Participants at Demola Launch Event

Launch of Demola in Nepal: Bridging Academia and Industry

King’s College’s initiative provides an innovative challenge platform to bring Nepali students, universities and companies together to solve problems of today and future. – SUYASHA SINGH

King’s College successfully launched Demola in Nepal on the 14th of August, as an initiative to bridge the ever-existing gap between academia and industry. Developed in Finland, Demola is an international innovation platform that brings together university students from multi-disciplinary backgrounds and company representatives to work together on a real challenge set by the company.
Currently, it operates in 16 countries, including Finland, Norway, Namibia, Japan and China. King’s College, Nepal is the 17th partner to join Demola. Demola has already brought together over 50 universities, 750,000 students and the leading companies from around the world. In the case of Nepal, five pioneer organizations joined as challenge partners in the launch event. The organizations –– City Planning Commission of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Annapurna Media Network, NEXT Venture Corp, Katha Nepal and YoungInnovations –– will undergo Demola process as the challenge partners.
The keynote speaker, Mr Ashutosh Tiwari, the Managing Director at SAFAL Partners.
said “We need to encourage such trigonal collaborations of the private sector, academia and students for incorporating the complexity of thinking in cracking issues which is highly needed for the global market today”
Stressing on the need to incorporate fresh perspectives of the young generation into problem-solving, the Creative Director of Demola Global, Mr Jere Wessman asserted, “Co-creation leads to discoveries that are lost by looking only from one perspective, making problem-solving inefficient.” He shared that the core team of Demola, comprising of university students, company representatives and Demola facilitators, will jointly work on the company’s challenge starting from problem identification to solution development. 
He added, “While the students benefit from the real-life exposure, at the end of 8-weeks, the company gets a potential product or service along with their employees to acquire new skills and tools in the process.”
Likewise, sharing his first-hand experience as a student in the Demola challenge, Mr Dixit KC, a recent graduate from the University of Tampere in Finland remarked with joy, “I fell in love with the process! Working in the real-life scenario and developing my understanding in a constantly challenging environment was fun.” He participated in a total of 4 Demola challenges in Finland and is now working as a Talent Program Trainee, in Robit Oy, a company in Finland. 
Addressing the launch event, Head of Cooperation and Counsellor at the Finnish Embassy to Nepal Kati Bhose stressed on education-based research for solving modern time problems especially those faced by the industrial world. “The new changes that are surfacing in the world has not only been impacting the industries but the entire social environment,” she states, “To solve such problems, it takes a new set of thinking which is only possible by the collaboration between universities and the industrial sector.”
In a panel discussion on ‘The need and potential of collaboration between education and industry’ moderated by Mr Bibhusan Bista, CEO of YoungInnovations, Prof Dr Ganga Gautam, Director of Open and Distance Education (ODEC), Tribhuvan University, pointed out that a kind of mistrust exists between academia and industry, and we need to break this barrier to create a ‘safe space’ to facilitate this collaboration.
Responding to the question about the prospects of such collaboration in Nepal, Mr Saurabh Jyoti, Director of Jyoti Group and Chairman of Syakar Company stated, “We lack the risk-appetite for innovation. Unless it’s a proven model, it’s difficult to invest in it. We need to be aligned, with constant communication between academia and industry for it to work.”
However, advocating the need for a specific plan and framework, Mr Sambhav Swar Sirohiya, CEO of Movers & Shakers (MNS) Holdings emphasized, “There is a huge prospect for platforms like Demola to work well in Nepal, as the leading industrialists now see the underlying threats and opportunities associated with it.
The Chief Guest of the ceremony, Dr Rajan Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of meaningful learning which has a scope of implication in real-life scenarios. He affirmed, “The concept of ‘Prosperous Nepal’ is not possible without creating a conducive environment for yielding entrepreneurship opportunities.” He said, “We encourage foreign interventions and collaborations like Demola to help our young people utilize their creativity for better innovations.”
Ms Swechhya Rajbhandary, the Project Coordinator of Demola Nepal at King’s College informed that Demola will begin its first cycle of innovation challenge this year with a total of 4 cycles in a given year, partnering with 4-5 challenge companies per cycle. Therefore, interested companies have several opportunities to be the challenge partner in the near future, as they say, “Open and diverse innovation ensures better future.”