A conversation with Matteo Vignoli on measuring the impact of education
On a quick stop from his daily working routine, Matteo cheerfully accepts to answer our questions on his "beloved" IdeaSquare —a project he believed on from the very beginning. A committed member of ATTRACT and an active editor of IdeaSquare's Journal of Innovation, he is now trying to figure out the success of IdeaSquare's Challenge-Based Innovation Programme to replicate it in his home university in Bologna.
Q. Matteo, you were one of the first collaborators of IdeaSquare. What are you currently doing there?
A. Besides coordinating the Challenge-Based Innovation Programme, I'm running a thesis with one of my students on how to tangibly calculate the impact that students generate in companies after finishing their stay at IdeaSquare. We are now collecting the data for the last two years and trying to define what is the value of i2’s Challenge-Based Innovation Programme, and how do companies perceive this. I will use these data for the editorial piece of the next CIJ issue.
So, you are kind of like “quantifying” the impact of studying at IdeaSquare.
Exactly. This student has been counting the number of publications of 72 PhD students who took part in the Innovation 4 Change (I4C) programme at IdeaSquare. Then, we compared the publication output of these students (the study group) with that of other 72 PhD students who did not attend I4C (the control group). It basically concluded that attending the I4C programme at IdeaSquare significantly increases the publication and entrepreneurship output of those students.
Interesting. And why do you think this is?
Well, IdeaSquare has this wonderful ability to connect scientists with society. To name an example, Eli? (name and last name?), one of the CBI ex coordinators, always said that she had been positively “contaminated” by everything happening at IdeaSquare. She loved the multidisciplinary mix between science, arts, SDGs, the technologies… And she used this varied approach also in her research. Also, Silvia LAST NAME, another CBI coordinator, was absolutely fascinated by the scientists’ interactions happening at IdeaSquare. In her case, that crystallized into the development of different tools to facilitate the encounter between students, companies, and scientists. If you ask me, everyone who comes into IdeaSquare leaves richer —both in experience and in opportunities.
Did you actually develop something at IdeaSquare?
Yes, we did. We launched this tool together called Science2Technology (S2T), which is a different way to create scenarios that fosters the collaboration between scientists, technicians and students. Another development are the so-called “tech-cards”, a resource which aims to “rephrase” scientistic language into an “comprehensible” narrative that regular people, students and companies can actually understand. At the end of the day, IdeaSquare is a place where, if you have an idea —however random—, you will be welcome.
Is there anything that you haven’t done yet?
Many things! I’m exploring the possibility of doing something in the field of food —the food of the future. It may be something related to social activism, a scientific tool that left an impact on local ecosystems. Food is the start of many things and IdeaSquare could the perfect place where to connect food and science. And of course, there is ATTRACT, our next challenge, which I’m sure will soon bring amazing new solutions and services to society.
What would you do if you had unlimited resources to invest in IdeaSquare?
I would try to replicate its technology transfer model to different research centers around Europe —at least this is what I am currently trying to do in Bologna. And probably try to open the space to more universities, especially the ones that have less means to send their students to CERN. Last but not least, I would love to come up with further ways to connect the scientific community with students and companies.
Matteo Vignoli is an assistant professor in Management Science and Engineering at the University of Bologna and Academic Director of BBS React Innovation Program and Corporate Digital & Innovation Management Programme. He is also the operative coordinator of the Bologna Factory for Open Innovation. He is a founding member of the Challenge-Based Innovation initiative at IdeaSquare. He is currently part of the Editorial Board of CERN IdeaSquare Journal of Innovation, CIJ.