Bridging the innovation divide: accelerators, incubators and fostering national technology champions

Digital World Blog

How can accelerators and incubators work to foster innovation and entrepreneurship? This was the question debated by a lively and highly-experienced panel drawn from three continents under the inquiring moderation of Dan Simmons of BBC World News Click Online.

David Maasz, CEO, Entrepreneurship Foundation, summarised the wisdom of over twenty years building internet startups, motivating others to execute and mentoring entrepreneurs inspired to make the world a better place: it’s all about personal relationships. And those relationships are built on cooperation, on trust, shared values and mindset.

Silicon Valley expert Ron Sege, President and CEO of Echelon Corporation, agreed: “Horizontal collaboration is one of the stand-out differences that contributed to the success of Silicon Valley, bringing individuals from different walks of life together.”

Listening to start-ups to know their various concepts and needs in connecting to local ecosystems, Isidro Laso Ballesteros, Head of Startup Europe Sector, European Commission, is amazed at how unconnected to each other they remain: “We need to make sure they are connected to each other and at the nexus of investors, potential customers, other startups and SMEs.”

Approaching the same issue from another angle, Stian Westllake, Executive Director of Policy and Research at Nesta, finds a good place to start is in using big data to understand a country’s innovation ecosystem, to study innovation policy in different governments and to research what works and what doesn’t.

It seems to be working in Rwanda, as Alline Kabbatende, Chief Operating Officer, RwandaOnline Platform, explained: “Rwanda has risen from a very sad past to become one of the leading competitive countries in Africa, recognizing innovation in all spheres of government,” from a single e government portal for businesses to e government services in partnership with the public sector and working with upcoming tech companies to develop services, train new graduates and boost practical ICT skills. It’s an holistic approach focused on education and government services to establish ICT-based innovation for the public good.

Asked why what works so patently well in Silicon Valley cannot be simply transplanted elsewhere n the world, Ron Sege pointed out that there is some kind of magic alchemy, a mix of different ingredients – but the most important of all is to foster a culture and environment of risk taking. “It is an hour to have failed and almost a stigma not to have,” he said. “The only failure is not thinking big enough.”


  • Dan Simmons, Presenter and Senior Producer, Click, BBC World News, United Kingdom


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