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Idea Fountain (Ideapulputtamo) refines employee´s ideas to the next level

In the City of Kuopio suggestions for in-house development will be easier to submit with the implementation of a new tool for creating ideas.

The service user’s involvement is an essential part of co-creation. This is actually not a single method or approach, but more of an attitude. Co-creation is a dialogue where the parties have a true opportunity to influence the development of a service, approach or, for instance, a strategy. 

- The objective of co-creation is to benefit from collective intelligence. The city needs creativity and its people have creative ideas; you just have to encourage the crowd a little bit to speak up, says Jussi Sivonen, Senior Consultant of IT solutions provider Valtti Kumppanit Oy.

Effective co-creation is possible on both physical and virtual platforms. Earlier in-house suggestions submitted by the City of Kuopio employees were collected through a suggestion box service. However, unidirectional service required a lot of time and background knowledge from the users. 

The suggestion box practices were pepped up in spring 2020 with the introduction of Idea Fountain or Ideapulttaamo in Finnish, which is a Teams channel for the city employees for submitting and developing new ideas and suggestions for activities.

- At first Idea Fountain was targeted especially at developing ideas for the changes caused by the coronavirus. It works alongside the existing suggestion form system and introduces co-creation principles to the activity, says Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen, Strategy Director of the City of Kuopio. 

A simple Teams channel was a good kick-off and a step to the right direction, but that has its challenges, too. The channel was not really quite flexible enough for all that creative thinking by hundreds of people or for the suggestion box process. Follow-up and measurement of ideas was complicated because everything had to be done manually. Idea Fountain 2.0 version is being co-created by service design methods in the Human-Centric Digital Municipality project.

- Valo Ideas module, which can be described as a Teams add-on, was chosen as the solution. In other words, Teams is still the platform for the new Idea Fountain, but with the more concrete and visual add-on, innovation is easier than ever, says Jussi Sivonen, who shouldered responsibility for the technical side of the development project.

Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen says that the add-on was tested in the end of 2021 and early this year. Based on feedback, Idea Fountain functions will be polished and streamlined further before its launch to all employees in summer 2022.

- Implementation of the module will be introduced to the personnel before the launch. For instance video lessons about how to implement Idea Fountain will be made for the personnel, Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen says. 

Line managers engaged in the dialogue

Basically, the novel version of Idea Fountain allows line managers engage in the dialogue from the start. This ensures that the ideas which are viable and in compliance with the strategy, will be quickly and directly put either to use or introduced to the decision-making process. Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen says the city organisation recognises the fact that the best ideas are created at the grass-roots level where actors also know best what is happening.

- Transparency is the most significant feature of the upgrade for now everyone can see the progress of the initiatives. The dialogue is followed also by directors, who have the authority to take the matters forward, says Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen.

Although the development process is for all and everyone and grass-roots level ideas are more than welcome, the responsibility of implementing the ideas lies with the superiors. The development step ensures that initiatives and suggestions will not be just an interesting discussion or a good idea, but they will be put forward. Smaller ideas can be put to practice then and there and the more extensive ones made into individual development projects.

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Savilahti innovations boost the viability of the region

The vision for the future is the multisectoral Kuopio Savilahti digital innovation platform, which brings together the multidisciplinary expertise of different organizations. The platform could bring together experts from various working fields, who will be able to work on the ideas that have emerged for example from the Idea Fountain.

There is a serious need for such a platform as Kuopio Campus of the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and Kuopio University Hospital (KYS) annually produce more than 2,500 scientific articles between them. At the moment the manuscripts are not actively screened for commercial potential. 

- As it happens, only a little over one per cent of the publications will lead to the notification of an innovation. A couple of those will eventually be patented or commercialised. The number should be several times - or tens of times - higher, Juha Töyräs, Development and Innovation Director of Kuopio University Hospital, says.

In Juha Töyräs’ opinion the challenge of innovation is researchers’ and clinicians’ insufficient competence and know-how in the field of patenting and commercialisation. Moreover, the academic world lacks practically all incentives for innovation.

- Vision is easily lost when you do not recognise the opportunities and possibilities, competence is limited and incentives virtually non-existent. In the top universities commercialisation is a standard procedure and financially significant for the university. Recognition, management and development of inventions is often outsourced to a unit which complies with the commercial principles, Juha Töyräs says.

The vision of Savilahti is to be the most interesting learning and innovation environment for smart health and well-being solutions in Europe. The vision was set up in the Kuopio Ecosystem Contract for innovation with an objective of promoting both the public and private sector cooperation in the innovation market. One way to attain the objective is to create a digital innovation platform, organised in place of the existing form-based innovation notifications.

- The platform is a meeting point, where researchers, students, local residents and business representatives can freely ping-pong their ideas. Ideas can be assessed by teams of experts or by crowdsourcing, for instance, local residents to like good suggestions. If an invention is sensible with commercial potential, it will progress on the platform to the next level, i.e. for instance to be evaluated by a team of business angels and from there to a potential financial sponsor, Juha Töyräs explains.

The system can be compared to mechanical gold mining. When you shovel enough “gravel” to the chute, you will separate flakes and nuggets much more efficiently than you would by traditional panning. An idea may be based on scientific research, practical experience or a combination of the two. If development is carried out without a systematic development scheme, the risk of wasting money on an already existing or an unnecessary solution is high. Once the development of the new innovation platform is completed, scenarios like that can be easily avoided which saves time and money.

- Close cooperation with researchers, users and industry provides information for the researchers to know what to research and for companies to know what to develop. This way local businesses in Kuopio could be constantly engaged in the latest and most up-to-date innovations rising from research and practical needs.

In addition to innovations, the platform could organise hackathons and offer topics for final and thesis projects.

- The university hospital and state-of-the-art university programmes and research projects are Kuopio’s assets. In addition to innovation, export of health and well-being services and educational services could bring money, new businesses and viability to the region, Juha Töyräs sums up.

Text: Oodia/Heta Jyrälä

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Human-Centric Digital Municipality project (1.1.2020–31.12.2022) is funded by European Social Fund (ESF), South Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY), the City of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences.