of contributing towards making their cities and eventually the world, a better place to live in.
I thank the Swedish Institute once again for this amazing opportunity that inspired NFGL members who are passionate about becoming entrepreneurs by stimulating us to maintain an innovative mindset in our specific fields of study.
Text by Brenda Ochola. Read her blog here.