The Open Innovation Challenge

What is it?

The Open Innovation Challenge is the embodiment of EUTOPIA’s will to transform universities into actors of societal change through students, fostering international and regional collaboration with public and private partners. It aims to test a new approach for universities:

  • Promoting student-centered ideas;
  • Allowing them to empower themselves and to orient them toward the contemporary challenges that our partners face;
  • Providing learning opportunities that take advantage of the plurality, potential, and international vision of Europe.

How does it work?

Step One: Identification of the challenges (from October 2020 to March 2021)

The first step is the identification of the challenges that our local partners face. This step runs through two main options: through events organized by the EUTOPIA (WeDiscover DaysEUTOPIA Week, among others). The second step is through local visits with the partners (virtual during lockdown).

Identifying a challenge means looking for problems that have a tangible impact on our regions and that have a direct effect on our life. Some of the universities have chosen areas linked to the SDGs:

  1. Climate emergency
  2. Decarbonated transport and mobility
  3. Healthy food / Green food production and consumption
  4. Social inclusion / Fighting inequality
  5. Making cities and human settlements safe, resilient, and sustainable

The idea is to identify current local problems that affect our local and global society and to work with teams of like-minded students to find future solutions. The aim is to develop projects from a local to a global level, i.e, glocal. (see infra “How do I participate ?”).

Students teams to developed projects around one of the challenges and present them, with the support of the Pool of Partners, during the WeDiscover Week Brussels, organized by the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).

Step Two: Open Innovation Challenge (March 2021 – June 2022)

At WeDiscover Week Brussels, a jury evaluated the projects from all student teams and picked two themes, that are common and relevant to all universities in the alliance, that students will focus on; People, and Partnerships.

During the spring of 2021, the teams worked on these challenges to propose appropriate solutions. All solutions were presented in a student peer-to-peer meeting in June 2021, and one team per university was chosen as the 'local winner' of this part of the Open Innovation Challenge.

The next step is a Hackathon that will be organized by the University of Gothenburg in February 2022. The theme of the hackathon is innovative procurement, where the student teams will utilize an innovative methodology to enrich public procurements. Innovative procurement is a trending and expanding opportunity for how universities can be actors of societal change through regional collaboration, and interaction with public and private partners

The Finals of the Open Innovation Challenge will take place at the University of Warwick in June 2022.

Step Three: Prize and Opportunities
A jury made up of the EUTOPIA Pool of Partners (PoP), international experts, and Eutopia staff,  will decide which project has identified the best challenge and solution, with a view of the winning team being able to develop their project beyond the pilot, and work on a regional scale implementation of their solution. The achievement of the Open Innovation Challenge is to prove that universities and, first of all, students, are capable of becoming driving forces for societal change.

Details of the events in the Open Innovation Challenge timeline

WeDiscover Days Barcelona: 28 - 30 October 2020

One of the main missions of EUTOPIA is to prepare future generations to face the constant changes and challenges that our society is experiencing. Higher education is undergoing radical transformations to adapt to the university of the future. EUTOPIA intends to prepare students, staff, teachers and researchers to become empowered European citizens for today’s disruptive world.

The Pompeu Fabra University organises the WeDiscover Days Barcelona on 28, 29 & 30 October 2020, as the first step of the Open Innovation Challenge initiative, which forms the axis of the Place Making policy of EUTOPIA.

This virtual event will be achieved thanks to the joint work, efforts and close collaboration with experts, institutions, cultural centres and local entities and industries. The objective is to discuss the current social problems that the main European cities are going through today.

The WeDiscover Days Barcelona will help students to start a discovery and research process to acquire knowledge beyond the university campuses. With the motto “from local to global”, the idea is that students find inspiration in common problems and concerns of our societies, seeking practical solutions to issues that could also be implemented on a global scale.

With a programme that includes conferences, talks, seminars, screenings, debates, visits and workshops, the WeDiscover Days Barcelona intend to familiarise students with an array of contemporary issues related to the main Sustainable Development Goals: Climate Emergency, Transport and Mobility, Healthy Food and Sustainable Food Production and Consumption, Social Inclusion and Fighting Inequality, Making Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable.

The event will merge students from the six universities that have previously focused on the effect of world emergencies at a local level. They will meet with some of UPF’s public and private partners, academics and journalists, bringing a plurality of voices to the idea that European cities are confronting similar difficulties.

The WeDiscover Days Barcelona are open, not only to EUTOPIA students who will be able to participate further in the challenge, but also to college students from all around Europe. High schoolers of Catalonia are also invited to engage and discover what the university of the future will look like. 

Given the evolution of the pandemic, the event will be entirely digital this time. The WeDiscover Days Barcelona will be broadcasted live through the following link:

Challenges are one of the attractive peculiarities of the EUTOPIA methodology of co-construction of answers to global problems that Europe is about to face in the near future, for students, helped by academic staff and public-private partners, are impelled to work collectively. With its four stages in four different cities, the Open Innovation Challenge is a good example of it. After Barcelona, the students should meet again in Brussels next spring, hosted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where the team’s projects will be outlined. The University of Gothenburg should then organize a European hackathon by the end of 2021, selecting the teams that will go to the finals hosted by the University of Warwick at the commencement of 2022.

For further information, visit the Pompeu Fabra University website ( and the EUTOPIA website.

* * *

EUTOPIA is an alliance of six leading, like-minded, European universities creating a connected and inclusive community, to address local and global challenges, ultimately contributing to a new model for higher education in Europe: VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL (Belgium), CY CERGY PARIS UNIVERSITÉ (France), GÖTEBORGS UNIVERSITET (Sweden), UNIVERZA V LJUBLJANI (Slovenia), UNIVERSITAT POMPEU FABRA (Spain) and UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK (United Kingdom). In June 2019, EUTOPIA was chosen as one of the 17 first winning projects throughout Europe in the new European Universities Initiative competitive call to build a European Education and Research Area. Discover Brussels with EUTOPIA - 29 March to 01 April 2021

During the week (29 March – 1 April 2021), some 70 students from all EUTOPIA universities —  participating in the EUTOPIA Open Innovation Challenge — will virtually join forces with local partners (list below) in finding meaningful solutions to glocal urban challenges.

While these students and stakeholders feverishly labour away and bravely face the contemporary challenges of today’s complex and multi-faceted society, the EUTOPIA community is invited to join them during the more relaxed and informal activities.

In short, YOU are cordially invited to come discover the capital of Europe and virtually join the following activities! in cooperation with EUTOPIA’s local partners:

Ancienne Belgique, P&V, Gemeente Elsene, Capital, Vlaams Parlement, Innoviris, Agglomeration Community of Cergy-Pontoise, Association CY Campus International, Department board of Val d’Oise, Urban Community of Cergy-Pontoise, Innerstaden, Innovatum, Ekocentrum, Vänersborg Municipality, Trollhättan City, Lilla Edets Municipality, Ale Municipality, Kungälv Municipality, Le Mat, INCASOL, Barcelona City Council, 22@Network BCN, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council, City of Ljubljana

Virtual city tour of Brussels – 29/03/2021 12.00 – 13.00

Artist, architect and city guide Olaf Winkler will guide you through the city of Brussels and its unique areas. During the tour, Olaf will take you to three main areas of the capital of Europe: 

  - The canal zone is being developed at an incredible pace and it shows in its social dynamic. In under 2 kilometres you walk from new high-rise luxury projects to Brussels’ most impoverished areas.
  - A four-lane highway used to cross right through the historical centre of Brussels. Initiated by citizen activism, this zone has been completely reconstructed over the last couple of years.
  - The number of European institutions situated in Brussels has shifted the social dynamic of the European District. The city of Brussels’ approach to these urban challenges lies in District Contracts, these durable district contracts contain a section housing, public space, infrastructure and social initiatives.

Registration: send an email to

Virtual exhibition tour PILAR – 30/03/2021 11.30 – 12.30

Pilar is VUB’s cultural hub, not only for its students, but for the entire region of Brussels.  Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Pilar’s inner workings, and how their latest exhibition come to be. During this virtual visit, we’ll also focus on broader questions: Which function does this artistic hub play in the urban network around the central VUB campus? How does Pilar support local artists and the Brussels art scene? 

Registration: send an email to

Workshop ‘How to pitch’ by Start.VUB – 31/03/2021 10.00 – 11.00

One of the most important career skills these days is being able to do a convincing and passionate pitch presentation. How to convince an audience of the importance of your idea? Start.VUB, the university’s start-up hub, organises a ‘How to pitch’ workshop. In this one-hour session, you’ll get tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts, and can ask all your burning questions in a Q&A session. 

Participate through this link.

Masterclass Waad al-Kateab ‘For Sama’ – 1/04/2021 11.00 - 13.00

In this masterclass, Syrian director Waad al-Kateab talks about diversity, current affairs, media perspectives, citizen journalism and her experience creating her Oscar-nominated documentary ‘For Sama’. Introduction by VUB rector Caroline Pauwels, masterclass followed by debate and Q&A session. We highly recommend watching ‘For Sama’ in preparation of this masterclass.

Register through this link.

Virtual concert 70 '80 '90: The Hip Hop Edition by Supafly Collective x Lefto – 1/04/2021 20h00

Dive into the hip hop scene from the 70s 80s 90s with concert hall Ancienne Belgique, VUB’s cultural hub Pilar and VUB student associations Limburgia and Campina. Together with Lefto and Supafly Collective, we dance the lockdown away. Release the brakes on April in the comfort and safety of your home.

More information and registration here

The EUTOPIA Virtual Hackathon, hybrid event organized by Gothenburg - 23 to 25 February 2022

The Hackathon focused on innovative procurements within coordinated goods distribution.

See feedback from the students who participated in the Hackathon here and here. See also a video produced by the UPF below.

What is the EUTOPIA Hackathon

As part of the Open Innovation Challenge, EUTOPIA is hosting the EUTOPIA Placemaking Challenge programme Hackathon. It will take place from 23 to 25 February, and the theme of the challenge is innovative procurements within coordinated goods distribution.
Every year, over 250 000 government agencies within the EU procure products and services for over 2 trillion Euros per year to meet the expectations and needs of its citizens. Be it public healthcare, roads or pencils. As such, these agencies have an enormous effect on what types of offerings the market provides.

The EUTOPIA partners see the Hackathon as a unique opportunity to create new ways for academia to involve students and academics in procurements. The Hackathon can create new perspectives and essentially pull the market to provide new innovative and sustainable products and services.

The Hackathon brings students from different disciplines from the six partner universities together in intensive workshops along with procurers to increase the innovative capacity of their respective procurements. The student's assignment is to present a creative ideal scenario of what society can look like based on the insights and perspectives they create concerning the specific procurement. After the Hackathon, the procurement officers will analyse the material and use it as inspiration for upcoming procurements.

What: a 3 day Hackathon using design thinking principles.
When: 23 to 25 February 2022.
Presentation: 25 February 2022 from 10:00 – 13:00.
How: Hybrid, with student teams working digitally together with procurement officers and stakeholders on a local level and coming together on an international level.

Invitation to associated partners

Dear associated EUTOPIA partner, you are hereby invited to participate in the student presentations from the EUTOPIA Placemaking Challenge Program Hackathon that takes place from the 23rd to the 25th of February. The theme of the challenge is innovation procurements within Coordinated goods distribution.

You have the opportunity to:
- Get inspired by a new approach to working with the initial steps of public procurement.
- Gain insights into how the EUTOPIA Alliance finds new ways of creating impact and preconditions for innovation.

Every year, over 250 000 government agencies within the EU procure products and services for over 2 trillion euros per year to meet the expectations and needs of its citizens. Be it public healthcare, roads, or pencils. As such, these agencies have an enormous effect on what types of offerings the market provides.

- Students from different disciplines from the six partner universities will participate in intensive workshops together with procurers to increase the innovative capacity of their respective procurements.
- The student's assignment is to present a creative ideal scenario of what society can look like based on the insights and perspectives they create concerning the specific procurement.
- The procurers will use this as inspiration in the forthcoming work with their procurements.

The EUTOPIA partners see this as a unique opportunity to create new ways for academia to involve students and academics in procurements and foster and open up for new perspectives and pull the market to provide new innovative and sustainable products and services.

When: 23rd to 25th of February.
Presentation: 25 February 11 – 13.

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