Envisioning An Ecosystem: MIT REAP Cohort 5 Successfully Completes Workshop 1

October 30, 2017

Members of MIT REAP Team Melbourne at MIT REAP Workshop 1 October 17, 2017

Envisioning An Ecosystem: MIT REAP Cohort 5 Successfully Completes Workshop 1

“Key stakeholders brought together”

On October 15-18, 2017, the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) welcomed its 5th Cohort of eight global teams from Algeria, Australia, Ecuador, Ghana, Lebanon, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This is the first of four workshops during the two-year program, Workshop 1 themed “Envisioning Ecosystems” introduced the eight teams to the MIT REAP frameworks, provided a window into the Greater Boston/Cambridge innovation ecosystem, and supported them in developing a vision for their innovation ecosystems.

An initiative of the MIT Sloan Office of International Programs (OIP), MIT REAP (reap.mit.edu) provides opportunities for global communities to engage with MIT in an evidence-based, practical approach to strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems. MIT considers IDEs as newly formed businesses that have a competitive advantage resulting from an innovation-driven solution to critical problems and use these solutions as the basis for high growth potential. MIT REAP admits teams from six to eight partner regions annually to work alongside MIT leadership over a two-year period to increase the rate of IDE growth in their particular region. MIT REAP’s Workshops bring the regional teams together to focus on frameworks (Workshop` 1), strategy (Workshop 2), implementation (Workshop 3), and sustainability (Workshop 4). Between each workshop, the teams enter an Action Phase period where they commit to a specific set of deliverables and milestones to be completed in their home region before the following Workshop. Upon completion of the program, REAP Alumni will join the Global Innovation Network (GIN) where they can continue to engage with one another and implement new strategic interventions focused on supporting entrepreneurs.

Prior to coming to MIT, Cohort 5 teams kicked-off in July 2017 the first of four action-learning cycles comprised of both in-person Workshops and virtual Action Phases. All Cohort 5 Teams successfully completed Workshop 1, which is a major step in developing both short and long term goals for each team’s future impact on their IDE ecosystem. During Workshop 1, the teams went through a process of analyzing the Innovation Capacity (I-Cap) and the Entrepreneurial Capacity (E-Cap) of their home region which included analyzing where their region stands in comparison to other regions on important measures such as new patent applications and fear of failure preventing would-be entrepreneurs from starting a business. Using this analysis, the teams were then able to start to build a case for a shared vision for the region. The teams also took into consideration both economic and social progress measures to set important supporting goals for the team’s vision. MIT REAP Team Yakutia for instance is focused on becoming the birthplace for globally ranked IDEs  and create a mass movement that will be measured by the impact of these businesses on regional GDP and percentage of aggregate job growth.

“The MIT REAP faculty and staff spend a lot of time understanding the goals of each regional team and we want to make sure the program is providing a path forward towards long-term economic and social progress in the region,” says Sarah Jane Maxted, MIT REAP’s Director.

REAP Team Lima for example, is over a year into the program and will work alongside the Cohort 5 teams at their second Workshop. Team Lima is focused on impacting their region by creating an environment for long-term sustainable innovation using the region’s unique biodiversity. Through the Ministry of Production, they have started the Reto Bio program which is producing the Bio Challenge where teams of entrepreneurs and innovators can receive funding for projects that emphasize the sustainable use of the diverse natural resources in the region. Projects like this are important to inspiring other teams within REAP Cohorts to create lasting strategic interventions that meet the goals of these diverse stakeholders.

By engaging influential members of each of the five key stakeholder groups (government, risk capital, universities, entrepreneurs and corporations), each team will improve employment outlook and fairness in the market through the power of IDE. For example, MIT REAP Team Ghana engaged many key stakeholders necessary to develop and implement a new vision for the National Service Secretariat as a driver of entrepreneurial job growth among the youth in the country. The team has brought together members from the five key stakeholder groups to focus on an improvement strategy for existing STEM education and translate that human capital into a stronger entrepreneurial spirit for the country.

“The leaders from these teams need community input to make real lasting change for the region. The broader community and network should engage with these leaders to continue the conversation and share input on how the ecosystem could improve over time,” says Maxted.

As the Cohort 5 teams launch into Action Phase 1 they will continue to gather data on the strengths and weaknesses of their regional systems through additional sources including surveys and focus groups with over 100 entrepreneurs. Using this data and analysis, the teams will move towards developing a well-informed strategy and continue to build consensus among their stakeholders and spring forward toward the next phase of the program when they come back to MIT in June 2018 for Workshop 2 – where they will focus on developing a strategic plan for the region.

“The program is truly about driving impact for the whole region. By cutting across traditional social and economic boundaries the REAP Teams are able to engage with stakeholders who care about improving their region through entrepreneurship. The Teams learn how to unlock many of the existing comparative advantages the region already has in order to empower the entrepreneurs,” says Maxted.