The fourth stage of Wide Open exploration was in Medellín.
Long ravaged by the ravages of narco-trafficking, this city, known in the 90s for being the most violent in the world, has for 12 years engaged in a profound social and urban transformation, having recently earned it the status of the most innovative city in the world. If it has already managed to reduce its homicide rate by 95%, the city of eternal spring still faces many challenges: poverty, inequality, exclusion … This former capital of Colombian industry, archetype of the resilient city, has decided to capitalize on its innovation potential and to trade its traditional economy, currently in decline, for a knowledge economy.
The objective is clear: by 2021, innovation must be the spearhead of its economy, serving the well-being of its inhabitants and the attractiveness of the Medellín brand.
A hub that chooses inclusion and prevents gentrification
Created in 2012, the Ruta N ecosystem is the fruit of this ambition. This innovation hub carried by the city itself, connects and accompanies public, private, academic institutions, investors, entrepreneurs, students and citizens around a specific strategy: transform the city and improve the quality of life of “paisas” “- Medellín residents – through science, technology and innovation.
A symbol of Ruta N’s inclusive approach, its building, a masterpiece of sustainable construction, was built in the midst of a highly stigmatized urban area. In contrast to most of the innovation hubs, which are generally eccentric and gentrified, “Ruta N” has spurred the transformation of its three surrounding neighborhoods, which now form a 172-hectare district in the heart of the city, entirely dedicated to innovation for all. Universities, businesses, gardens, public spaces, all conditions are met to make this area upgraded a large-scale laboratory, positively impacting the entire city.
The leitmotiv of Ruta N? Transforming the city and improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of Medellín through innovation
An open innovation catalyst
Ruta N identifies and connects the demand to the offer between companies, institutions and all the actors who revolve around the ecosystem, always in a sustainable approach, consistent with the municipal will. And since talent is needed to develop this new knowledge economy, Ruta N is helping to train as many people as possible, through conferences, free workshops, the provision of innovative workspaces, and a fablab open to all. In an open innovation approach, students are regularly solicited to solve business challenges, citizens can give their ideas to transform positively their city, and the sectors of the public, academic and private finds a ground unpublished co-creation to reflect and solve together the challenges of Medellin.
Many programs are in charge of supporting public, private or academic institutions in diagnosing their needs for innovation, and in learning creative approaches or methodologies to respond organically.
Attract and develop innovative companies
Since 2012, 232 companies from 31 countries have temporarily taken up residence in Ruta N, strengthening the attractiveness of the city and its development. Aware that they can find many talents in Medellin to recruit, they are also encouraged by state-of-the-art infrastructures and a large network of stimulating actors with whom they can quickly develop their activity.
In Laboratorio Vivo, Ruta N assists small, medium and large companies, particularly in the health, energy and information and communication technologies sectors, in solving their innovation challenges. In a very short time they can prototype, test their ideas in real time, creating new revenue for local while reducing the risk of the company when entering the market.
To close the loop, Ruta N Capital also finances the development of innovative companies at any stage of development and otherwise provides access to a strong network of many international investment funds. All conditions are in place to make Medellín a destination of choice for innovative companies, contributing to the development of the district, the city and at the same time to the well-being of its inhabitants.
A local anchorage for a lasting impact
Ruta N also stands out for its local roots, offering free and tailor-made support to local businesses or entrepreneurs in the traditional industry – especially catering. This approach of the ultra-local, democratizing for the most part the sometimes opaque principles of innovation, favors the mix of public Ruta N and at the same time its ownership by communities.
More than a short-term effect, the ambition is to stimulate a culture of innovation, synergies, collaboration at the city level, which will ultimately impact the daily life of each country. Generate new positive ideas for the city, increase the human and financial capital needed to create them, create more skilled jobs, increase per capita income, here are the positive impacts of this pioneering ecosystem, already offering its services of several Latin American cities.
The impressions of the Wide Open team
Ruta N is a pioneering and particularly innovative model: it proves that it is possible, through the creation of a collaborative ecosystem, to stimulate new economic development in the service of a positive transformation of a territory and its communities. While innovation hubs are generally associated with an aggressive gentrification process, Ruta N is distinguished by an inclusive and sustainable approach, balancing innovation, economic development and well-being.