This is an overview of the platform, using the example of a workshop in Nashik, India to illustrate its power.

Definitions

Innovation

[in-uh-vey-shuh n]

noun

1.     Something newly introduced, such as a new method or device.

2.     The act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

Platform

[plat-fawrm]

noun

1.     A raised floor or other horizontal surface, such as a stage for speakers or a raised area at a railway station from which passengers have access to the trains.

2.     A body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public; a program.

MIT Media Lab team, Nashik, January 2016

MIT Media Lab team, Nashik, January 2016

A proven framework for innovation

The developing world is a tremendous asset, a living lab where innovation and development can have incredibly real and immediate impacts. But the organic, sometimes chaotic nature can be confusing. That's why we apply a systematic framework that relies on pulling together specialists, expertise and skills from multiple players in the environment to help bring ideas to action.

The Emerging Worlds innovation platform is a program organized around solving major challenges, empowering citizens and impacting billions of people with new methods or devices that use the most modern technology. Participants meet in a physical location so that they can collaborate and be close to the stakeholders. This platform is unique because of its emphasis on bottom-up innovation (in context), open linkage to the local innovation ecosystem, direction and mentorship from MIT Media Lab administrators and scientists, and focus on impactful outcomes.

The platform is designed for early stage innovation in context. The "spot" phase is to generate ideas for solutions that will satisfy a significant need. The "probe" phase is to create a proof of concept. The "grow" phase is to develop a working prototype. And the "scale" phase is to deploy the solutions.

The platform is designed for early stage innovation in context. The "spot" phase is to generate ideas for solutions that will satisfy a significant need. The "probe" phase is to create a proof of concept. The "grow" phase is to develop a working prototype. And the "scale" phase is to deploy the solutions.

The world is our lab
– Ramesh Raskar, MIT Media Lab
cute boy.jpg

Bottom-up innovation and co-innovation

This is bottom-up innovation and co-innovation. It’s bottom-up, since the ideas and solutions come from people close to the problems, rather than being dictated by a higher authority. It’s co-innovation, because of the close collaboration among innovators and stakeholders across the ecosystem: government, business and academia.

Mentors with technical, business and subject matter expertise work closely with the innovators on all aspects of the project – from articulating the challenge, to planning and conducting stakeholder meetings and field trips, to identifying data that is needed, to designing and coding a solution, to telling the story.

Mentors with technical, business and subject matter expertise work closely with the innovators on all aspects of the project – from articulating the challenge, to planning and conducting stakeholder meetings and field trips, to identifying data that is needed, to designing and coding a solution, to telling the story.

posters.jpg

Identifying challenges

Prior to the week-long workshop that was held in January in Nashik, India, we began with new challenges and new innovators, and we strengthened existing relationships. To identify grand challenges, we held conversations with citizens and government administrators. We recruited and selected innovators with experience and skills in business, engineering, IT and design, as well as a passion for creating impact. And we strengthened relationships that we had already built with industry, local government and academia.

Challenges identified in Nashik fit into seven themes: Health & Hygiene; Citizen Empowerment and Transparency; Housing & Transportation; Food & Agriculture; Financial & Personal Security; Energy, Water & Environment; and Education & Skills. While these are universal themes, the emphasis in each location can vary.

police meeting.jpg

Progress during the week and beyond

During the workshop, Innovators formed teams around challenges, met with subject matter experts, and heard from local and global business and government leaders. They took field trips to understand the stakeholders and their issues in their terms, they selected key stakeholders to focus on, and they highlighted data sets that they would need. Throughout the week, experts from industry, academia and government mentored the innovators. At the end of the week the innovators proposed solutions that would leverage the data and leapfrog. Many of them will continue to work on their solutions during 6-month internships at the new innovation center.

Ramesh Raskar, N. Chandra (TCS), Maggie Church

Ramesh Raskar, N. Chandra (TCS), Maggie Church

Corporate engagement

Corporations are joining the MIT Media Lab and the Emerging Worlds initiative in order to tap into the energy of innovation and make an impact. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), one of the Big 4 Global IT Services Brands, and Flipkart, India’s leading e-commerce marketplace, are new members of the MIT Media Lab and the Emerging Worlds initiative. TCS co-hosted the workshop in Nashik with the MIT Media Lab. For TCS, Emerging Worlds represents an opportunity to access bottom-up innovation, train their employees in innovation, recognize talent, be involved in “smart cities” initiatives, and have an impact through social innovation.

Portable and modular

This innovation platform is both portable and modular. In addition to three sites in India – Hyderabad, Mumbai and Nashik – we are bringing it to Mexico, Brazil and Slovakia.