DEMOLA - Facilitating co-creation projects between university students and companies

An interdisciplinary network of different types of partners, including universities and Higher Education Institutions, researchers and students, companies, local agencies and a growing number of Demola co-creation Centres all around the world.
An interdisciplinary network of different types of partners, including universities and Higher Education Institutions, researchers and students, companies, local agencies and a growing number of Demola co-creation Centres all around the world.

Demola is an international network that has the purpose to develop a global innovation ecosystem networking affiliate locations all over the world.

Demola connects nodes in Helsinki, Tampere, Vilnius, Budapest, Oulu, Norrkoping, Trapargan (Basque Country), Guadalajara (Mexico), Canary Islands, Odense (Denmark), Windhoek (Namibia), Cape Town, Johannesburg, Zaragoza, Stavanger, Lulea, Cote d’Azur, Slovenia, and Latvia.

Demola has the mission to build and develop the World’s Strongest Innovation Ecosystem interconnecting people and their knowledge and needs in terms of product and service development. The organisation facilitates co-creation projects between university students and companies, either locally or internationally across the whole network to pursue ground-breaking innovation interconnecting people who know, across nations, cultures, and areas of expertise creating interrelated ecosystems. The projects are developed through demos and prototypes and made available to companies through the DEMOLA framework licensing system.

Process Main Stages: 


Proposition of the challenge, problem definition and focusing in the need for new ideas and solutions, need of alternatives, need “second opinions” or validation for in-house development. No starting fees are requested


Initial meeting, sharing of ideas, definition of the brief; signature of the Demola project contract


Various supervised meetings and workshops - value creation workshop under facilitator supervision; “challenger” feedback and meetings with innovation team. Pitching process (brainstorming initially in  free configuration, then guided and focused. Concluded to guided to conclusive)


Demola jam -  an all-day event which brings together all the Demola teams to work on challenges and solutions;


“challenger” feedback and meetings with innovation team. Pitching event at the end of the successfully implemented innovation programme

Demola work is challenge driven, with the project ideas coming from the industry and other organizations. The students’ work is supported by both the industrial and academic partners, whose role is to provide guidance to the student team throughout the project. Demola provides the workspaces for team work and co-creation

Touchpoints & Bottlenecks: 


Challenge and brief meeting, where the challenge is presented and the different contextual factors are outlined to the team.


Feedback meeting on innovation team work, providing initial input and contextualising the proposed solution(s)


Jam meeting to share challenges and solutions. The real strength of the Demola process, to widen the horizon and the range of possible solutions.


Pitching session, for the presentation of the solution.

Success Factors / Barriers: 

The success factors of the Demola network is the focus on university/business collaboration based on the operation in a worldwide area providing application solutions adopting an interdisciplinary approach. Following Chesbrough’s philosophy, Demola and its platform is based on the crossing of organisational, national and cultural boundaries providing approaches to support and sustain knowledge flows, boosting the joint development of new ideas and solutions.

The Demola platform facilitates the access to knowledge networks, offering the development of clear and structured innovation projects, which facilitates the identification of touchpoints and solutions, pursuing a real co-creation process.

The success factors of the Demola co-creation model are (a) Diversified, global knowledge sources; (b) highly talented innovation players; (c) Clear information structuring; (d) Clear IPR setup and protection and the definition of clear exploitation and development agreements, meeting the requirements of global corporations; (e) payment only for results; (f) clear definition of roles responsibilities: (g) a full-fledged supervision, monitoring and assessment methodology and process; (h) flexible allocation of the challenge to a local office or on more, combined innovation centres.

Demola proves to be particularly successful in areas where university/business cooperation hampered by weak collaboration models.


The main differences between the Demola approach and Living Labs is that, while the latter focus on the wider community of stakeholders to the solution/application, Demola involves mainly students targeting demos and prototypes, then establishing a clear contractual relationship between the innovators. Another strength is the challenge-driven approach, businesses and application-oriented organisations being the drivers. The students are coached and supported by the involved industrial and academic partners in the innovation project.

The Demola approach is very flexible and due to the constant interaction inside the teams, the outputs may significantly differ from the original inputs, as the research priorities may change.

Another strength is that the broad global Demola network allow to disseminate the solution in the wider setting of the network and validate it – or develop it – in a different environment and for adapted purposes.

Another key success factor of the Demola approach is the IPR protection framework. The Open Innovation approach moves the research and innovation process outside the company, with a lower control of knowledge flows and a risk of imitation.

The protection of IPR is central to the success of Open Innovation. The Demola IPR framework protects in first instance the students and the ownership of their work, maintaining the background materials for the innovation in the property of the innovating enterprise or organisation. This framework assigns the rights to a clearly identifies set of actors and companies need to accept the openness of the innovation model, as well as the property rights. The IPR framework was progressively tuned and the trust of all the players – including large enterprises – is mandatory for the smooth operation of the Demola model.

  • Have an IPR protection framework early on.
  • Underestimate the need to build trust among all players in the project.