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On 7 September, the application announced by the innovation platform «Demola Latvia» for the autumn season of 2018 will end; companies have bought half of solutions to business problems developed by student teams in the spring.
«As this generation will be the one that, in a couple of years, will form the nucleus of economically active residents of Latvia, students’ opinion is extremely important for us. They will make the Latvian economy and will be our customers. They will determine the trends and already now outline the habits that are worth integrating into solutions today. How do young people see us? What do they want to buy? What should a product look like? These are just a few of the issues that we have been discussing together. The millennial generation’s perspective on problems and business as a whole is the main value we obtained by getting involved in Demola Latvia project,» says the Head of the Marketing Department of the largest meat processing company «Forevers» in the domestic meat processing industry Ilona Bukša.
Demola Latvia is part of the world’s most advanced ecosystem of innovation. It is a collaboration platform for creative students willing to work and representatives of companies and organisations. In Latvia, it is maintained by Riga Technical University (RTU), the University of Latvia (LU) and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA). Demola Latvia provides a work plan, methodology, mentor support and seminars to help interdisciplinary and international student teams solve the problem situations defined by enterprises and organisations. If the students’ ideas and the final result are satisfactory, the young people receive remuneration specified in the contract from the partner, while the partner – new solutions without a financial risk.
Forevers challenged participants of the innovation platform «Demola Latvia» in the 2018 spring season to seek solutions in their discretion to develop the chain of growing stores, increasing their competitive advantage, purchasing volume and attracting new customers. Assessing the customers’ choice regarding the purchase of meat products, the team concluded that the low price was not decisive; changes could be achieved by improving packaging.
«It should be admitted that we did not really know what results we could expect from the beginning; therefore, having become acquainted with the nature of the project and becoming part of it, we were open to everything. We have received quite a lot of professionally prepared materials, important arguments for the students’ solutions and proposals offered, the results of various studies, recommendations, etc. Although the vision of students was not entirely innovative or something that had not been seen before, the experience gained from cooperating with young people was more important,» says I. Bukša. Student performance on working on the problem situation defined by Forevers was also positively evaluated by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, awarding the prize to the team in the 2018 spring season finale.
As the demonstration of the company’s positive experience in engaging in Demola Latvia project, the meat processing company’s decision is to formulate two problem situations for the autumn of 2018. The company is interested in solutions for strengthening internal communication, as well as ideas for promising products and services that may appear in the meat processing, distribution and retail sectors in the next five to ten years. «We will continue the autumn season with two problem situations, as the growing and developing company will always have problems to deal with, so a detached view is very important. We also consider cooperation an opportunity to get acquainted with the students and maybe to find our new colleagues among them,» emphasises I. Bukša.
«Omniva is grateful to the students for the solution developed; we already use it on a regular basis for our company’s needs every day, analysing potential sites for the deployment of new parcel lockers,» says CEO at Omniva Latvija Ltd Beāte Krauze. Omniva provides postal logistics, information logistics and e-invoicing services; the company has the largest network of parcel lockers in the Baltics. Students offered a data-driven virtual card for the company’s need to evaluate the most successful places for deploying parcel lockers; this solution was awarded RTU Audience Award in the spring season finale of Demola Latvia.
B. Krauze lists the benefits of participation in the platform of innovation, «All students are potential future employees in the Latvian labour market that could be attracted by entrepreneurs to their current vacancies. Demola project offers to address real and topical situations in the everyday life of companies, which students will encounter only after graduation, starting their career. Thus, experience is gained by both parties – students get real experience and skills in steering the project toward a successful outcome within the team, while entrepreneurs have the opportunity to take a fresh look at the topical issue». Regarding the professionalism of the solutions developed, she points out that it is directly dependent on teamwork and the ability to distribute work equally so that each participant is responsible for the part of the project that best suits his skills and interests, such as data analytics, research, creation of a solution, etc.
Project Manager of Demola Latvia and project manager of RTU Design Factory Liene Briede also emphasises the role of the platform in forming early cooperation between companies and promising young specialists. Namely, the opportunity to bring fresh and inexperienced competences, ideas without high risk into the company that have been taken outside the company’s walls are the main benefit of the companies’ participation in Demola Latvia. Students, in their turn, have the opportunity to work in a real, results-oriented environment. Being in an environment that completely differs from the study environment one can get answers to questions about oneself, one’s performance, leadership, etc. It is the ability to test oneself in a growth environment.
In the spring season, solutions were also bought by KPMG, one of the largest global professional networking companies providing audit, tax and advisory services, Swedbank and the State Employment Agency of Latvia. It should be noted that the team, which proposed providing intelligent guidance and information in order to solve the problem of the State Employment Agency of Latvia related to customer service improvement in Riga region branch that is the busiest one, received the UL award in the spring season finale. In the spring season, ten teams, a total of 50 students, solved problem situations defined by eight companies – 123 Drivers, KPMG, Swedbank, 4finance, Omniva, Caljan Rite-Hite Latvia, Foodio, Forevers – and the State Employment Agency of Latvia.
In the autumn season of 2018, ten companies proposed 12 problem situations, for example, SJSC Latvijas dzelzceļš would like to find an alternative to herbicide – glyphosate – used to eradicate weeds. The European Parliament has allowed herbicide to be used until 2022, so it is time to look for alternatives, explains the company. In its turn, Balta, the leading non-life insurance company in Latvia, is interested in the students’ vision of new ways of informing people about the risks that may affect real estate and arousing interest in insurance. It should be noted that Balta has defined two problem situations. Student solutions are also expected by companies such as Tieto, SAF Tehika, Telema, Metropolis Riga, ZetCom (the brand «Amigo»), Hansab and Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Get acquainted with all the problem situations and apply for membership at the website.
The project is supported by the LIAA «Innovation Motivation Programme» (project No. 126.96.36.199./16/l/001).