The first Finland-Mexico Innovation Camp (FINMEXINNO) has just wrapped up. Over an intensive two weeks in February and March 2023, students from the Global Innovation Management Program (GIM) and students from EGADE Business School at Tec de Monterrey, Mexico, worked together to develop innovative solutions to address the global issue of the rise in overweight and obesity.
The innovation camp, the first of a two-year program initiative, was funded by Finnish National Agency for Education – TFK (Team Finland Knowledge) Program, which supports innovative short-term staff and student exchange to foster international partnerships between Finnish and Latin American universities and institutions.
The innovation journey began on the 18th of February in Turku and ended on the 6th of March in Mexico City. Five students from EGADE Business School were accompanied by Professor Sascha Fuerst and MBA Director Lilia Estela Bárcena Caballero. University of Turku participated with six students from the GIM programme, docent Peter Zettinig and Jonathan Van Mumford from Turku School of Economics and project coordinator Minna Storm from the Functional Foods Forum.
Over the two weeks, students engaged with a high-level delegation of Finnish and Mexican companies, research institutes, and international experts who provided inputs to a design thinking and service prototyping process. Partners included experts in the fields of medicine, food science, and policy, and representatives from organisations ranging from food innovation start-ups and SMEs, to large multinational enterprises.
The theme of this year’s camp was “Developing Solutions for Overweight and Obesity”. According to the OECE (2019), “Overweight‑related diseases are expected to cause life expectancy to decrease by 2.7 years on average in OECD countries over the next 30 years; they are also expected to give rise to treatment costs equivalent to 8.4% of health spending”. However, despite growing concerns among health experts and policymakers, this global issue remains intractable. Individual firms interested in solutions for the problem are often only able to focus on a limited number of dimensions and factors to manage or reduce overweight or obesity.
The problem however is holistic and needs to take many different factors into account, including: nutrition, physical activity, genetic influencers, socio-economic factors, education, social influences, distorted realities transferred through social media, mental health, access to medication, access to healthy, affordable, and convenient food, and habits and habit change.
The aim of the FINNMEX Innovation Camp was to be a design thinking platform and method to integrate the perspectives, resources, and activities of various actors to develop prototypes of new products, services and systems aimed at addressing the causes and consequences of overweightness and obesity in society. To this end, students collaborated in an intensive series of workshops across multiple boundaries to develop innovation competencies in an interactive and useful atmosphere together with the partners. At the end of the camp, students presented (live at the EGADE campus in Mexico City, and online via Zoom) their detailed ideas for innovative new business concepts on an ecosystem level along with plans for international commercialisation.
The innovation camp has been a continuation and deepening of the partnership between EGADE Business School and Turku School of Economics, which started during the autumn 2022 in a joint virtual course where close to 100 students participated.