Kaunas University of Technology’s (KTU), Faculty of Economics and Business recently hosted Professor Solomon Darwin, an academic from the University of Berkley, and one of the founders of the Berkley Innovation Forum (BIF). During his visit, this renowned expert in business innovation shared valuable insights on the possibilities of collaboration between business and academia, and how Lithuania can become an innovation leader.
As a representative of the Berkley Innovation Forum worldwide, what benefits, in your opinion, does this forum bring?
Solomon Darwin: The Berkley Innovation Forum is the main reason behind my visit to Lithuania. We are exploring how Berkley University can contribute to the development of potential innovation leaders in the Baltic countries. Lithuania is a strong candidate to transition from moderate innovation to becoming a country at the forefront of innovation.
Working with various companies at Berkley, such as NVIDIA, Google, IBM, and others, we analyze market development strategies, search for successful business models, and address sustainability challenges. BIF has been operating for many years, and it is essential to understand that Silicon Valley is not the only hub of knowledge and innovation. Knowledge is formed, and innovation emerges in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other countries. Our task is to discover innovative ideas and socially responsible individuals and businesses that can contribute to creating a better world.
We are also looking for ways to involve young nations in the process. Innovations do not only come from established giants in the world economy. They often arise from agile and fast entities. I believe the Baltic countries possess these characteristics, making them excellent candidates for collaboration with Berkley. This collaboration could involve the development of academic networks and joint decision-making processes, focusing on preserving the planet and improving the living conditions of people worldwide.
We have been collaborating with KTU’s Faculty of Economics and Business for five years. Professor Asta Pundzienė has participated in BIF nine times, and this year she presented on sustainable digital health technologies. I see that KTU’s Faculty of Economics and Business has the potential to develop similar activities to BIF.
We are thrilled about your visit to Lithuania. How, in your opinion, can Lithuanian businesses contribute to the Smart Villages movement?
Solomon Darwin: During my short visit, I have already heard many great ideas. For example, yesterday I met with a professor who developed an easily accessible energy supply solution. Today, I was introduced to even more inspiring ideas, such as digital healthcare services accessible in remote regions and patient monitoring at home. I believe that by collaborating on pilot projects and adapting ideas that can be used in different markets, we can unlock significant potential together.
Considering that Lithuania is a small country, it needs a market to realize its products and services. For instance, India, with its 1.4 billion population, is the largest consumer base globally. If an innovative Lithuanian company could create a solution tailored to this market, it would not only bring value to the interested individuals there but also secure a large customer base.
Numerous companies in Silicon Valley actively seek new innovative solutions in various sectors, and Lithuania has the capabilities to provide them. At the same time, countries like India offer vast market opportunities for implementing solutions.
In your view, how can business and the academic community help each other thrive and grow? What are the key factors and conditions in this context?
Solomon Darwin: We need collaboration and engagement. Academics often focus so much on their work that they overlook market changes. And if they do pay attention, they may not fully appreciate the importance of business models. Business models are exceptionally important to us because creating technology and innovation without them is meaningless. Here again, I see this competency in KTU’s Faculty of Economics and Business and the potential for collaboration.
However, it is crucial that these business models are not solely driven by typical business greed. Together, both business and the academic community need to create an ecosystem that benefits everyone.
In conclusion, what is your opinion on the level of partnership between business and academic institutions in Lithuania and the Baltic region? What are the main strengths and weaknesses of our region?
Solomon Darwin: From what I see and hear, people here are truly willing to collaborate and create, although your countries, compared to the US, the UK, or other large economies, are relatively young, small, and less heard of. Given your young age, lesser recognition, and openness, I believe you should actively invite people to come, see, get acquainted, and collaborate. This is also the goal of the Berkley Innovation Forum. This forum should not be limited to Silicon Valley only. It can also be here. We can mutually help each other grow and improve.
Moreover, I notice that the attitude here is much more favorable compared to larger countries. The leopard is fast precisely because it is small. The US is like an elephant – big but slow. We should take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate with Lithuania as this small, but agile and energetic leopard, and support your growth. In doing so, we all benefit.
The partnership between KTU and Berkley University is part of the “In4Act” project, implemented by the KTU Faculty of Economics and Business, funded by the European Union’s “Horizon 2020” project.