Social innovation as a driver of entrepreneurship

A workshop held at Litorale USI
A workshop held at Litorale USI

Institutional Communication Service

12 October 2020

When we think about innovation we typcially think about the development of new technologies, products, processes, etc. But rather than inventing things from scratch, innovators seek solutions to improve the existing - and not only in the industrial sector. With the advent of concepts and approaches for sustainable development, entrepreneurial activities aimed at improving society as a whole are on the rise. On the subject of social innovation we speak with Professor Marco Meneguzzo of the Faculty of Economics, who was recently appointed Delegate for Social Innovation at the University of Rome 'Tor Vergata'.

"Social innovation concerns activities such as, for example, education and training, pollution reduction, reuse and circular economy, sharing economy and social housing, improvement of working conditions, and the cultural, creative and artistic development of skills, identities and territories", explains Professor Meneguzzo, who is Full Professor of Public and Non-Profit Management at USI (Institute of Economics, IdEP), and coordinator of the Government and Civil Society area at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Rome 'Tor Vergata'.

These activities are increasingly considered as drivers for economic growth. For example, the EU Horizon 2020 programme mentions social innovation as the first policy to be adopted in the field of industrial development, therefore acknowledging its importance in the change processes and encouraging the emergence and development of these practices. "The Tor Vergata programme on social innovation focusses on public engagement and is closely related with the so-called the third mandate of the university, which is also extremely important for USI, as indicated in the Strategic Planning 2021-2024", says Prof. Meneguzzo.

At USI, the attitude towards social entrepreneurship is cultivated in the context of its study programmes, on the one hand, and in the relevant projects applied in the region - the so-called Field Projects: "Recently we have worked on the subject of coworking spaces and sustainability reports. In these field projects, students, businesses, public institutions and non-profit organisations work together to develop ideas of social innovation aimed, if possible, at the creation of social enterprises", explains Meneguzzo, who is also scientific co-director of USI Master in Public Management and Policy - a study programme in which social innovation and sustainability issues are also addressed.

"Since 2019 we have been running an Interreg V DEA project of interregional cooperation and we are presenting a project for the Ente regionale per lo sviluppo del Luganese (ERSL) for the creation of a 'Social Innovation Laboratory', based on the model of the Civic Lab in Geneva and to be placed at the USI Litorale, the new USI initiative where students and graduates can develop their projects", adds Prof. Meneguzzo. "We want to provide our undergraduates and graduates with the opportunity to get to know these forms of entrepreneurship, to develop activities of interest to the community - services, social and collective infrastructures, .... - and above all to make them understand that community services can be an important opportunity to become entrepreneurs and carry out a profitable and socially useful activity".