European Innovation Academy – Day 1

I’m at the European Innovation Academy (EIA) this week representing Tivix, giving a keynote speech and serving as a Chief Mentor during the program. There are 257 university students here from 17 different countries all over the world. During the program they will form teams around a particular idea, and then take that idea from early concept to a launch-ready venture in just three weeks. I’m here to help them succeed.

The EIA bills itself as the world’s largest extreme digital products accelerator, with sponsors from Silicon Valley (Google, Stanford, UC Berkeley) as well as Europe (Ferrarro, Intesa Sanpaolo). The program is held on the campus of one of Europe’s leading engineering universities, the Polytechnic University of Turin.

This year’s EIA themes are mobility and food production. Food production, of course, is one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of the 21st century. The fact is that we don’t currently produce enough food to adequately feed the 7.4 billion humans currently on the planet, let alone the 11 billion we’ll have by the end of the century. So we’ll need to find innovative new ways to improve crop yields and distribution if we are going to make a dent in this problem (Tivix has some experience and passion in this sector).

Fittingly, the building that we’re in has 100 years of innovation history. Designed in 1916 it was originally the Fiat factory – one of the world’s largest and most innovative car factories, in fact. Raw materials entered on the ground floor of this 5-story complex, went up through a complex production line, and finished cars came out the top then rolled down a spiral track and onto waiting delivery trucks. It was a miracle of 20th century production and several million cars were made here (fun fact: one of the chase scenes in The Italian Job (the original one) was filmed on the racetrack that Fiat built atop of the building).

The factory closed in 1982 and then the building was reborn as one of the great examples of innovation in urban planning. Rather than demolishing the giant building, an architectural competition was held for ideas on how it could be reused. Today it’s a modern complex with concert halls, theater, a convention center, and public spaces, and the eastern portion of the complex is the headquarters of the Engineering faculty of the Polytechnic University of Turin, which is hosting this EIA event.

So in the 1920s this building was the most innovative automotive factory in the world, in the 1980s it became an innovative example of urban planning, and this week the building is hosting the creation of new digital innovation.

I’m excited to be here at the EIA this week, representing Tivix.

Links for further reading:

The Lingotto building.

Its rooftop track.

The European Innovation Academy

Cool old video of the Fiat building.