The experience of CLab Veneto at University of Padova: Innovation by ‘Contamination’

Fabrizio Dughiero
University of Padova

Piero Formica
University of Maynooth

“Contamination Lab” (CLab) is an Italian Education Ministry project for developing in undergraduate, graduate and PhD students the attitude to entrepreneurship. These are places of “contamination” among university students of diverse disciplines and different ages. They promote the culture of entrepreneurship, sustainability, innovation and making, as well as interdisciplinarity and new models of learning, to reduce the gap between the academic world, innovation and industry. They are physical and virtual places where opportunities meet with the creativity, vocation and talent of students who are challenged to solve problems proposed by companies in different fields. CLabs expose students to a stimulating, multidisciplinary. They also encourage an entrepreneurial attitude, leveraging on the strengths of the Universities and territories of reference. CLabs, therefore, fall within the scope of research and education in entrepreneurship, in line with the spirit of enhancing a business culture promoted by the European Commission, which defines Entrepreneurship Education as the creation of learning places where soft and hard skills are developed and applied.
The University of Padua in cooperation with Verona University applied to the call of Ministry “Contamination Lab” and won the financing of the project. Just two weeks ago the first lab was established.
This learning experience draws on culture and practice of the Renaissance “Bottega” (workshop) of 15th-century Florence, in which master artists were committed to teaching new artists, talents were nurtured, new techniques were at work, and new artistic forms came to light with artists competing among themselves but also working together.
The Renaissance put knowledge at the heart of value creation, which took place in the workshops of these artisans, craftsmen, and artists. There they met and worked with painters, sculptors, and other artists; architects, mathematicians, engineers, anatomists, and other scientists; and wealthy merchants who were patrons. All of them gave form and life to Renaissance communities, generating aesthetic and expressive as well as social and economic values. The result was entrepreneurship that conceived revolutionary ways of working, of designing and delivering products and services, and even of seeing the world.
Nowadays innovation is usually perceived as a technology-driven process with engineers, mathematicians, physicists, scientists and economists as the leading figures who are responsible for ideation, development and industrialisation. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) plays the king's role for a real and practical innovation process in the companies. The Renaissance workshops put the A to the STEM to create a new paradigm which is STEAM, where A stands for visive arts, literature, music, the art of conversation, philosophy and much more in the innovation process. Which is the right way to the path of disruptive innovation – the only one able to create genuinely new products, technologies, processes, social health, and ideas.
In this respect the CLab's mission is the making of new Renaissance workshops where students, mentors, VC’s, entrepreneurs, researchers can work together to create disruptive ideas for social, technological and environmental innovation.
In the full paper, the Veneto CLab process will be outlined with all the activities done, and some examples of the outcomes developed by a few teams will be highlighted.