In the realm of innovation and collaboration, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Alumni has carved out a unique niche with its EIT Alumni Nodes. These Nodes, embedded within the EIT's dynamic ecosystem, foster collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit.
To delve into this fascinating network, we sat down with Francisco Veiga Simão, a pivotal member of the EIT Alumni Board who leads the strategy for the EIT Alumni Nodes and Ecosystem Development. In this blog, we'll take a deep dive into Francisco's background, the fabulous team behind the first node, and the remarkable value proposition of this ambitious project, an initiative co-led alongside Maayan Sharon, Innovation and Business Creation Manager at EIT Hub Israel.
A Glimpse into Francisco's journey and background
From an early age, Francisco's passion for nature preservation and sustainable practices ignited. Through his academic journey in Geology, he focused on mining waste valorisation that reached a culmination with his Marie Curie PhD in Sustainable Building Materials from KU Leuven/Wienerberger, where he upcycled mining waste in ceramic bricks and roof tiles. Apart from his academic background, Francisco has a strong entrepreneurial mindset and co-founded two startups in geo-tourism and e-waste management, as well as an NGO focusing on climate change and mitigation projects across nine Portuguese-speaking countries. Francisco has six years of international experience in several European countries, making him a natural community builder, changemaker, and public speaker for global development and sustainable innovation.
Joining the EIT Alumni community
Francisco's first brush with the EIT was through the transformative experience of The Journey 2018, a climate innovation summer school hosted by EIT Climate-KIC. His startup pitch won him accolades and paved the way for his business idea around e-waste management, "WEEE-DO," to be incubated at UtrechtInc, the Netherlands. Subsequently, he became part of the EIT RawMaterials community through the EIT Jumpstarter competition. Driven by the enriching experiences, Francisco embraced the role of giving back. Serving on the EIT RawMaterials Alumni Board and later becoming its President, he was appointed to the EIT Alumni Board, leading the Alumni Nodes and Ecosystem Development.
Unravelling EIT Alumni Nodes and Ecosystem Development
Alumni Nodes is a pioneering project by EIT Alumni to establish physical spaces for innovators and entrepreneurs from the Alumni community. These spaces serve as incubators for their ideas, fostering networking and leveraging local and EIT-wide innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystems. On the other hand, Ecosystem Development aims to amplify the relationships between EIT Alumni and various EIT micro-communities and initiatives, such as the EIT Global Hubs, and Deep Tech Talent Initiative, and connect the global alumni with a broad I&E network.
The Project Officers behind the first EIT Alumni Node
The success of EIT Alumni Nodes is underpinned by a talented team of alumni. Eight Project Officers, representing different EIT alumni communities across Europe and beyond, were selected as part of a highly competitive process and now form four working groups. Their tasks span from location assessment to value proposition, branding, and community engagement. Their collective efforts have narrowed down potential Nodes locations and crystallised a value proposition that encompasses co-working spaces, unparalleled networking events, mentorship, and more.
Distinguishing the Alumni Nodes from EIT Co-Location Centres and Knowledge and Innovation Communities
While Co-Location Centres (CLCs) and Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) act as hubs for innovation, Alumni Nodes extend the arm of the EIT to nurture Alumni innovators across various fields. These Nodes bridge gaps in startup support, offering best practices, and success stories to fuel community growth. The Nodes' essence lies in enhancing networking and infusing local and global expertise, ultimately attracting startups and talent ‘to the playground’.
EIT Alumni Nodes: Making strides
The journey of EIT Alumni Nodes has been marked by significant strides. The team, dedicated to mapping potential Node locations, has identified two promising physical spaces. Their efforts were met with enthusiasm from Co-Location Centres in top two European cities, recognised for their innovative capabilities and entrepreneurial opportunities.
On the cusp of establishment
While tangible physical locations for the Nodes are still in the works, conversations are in full swing. Two potential locations have emerged, and negotiations with Co-Location Centres and potential local partners are underway, promising exciting developments by the end of 2023.
A Glimpse into the future
The road ahead for EIT Alumni Nodes is paved with exciting plans. Closing agreements with the first Node, workshops on business models, partnerships with local stakeholders, branding and marketing channels, and a grand launch event await. In the span of 1, 2, and 5 years, the vision is to establish a global network of hotspots, funnelling the energies of innovators towards tackling societal challenges. These Nodes are set to expand to every key innovative location with an EIT presence, bolstering talent retention and nurturing the growth of Alumni innovators and entrepreneurs.
Empowering innovators: The legacy of “the Nodes”
In a world hungry for innovation, the EIT Alumni Nodes stand tall as physical playgrounds for business excellence. The legacy they carve is one of empowerment, collaboration, and breakthroughs that transcend industries. As the Nodes project envisions its global network, the stage is set for a sustainable future built by the doers, thinkers, and creators of the EIT Alumni community.
If you are eager to learn more about the EIT Alumni Nodes project and would like to engage with the team as an innovator or partner, feel free to contact us:
Francisco Veiga Simão: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maayan Sharon: email@example.com