Immersion in Portugal’s Silicon Valley

Did you know that Lisbon has an impressive network of start-ups, incubators and coworking spaces? Discover the city’s extensive innovation ecosystem through our Learning expedition, alongside the OuiShare community and the winners of Societe Generale’s Group Innovation Awards.

In 2016, for the first time since its creation in 2009 in Dublin, the Web Summit, the leading digital event, was held in Lisbon. The organisers were thus sending a major signal to the tech community: Lisbon lies at the very heart of European innovation.

In just a few years, the Portuguese capital has built a fertile ecosystem for innovation - young, but solid and dynamic -, promoting the emergence of “Made in Portugal” start-ups and attracting entrepreneurs from across the continent. This effervescence is partly a result of the efforts undertaken by the Portuguese government to make Lisbon one of the most innovative cities.

Lisbon: at the heart of European innovation

Amongst the city’s numerous advantages are its relatively inexpensive cost of living, exceptional quality of life and pool of multilingual, highly-qualified and highly-creative young graduates. Accelerators, incubators, coworking spaces and third places are emerging everywhere, whilst a genuine community has developed based on sharing and collaboration. With a resolutely international approach, Lisbon also enjoys a strategic geographical positioning in Europe and a window on the world.

That’s where the winners of the 2016 Group Innovation Awards will be heading from 15 to 17 March. For almost a decade now, the Group Innovation Awards have honoured the most creative innovations co-constructed within Societe Generale. “The aim is to reward the Group’s members of staff for their innovative spirit and the new projects they have been able to implement over the past year”, says Coralie Hatsch, Innovation project manager. In 2016, the set-up was altered to make it simpler, more client-focussed and in line with the Group’s innovation strategy. It now has five categories, and winners are chosen following votes by members of staff, the general public and the Executive Committee, and there is also a special CSR award. But what’s really new is what’s awarded to the winners, with Societe Generale providing them with “an exceptional reward”: the chance to discover a European innovation ecosystem, in this case Lisbon.

Between the banks of the Tagus river and the narrow streets of the Moorish quarter of Mouraria, participants in this expedition will take the pulse of this extensive innovation. They will notably visit Startup Lisboa and Beta-i, Lisbon’s two largest incubators; LX Factory, an emblematic space located in the city’s Alcântara district; they will meet the residents of these entities; they will attend pitches by start-ups, conferences and roundtables. This learning expedition having been jointly organised with OuiShare, an international community for accelerating ideas and projects devoted to the emergence of a collaborative society, the winners will also be invited to participate in the OuiShare Summit on 17 and 18 March.

The aim of this rich programme is to enable them to come face to face with the everyday lives of entrepreneurs, innovators, makers and co-workers who dream up tomorrow’s solutions. “When we talk about an innovation ecosystem, what are we actually talking about? Who are the players that make up this ecosystem, how is everything organised? We believe that, beyond their educational aspect, these visits are an opportunity to open up to others and represent an amazing source of inspiration for our members of staff”, explains Coralie Hatsch.

Explore, discuss, but also be inspired… the Innovation Division wants to stimulate the inquisitiveness and creativity of the Group’s members of staff. That’s the purpose of these learning expeditions, which provide total immersion in a culturally-different environment and show a broad diversity of approaches.

We focus on two areas: spreading the innovation culture and momentum within the Group, but also strengthening the Group’s ties with innovation ecosystems in Paris and abroad

Coralie Hatsch, Innovation project manager

In Open innovation mode

The learning expedition is also part of the work undertaken throughout the year by Coralie Hatsch and her colleagues. “We focus on two areas: spreading the innovation culture and momentum within the Group, but also strengthening the Group’s ties with innovation ecosystems in Paris and abroad, ” she explains. For a number of years now, Societe Generale has put open innovation at the heart of its strategy and has sought to become more involved with innovation ecosystems, for example by forming partnerships with collaborative communities such as OuiShare or by investing in start-ups, in particular in the field of FinTech. The creation of the African Innovation Lab in Dakar, Senegal, which won three awards in October, is a perfect illustration of this global opening approach, both in France and abroad. 

Learning expedition: innovation “to go”!

Many have said that the innovation ecosystem found in today’s Lisbon is reminiscent, in its dynamism and spirit, of what was happening in Berlin a few years ago. The Learning Expedition (LEX) by the winners of Société Générale’s Group Innovation Prize was a chance to explore this ecosystem on the ground, meet its leaders, see its flourishing start-ups and encounter some determined FinTech’s with firm ambitions.

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Open-innovation: ecosystems with clients, start-ups, schools and staff

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