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Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Lahti, one of Finland’s most exciting hubs for new technology and design. The historic city, about an hour’s drive from Helsinki, is home to some of Finland’s most successful companies including Kemppi, the world-leading producer of welding solutions, and Isku, the highly acclaimed furniture manufacturer. We had been invited to give the closing presentation at the ‘2015 Lahti Science Day’ and meet with some of the research, development & innovation (RDI) leaders of the Nordic city. Despite growing up in Finland, I had never visited Lahti before so I took the opportunity to immerse myself in the city’s booming start-up culture and learn more about what Lahti had to offer.

The Lahti Science Day is an annual event that brings together a diverse crowd of people from the design and technology community. For the closing presentation, I gave a talk entitled ‘Lasting Innovation: Creating Successful Products’ that centred around two major themes:

  • using a job-focused approach to identify and define innovation opportunities

  • increasing innovation success by pre-validating concepts with stakeholders

These messages seemed to resonate with Lahti’s design community who already have a strong focus on consumer-centric design. Through a number of case studies, we looked at the value of using low-fidelity prototypes to simulate the stakeholder experience prior to undertaking a full-scale product development process. A short overview of Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP)’s Potential Realised process – our integrated approach for optimising innovation investment - also sparked interest and provoked discussion around the techniques for identifying innovation opportunities in unmet stakeholder needs.

The importance of innovation strategy was at the heart of the conversation throughout the day. The prestigious design institute at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences is in the middle of an exciting campus restructuring to provide a fertile landscape for forward-thinking design work. I spent the morning on campus with the university’s RDI directors and senior lecturers, learning about their vision and providing insight into best practices for inducing and harnessing creativity.

I also met with the movers and shakers of the Lahti Region Development Company (LADEC) who visited CDP last spring to learn about our approach to innovation. LADEC is getting ready to launch its novel ‘Co-Design Bay’ model that looks to showcase and export the unique capabilities found in Lahti. Perhaps the finest aspect of this model is how it has been carefully tailored to connect and leverage the complex network of parties involved in the city’s design and business ecosystem.

Two days was far too short an amount of time to spend in such an exciting environment. It was inspiring to see both small and large businesses in the Lahti area investing in development with the hope of becoming the next big success story in the region. With many years’ experience bringing ground-breaking new products to market, CDP is in an ideal position to support such companies secure a place in the global marketplace with the ‘next big thing’ – and values building partnerships with technology & design hubs across the world to fuel creativity and boost innovation.

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