The project – The Edge: Research and Business Development (www.theedge.solutions) is a new spin-off company of JA Bulgaria (www.jabulgaria.org), was created to fill-in the gap between innovative, high-tech academic research and its commercialization worldwide. The Edge: R&BD offers three types of services:
• Corporate innovation consulting: Organizational inertia, outdated business models and lack of proper leadership support can easily prevent innovation and growth, that is why, we help companies to innovate relying on the potential of qualified experts and talented academic researchers applying a special pre-incubation methodology and open innovation approach;
• Education and training: We consider innovation a specific function of entrepreneurship and something that distinguishes what is entrepreneurial from what is managerial. We offer variety of education and training programs for competence and mindset development based on 50+ years of experience;
• Startups mentoring: Building new businesses can be hard and the majority of the startups fail. Mentoring and facilitation is critical for their development. We apply structured innovation framework based on proven experience to help these companies to grow.
As an NGO, JA Bulgaria often finds it difficult to ensure sustainable funding for its activities especially R&D and program development or 5+ years curriculum design and implementation in schools. In addition to that, about 85% of our funding comes from the private sector which on the one hand is good because it means that there is a great demand for what we do but on the other hand is usually strictly project oriented and the length of the projects is usually up to three years. Our experience shows that then there is a change of corporate priorities in CSR, PR or HR where funding for partnerships with JA usually comes, making it challenging for us to sustain a course of action that has already been embedded in the education system as a long-term activity and can’t be abandoned after corporate funding has gone in a different direction
The idea of The Edge: R&BD is to generate additional revenue for JA Bulgaria capitalizing on its experience, knowledge and know-how.
This “hybrid” organizational structure taps into the strengths of both the “for profit” and “not for profit” models and allows for “best” practices and examples to be implemented and potentially spread to all organizations part of our network (above 120 globally and over 40 only in Europe). We established The Edge: R&BD in early 2018 and have so far managed to implement a couple of successful pilot projects testing the model with both corporate clients and startups.
This year, we have also launched a pre-acceleration program called Beyond (www.beyondaccelerate.com), which targets young professionals or students - BSc, MSc and PhD level, who work on the creation and development of technological lean startups in the following areas: (i) raw materials and circular economy; (ii) smart cities; and (iii) medicine and healthcare.
During the program, the teams work with experienced mentors from both business and academia. Topics include: self-discovery; identifying problems and opportunities; generating ideas; business model development and validation; prototyping and financial planning. The modules are very practical and with a clear added value for the development of the specific startup ideas. The program is based entirely on the theory of open innovation, stressing on the importance of the formation of multi-disciplinary, multi-functional teams and the application of the latest methodologies for entrepreneurial and startup mindset.
At the end of the program, The Edge will work with the best teams to assist them in the commercialization of their business idea.
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