The Learning Layers project develops tools and methods that support informal learning at the workplace. One great strength of the project is that the technology it develops is underpinned by a rigorous co-design process engaging with end users in numerous meetings and workshops at their workplace. Most of these activities are concentrated in two pilot sectors and regions: healthcare in Yorkshire and construction in northern Germany.
Scaling for impact
The project has an ambition to scale to a more diverse set of sectors however, through mature regional clusters. Tapping into mature cluster initiatives gives the project the opportunity to link into a wealth of ongoing collaboration activities involving local actors from industry, education, and the public sector. Clusters work as organisational multipliers in this respect and Layers wants to leverage this. The alternative would be to walk the region and knock on each company’s door individually with the hope to find the right cooperation partner.
Agder as our scaling region
We went through a long process of talks, discussions, interviews, and workshops with cluster organisations and innovation service providers in several regions in Norway before we settled on Agder at the Southern tip of Norway as our new scaling site. There are four leading clusters in the region: Digin (ICT), GCE NODE (oil and gas), EYDE (process industry), and USUS (experience industry). As our scaling strategy was conditioned on the need to team up with local ICT companies, we have been developing a strong relationship with the Digin cluster over the last year.
The “Layers meets Agder” idea
While much of this engagement work is funded by the exploitation and scaling budget of the Learning Layers project, we rely on obtaining additional funding for any substantial work. At the same time, we wanted to find a way of bringing the project to the region that would not be as resource intensive as the co-design activities in the two pilots, but that would still be able to generate new ideas and collaborations. Thus was born the idea of “Layers meets Agder.”
INET spin-out project supports the “Layers meets Agder” agenda
In the meanwhile, we have also have received a small grant from the BSR Stars programme for a Norwegian-Danish project (the INET project) on exchanging knowledge and generating joint business cases in mobile workplace and e-learning. A further goal on the Norwegian side of the project is to support the development of an international business network that builds on a core group of ICT companies in the Digin cluster. Our proposal for the “Layer meets Agder” activities is that they link into the ongoing work by the INET project and in particular build on the emerging collaborations between businesses and knowledge institutions that the project stimulates.
“Layers meets Agder” spurs exploitation and scaling
The “Layer meets Agder” activities in the first half of 2015 take the form of two workshops, to establish a link between interested partners in Learning Layers, the companies from the four clusters in Agder, and their customers. The intention is to build momentum for the project’s exploitation and scaling agenda through new collaborations and joint spin-out projects between key regional actors and Learning Layers. Many different cooperation models can be envisaged here. Companies that Layers partners could team up with through the “Layers meets Agder” scheme range from SaaS infrastructure providers over integration partners and open source developers to business customers of local ICT firms.
The plan going forward
How do we proceed from here? We are going to run two “Layers meets Agder” (LMA) workshops, the first one just after Easter and the second one in mid-May. Both are synchronised with ongoing activities of the INET project. We believe that Layers partners can bring innovative ideas, designs, and technologies to these workshops and stimulate collaborations with local firms that want to take this forward.
The first LMA workshop is at the same time a Norwegian INET event that brings ICT vendors and customers from the Agder industry clusters together to develop application cases that address learning needs at the workplace. Two of the guiding themes at this point are ‘big data and learning analytics’ and ‘mobile and contextual workplace learning’. Other themes will be added once we have reviewed the outcome of the last workshop we ran in Agder. Over the next 2 months, we will work with companies from the different clusters and the University of Agder on developing concrete ideas of application case candidates for that workshop.
The second LMA workshop is held in conjunction with the first joint Norwegian-Danish study trip and workshop of the INET project. In this second event we will build on the outcome of our first LMA workshop and extend these to Danish companies from the ICT and service sector. In that second workshop, we also foresee the participation of Danish research organisations. We expect that linking up with practitioners and researchers from the service sector will add an interesting dimension to the Layers ‘incubation model’ and allows us to explore with experts what new value could be generated by moving from a narrow ICT product focus to a broader learning service focus.
We will involve Layers partners over the coming months into helping us shape the agenda for both workshops and define the outcomes that would most benefit the exploitation and scaling ambitions of the Layers project. At the beginning of March, the project partners are coming together in Helsinki for a major internal design event. We are going to use that opportunity to present the “Layers meets Agder” idea and entice partners in joining us on this exciting journey!