Saskia Faltus

Endorsing the lab of tomorrow – creative problem-solvers with entrepreneurial mindsets

Solving concrete challenges in developing and emerging countries through sustainable business models constitutes the cornerstone of the lab of tomorrow (lot). In a lot process, entrepreneurs, development cooperation experts, the public sector as well as civil society and academia get together to jointly develop products and services that offer solutions to these concrete challenges. To find suitable participants, the lot counts on its own outreach as well as on matchmaking by leverist.de.

The key element of the lot processes is a so-called Innovation Sprint, taking place over several days and based on design thinking, an innovative process that is rooted in fully understanding the problem at hand. During the Innovation Sprint various possible business solutions are explored, followed by iteration through ideation, prototyping, and testing. The process can be summarized in five steps:

  1. Emphasizing with affected people
  2. Formulating a concrete challenge based on their pains and wishes
  3. Ideating various business solutions to the previously defined challenge
  4. Prototyping how these minimal viable products (MVP) possibly fit
  5. Testing the MVPs, getting feedback and going back to ideation

© Zainul Yasni, Unsplash 2020

The ongoing 10th lot focuses on the Tunisian agri-food production, the fastest growing sector on a national level, but also the most polluting and water consuming one. The high quantity of water and the toxic waste entail negative environmental and economic consequences. In total, the agri-food industry makes up 65% of Tunisia’s total amount of waste, out of which olive oil and cheese production are the largest contributors.

In March 2021, creative minds from all over the world met to find ways on how Industry 4.0 solutions might be applied to monitor and control this waste problem. During this virtual Innovation Sprint, 18 representatives from 14 European and African companies joined forces to develop one-of-a-kind solutions. Bob Sawadogo, who had learnt about the latest lot on leverist.de, was one of them. After reviewing the call for application to the next Innovation Sprint, he immediately got in contact via the online form on leverist.de.

When asked what motivated him to join the lot process, Bob emphasizes: “I wanted to participate to exchange ideas with international experts and entrepreneurs on how to minimize water consumption and waste generation”. Located in Burkina Faso, he works in industrial development and owns a company called CCEIM Burkina. His aim is to raise awareness for new working methods and techniques (safety & security), assure lifelong learning for the workforce and assist in the set-up of machines and industrial chains. “I was particularly interested in the idea of jointly developing solutions. Furthermore, the innovative side and the management of industrial procedures to avoid resource waste appealed to me”, he adds.

© Leon, Unsplash 2019.

At the end of the 5-day Innovation Sprint, four unique business models, which reduce both waste production and water use via Industry 4.0, had emerged. “We must learn to better manage our resources and consumption, otherwise we will be faced with an immense lack of water, especially potable one”, Bob concludes.

Following the Innovation Sprint, the development teams enter a four-month incubation phase. During this period, they transform their business models into market ready products or services. To this end, they receive advice and support to set-up start-ups or joint ventures for the Tunisian market. After all, their market-ready offer should not only contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also be economically profitable.

We are thrilled to see how their business designs and market pilots will look like. If you want to know which idea will make it to business operations, make sure to visit lot 10 for updates. Thanks to creative initiatives from the lab of tomorrow and leverist.de, development cooperation is becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial than ever.

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The lab of tomorrow (lot) is an initiative by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Initiated in 2016, fifteen processes have either successfully been completed, or are about to start the Innovation Sprint.

leverist.de is a free online platform operated by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The platform showcases business opportunities in the context of development cooperation and connects interested companies with local experts.

© Hero Imaeg: Daniele Franchi, Unsplash 2020.