The recently opened Colombo Innovation Tower (CIT) aims to bring together players from across diverse industries and disciplines to connect industries with startups, students and international knowledge experts. With Academy of Design (AOD), the most forward design catalyst in the country with its wide international network built over the years, at its epicenter, the CIT in the pioneering innovation hub in Sri Lanka.
The CIT runs on the philosophy that design and creativity act as the underlying core, and when merged with business and technology, has the power to deliver innovative solutions. This eco-system led by design and technology is ignited by sharing knowledge, collaborating with various industry players, advancing by working actively, and nurturing by mentoring and developing the skills and knowledge needed to innovate.
Established in 2000, AOD brings a lot of design expertise to the table. With constant access to a pool of young design and creative talent, it is ideally placed as an innovation engine. According to Linda Speldewinde, founder and chairperson of AOD and CIT, “Innovation is executing an idea that addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for those involved. It is more than just ideating. A new or improved process, service or product is what innovation is all about, but what is important is that innovation has an impact, is purposeful and meaningful, and most of all relevant! Actual outcomes is the only way you can distinguish between just buzzwords and what innovation really means.”
AOD envisions the CIT becoming a one-of-a-kind epicenter for innovation in South Asia, marrying design and technology. Locally, the CIT aims to provide design expertise and be the core that drives innovation within the industry and among its players. Through this venture, AOD itself will be turning a new leaf with AOD 3.0 to cater to future demand, combining design education with technology and business.
Speldewinde commented, “We believe Sri Lanka really is an innovation island, with its high knowledge base in IT and technology, creative and design strength, coupled with its strategic geographical location with easy access to the region. Thereby, the CIT is positioned well to play this role as an innovation catalyst.”
In Sri Lanka, students have long chosen traditional education disciplines, like doctor, lawyer or teacher, over art and design streams. However, with the future demanding people with mixed skillsets, whether a student pursues what is considered ‘traditional careers’, creativity and design knowledge would still be essential. Companies are now starting to request designers that know coding or software engineers that are creative. “This is how we can compete regionally/globally, by producing individuals that have this mixed skillset, whether it is starting young (CIT kids), academically gearing them (AOD 3.0), or training executives (CIT Traininig),” she added.
As an innovation hub, the Colombo Innovation Tower drives its own initiatives such as a material innovation project with award winning designer Tjeerd Veenhoven. Other initiatives include CIT Kids, where the right skills and knowledge in creativity, technology and sustainability will be developed from a very early age. The CIT will also expose corporates and executives to knowledge and skills programmes such as CIT’s Innovation Broadcast series.
Collaborating with local and international partners, the CIT partners organizations like SLASSCOM to provide design expertise to the knowledge services industry, and SLINTEC on material innovation and nurturing startups. The CIT also works with Tracified, a tracking and traceability startup, to promote completely transparency in the fashion supply chain. International collaborations include Fashion For Good, a well-reputed global fashion accelerator, and CIRCO, which offers a innovative and design thinking-based framework to solve complex supply chain issues in circular transformation across industries.
The CIT will also host REVEAL, AOD’s graduate showcase, and the Design Katha series, an exchange of design knowledge from industry experts, as well as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (to be launched soon).