Bottom-up innovation

We usually associate the word “innovation” with high-tech labs and state-of-the-art technology. But what about the vast majority of the world’s population that does not have access to such infrastructures of excellence? Is innovation a luxury only to be enjoyed by the privileged? This year, swissnex Brazil is focusing its attention on another type of innovation: a more social, bottom-up innovation, which has not only been present in Brazil for decades but which has gained renewed importance in times of political and economic crisis in the country.

Contrary to popular belief innovation does not need to be highly technological, in fact, bottom-up innovation focuses on finding solutions to a given problem with a minimum of tools available. It is in frugal environments where creativity and an innovative spirit can thrive and where out-of-the box ideas are born and most needed. As defined by the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Center for Innovation, “a social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.”

Departing from this concept we decided to focus our attention on the endless opportunities for collaboration present between Switzerland and Brazil in the area of bottom-up and social innovation. As luck would have it we stumbled upon a group of motivated micro-engineering Bachelor students who had developed a low-tech, open-source sensor that may be attached to a bicycle and which measures a number of different pollution indicators. This provided exactly the right tool for a participatory project that connected cyclists, makers, scientists and transportation experts to think about the future of urban mobility. Click here for more details about our Mapping Parties in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and the Resilient Cities Smart Citizens Seminar!

Malin Borg, Deputy CEO and Academic Relations swissnex Brazil