With participants from universities such as Harvard, New York University, Georgia Tech, Duke, and London School of Economics, the IXL Innovation Olympics is a prestigious 8 week global consulting competition. Graduate student teams are paired with professional coaches as mentors; sponsors then provide guidance to the teams during alignment sessions, and pick the winning business plans and team.
The winning team consisted of Boston University current students Ruben Ceron (MUA ’18) and Diego Lomelli (MCP ’18) and alumni Alejandro Delgado (MBA, MUA ’17), Luis Quintanilla (MBA, MCP ’17), and David Valecillos (MCP ’14). The team’s proposal for the development of a business innovation district for the Government of Atlántico in Colombia consisted of three strategic goals, including aligning the innovation ecosystem, promoting the digital economy and e-Services to new and existing businesses, as well as boosting real estate development under a “smart growth” approach. For their hard work and efforts, the team will be rewarded with a $4,000 prize.
“Aligning the innovation ecosystem implies the creation of a legal entity in charge of matching the interests of key stakeholders, including the citizenry, business sectors, academia, and the public sector,” explained Luis Quintanilla. “This entity would be formed by a board of trustees in charge of aligning stakeholders’ interests and overseeing progress as a whole toward the vision of the innovation district, as well as by an executive management team responsible of administrating land use and real estate development, as well as implementing the e-Services provision strategy to spur business development.” Quintanilla’s contributions to the proposal included development of funding strategies for the construction of the innovation business center through land-based financing mechanisms and land value capture tools; elaboration of the action plan and timeline for the implementation of the e-Government and ERP platforms; summarization of public policy recommendations for new business development, businesses’ capacity building, financing strategies, and land use regulation.
Furthermore, in order for Atlántico to transition to a digital economy, the BU team proposed two key concepts. The first is the creation of an e-Governance online portal to facilitate interaction between citizens, businesses, and government, which would enhance access to public and commercial services, online education, training programs, pools of talented workforce, and permits and licenses, among other benefits. The second concept is the launch of a regional digital platform consisting of cloud-based, shared services for small-medium enterprises (SME’s) to help them build managerial and commercial capacities by means of an ICT-delivered Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program. “The ultimate objective of these two concepts is to increase productivity and entrepreneurship across all business sectors in Atlántico,” said Diego Lomelli, who helped develop a business model to promote the digital economy and e-services for businesses to boost innovation, create new companies, transfer technology, develop capacity, promote worldwide networking, attract investment, and provide access to telecommunications, online ICT training, and smart infrastructure.
Finally, the BU team proposed the conceptualization of a physical urban space that promotes innovation and the exchange of ideas, which is made possible through the development of an innovation business center that integrates co-working office spaces and retail, as well as the headquarters of the legal entity and the executive management team implementing the innovation district’s projects unfolding from all three strategic goals. The location of this innovation business center is proposed in the northeast region of the city of Barranquilla, right next to the Madgalena river, where important universities and multiple business centers are already clustered, and access to Transmetro (the city’s bus rapid transit system) and main roads is handy. Sources of revenue for the construction of the innovation business center and further real estate development in surrounding areas include: fundraising and partnerships, freemiums obtained from the implementation of the e-Services platforms, private debt, and management of public land (sale of parcels, short and long term leases on land) and private land (tax increment financing, charges on additional development rights). Smart growth principles are also proposed as the overarching pathway to build the innovation business center, including: use of existing urban vacant land served by existing infrastructure, mixed-use development and mixed land uses, multi-modal transportation, pedestrian-friendly streets, compact and human-scaled urban design. David Valecillos’ role was to define overall strategies to develop the innovation ecosystem in Atlántico, as well as identified means to generate revenue to finance the innovation district by managing public land and implementing land value capture tools. He also performed spatial analysis to identify clusters of innovation and possible district locations and designed the legal structure on which the innovation district can be built.
The team also elaborated on their experiences. According to Alejandro Delgado, “The methodology that IXL-Center shared with us is a great takeaway from this project. Also, working with local CEO’s provided us with great insights about the conditions around Colombia and the State of Atlántico that helped us provide a viable solution. Also, the holistic knowledge and experience that our team has coming from different backgrounds, plus our skills in urban planning and economic development, provided us with and edge compared with the teams from other important schools.” The other members of the team expressed similar sentiments, citing the methodology used in the projects as an important takeaway from the competition.
The team is currently awaiting the information regarding the next steps in terms of rewards and implementing their proposal. So far, they have received an email from the IXL executive team announcing the winners, but dates and further information are not yet available.
Article by Meaghan T’ao, CAS ’18