CRE8®: an innovation-challenge event model that has wings2023-02-27
CRE8® is a model for innovation-challenge events, developed by the Grants and Innovation Office at Karlstad University. A public or private organization provides a real-world operational challenge to which teams of students try to find solutions. Since it was first introduced in 2017, the CRE8® model has become a very successful concept. With funding from Erasmus+, Karlstad University is now training facilitators to run CRE8® events around Europe. Recently, a group of prospective facilitators came to Karlstad for training. They also got the opportunity to witness a real CRE8® event taking place.
A well-developed concept
The first CRE8® event took place in 2017 and the concept was developed by the Grants and Innovation Office with funding from Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency. Since then, Karlstad University has carried out CRE8® events with challenging tasks from researchers, start-ups, SMEs, public actors, and large companies, including multinationals.
Students register for the challenge individually and the facilitator puts the teams together. The task-owner and challenge are unknown to students beforehand and are revealed on the day of the event itself.
A CRE8® is carried out during one day and starts with a public or private organization (the ‘task-owner’) providing a real-world operational challenge. This challenge is presented to multidisciplinary teams of three to five students. The students work within their teams for approximately three hours to develop the most creative solutions. These solutions are pitched to a jury, which includes the task-owners. The best solution wins a symbolic prize and all students receive diplomas.
The CRE8® process is designed to encourage multidisciplinary student teams to come up with the most creative solutions possible to a specific challenge, with a minimum of time used by them and the task-owner. The results given to the task-owner are, often radically, new perspectives on their future business/role, opportunities and challenges. This type of challenging event enhances students’ team-working and problem-solving skills, and gives them insight into the task-owner’s operations. It also develops their presentation skills.
Throughout the day, the students are not allowed to use internet-connected devices, in order to maximize creativity. The only tools they are permitted are pen and paper. The teams work on their solutions, with each team in its own room. Each team then delivers a five-minute pitch to the jury, with all team members participating equally, followed by 10 minutes for the jury to ask questions.
The understanding of the terms innovation and value are essential in the CRE8® process, where innovation can be interpreted as new ways to create value and value can be monetary, environmental, social, human or a pure experience – most solutions include several of these.
Moelven was the task-owner
The CRE8® event that took place a few days ago, had Moelven as its task-owner. Moelven is an international timber processing group that sells on raw materials for processing in other industries, but also uses them for its own wood products. The challenge Moelven presented for the students was ”How does Moelven become an attractive employer offering a place for the whole family and for a variety of lifestyles?”
- Moelven had many ideas internally, but found it difficult to open up to external ideas. When we then found an existing concept, it became so much easier for us. It's a special skill to be able to facilitate, to 'steer creativity' so that the answers are as “pure” as possible. This was the first opportunity for us to test this concept. Perhaps this will be an eye-opener, says Magne Vikören, Director of Communications at Moelven.
The participating students came from Karlstad University, the Wood Technology Department at Hammarö and Karlstad Technology Centre.
- It is gratifying that students from vocational education are also taking part in this, as bringing together groups with different skills and experience gives the pitches even more relevance for us, says Magne Vikören.
Train the trainer
The day before the CRE8® event, a group of prospective facilitators from Spain, Bulgaria and Denmark visited the Grants and Innovation Office for a day of training. The idea is that they will be able to implement this knowledge by organizing CRE8® events themselves at their respective universities.
- This is a very good idea for learning how to implement a new concept, says Iñigo de la Parra, representing University of Navarra in Spain.
Not only did the prospective facilitators get the chance to observe an actual CRE8® event taking place, but also to learn about the process leading up to an event, from start to finish. As with any event, planning is key. In this case, facilitators must be trained and connection with and selection of prospective task-owners needs to be established. You also need to find suitable venues for the event itself, to recruit multidisciplinary student cohorts, and to plan evaluation.
- These days have shown how important an innovation eco-system is. We would never have been able to do this so well without the help of actors like Drivhuset, Paper Province, Glava Energy Center and our colleagues at Karlstad University, says Patrik Bångerius of the Grants and Innovation Office at Karlstad university.