Last week, Medellín’s mayor and secretary of economic development joined together with technology incubator Ruta N to launch a new “Creation Laboratory” that will promote innovation in Colombia’s second largest city. The main goals of this “Laboratorio de Creación” are to train more than 2,000 people in new skills and help area companies develop 800 prototypes.
The plan is years in the making. Since 2013, officials have been working on an idea to provide a space — equipped with the proper technology and qualified staff — that will help organizations and people throughout Medellín create product prototypes and innovative designs.
“Places like this are important for Medellín because they are the starting point for innovation to become the main driver of the city’s economy and its future sustainability,” said María Fernanda Galeano, Medellín’s secretary of economical development.
Photo: A woman uses new technology to craft her prototype in the Creation Lab, launched by Ruta N and the city of Medellin this month in Colombia’s second largest city. (Credit: Ruta N)
At the Creation Lab, entrepreneurs from organizations large and small are able to join participant in various programs and workshops intended to enhance their creative and business skills. Each offers the assistance of trained professionals in every stage of the process. “The program is organized around a fast, 16-hour schedule, with four stages of four hours each,” said Andrés Felipe López, manager of organizational innovation at Ruta N.
One workshop track is based upon “assistance” and designed for companies that have already put in some time to evaluate the market potential of their idea. They can then come ready to further develop the concept while leaning on the research of the Creation Lab and advice of Ruta N professionals to help decide whether their solution is something that is actually innovative.
After that, the creation process will begin with courses centered around how to use the design tools. The lab offers both more traditional metal-working and fabrication equipment as well as the new-age laser-cutting and 3D-printing technology. Ruta N staff will teach people how to use each one.
Lopez says that the last part of the program is focused on bringing innovations to market. This phase is about “making the business model so that you can make money, develop the idea, and make it sustainable.” No matter the outcome, companies will retain all the rights over their prototype or other ideas that they develop in the lab.
The other component of the main program focuses on “training.” In this path, participants can take advantage of 20 courses that are divided in five categories: business model, service design, prototype, creating, and validations. Entrepreneurs can choose to take one workshop, several workshops, or all of the workshops depending upon their time and interest level.
Ultimately, those behind the new space want people to use it in a way that will improve their organization and add innovation to the city. “The Creation Lab will allow companies to make their ideas into reality — in a conversation with the client, so the process will be faster,” said Alejandro Franco, director of Ruta N. “It fulfills a need because not all the companies have innovation centers to send their team just to sit and think.”
But the lab is not solely designed for those in the private sector. “It is very important to make partnerships with universities so they can join in the entrepreneurship,” said Galeano. “Then, they will be able to see a style of life that is full of opportunities.”
Ruta N and the Creation Lab hope to attract public officials and governmental workers as well. They want to teach those in the public sector the skills that will inspire them to design new solutions and services that improve the lives of people in Colombia.
While the lab is only becoming a reality now, it is rooted in Medellín’s longer-term government plan to focus on science, technology, and innovation. This project is just one of the many initiatives that the city is betting on to help reach its ambitious goal of having 60% of the city’s companies involved in innovation activities by 2021.
Franco said that this lab is one of just a few like it in Latin America. For him, that makes it something to be proud of — not only for Ruta N and the mayor’s office but for people who will benefit from this development. “This is for everyone, and it has been thought of as a learning-while-doing project that does not take too much time,” said Franco.
Thanks to Medellín’s efforts to become a leading city of innovation, the Creation Lab will require no fee for many services. Those interested, can register or find a full list of requirements for companies at the Ruta N website. Anyone in search of more information can also contact the organizers through email ([email protected] or [email protected]), Facebook, or Twitter.