AccelerateEstonia program is turning wicked problems into business opportunities

AccelerateEstonia or aEstonia is a new project initiated by Ministry of Economic Affairs and powered by Startup Estonia. It is a filter for new public-private sector ideas that solve societal challenges in a way that creates new business opportunities in Estonia.

It may mean turning a market gap into a policy or process (think Startup visa), but it can also mean building and improving upon solutions that already exist (think e-Residency). One of the kickstarters of aEstonia and Deputy Secretary General for Economic Development Viljar Lubi explains: “One could find plenty of good ideas with a global ambition in Estonia, as our success with e-gov initiatives and startup community has proved. Many ideas are still in the pipeline, but need our focused approach and cooperation among different parties both in the public and private sector. Lack of resources is our basic constraint - not always financial resources, rather a lack of political attention. This is the blessing and the curse of the public sector: everything is equally important. Unfortunately, in time-sensitive market situations that is not satisfactory. With AccelerateEstonia we will create a highway for selected new market-creating ideas to be fully implemented.”

aEstonia’s ambition is not only to create a filter to prioritise ideas that need attention of policymakers. As a country we are in the process of creating a vision for the long term - what kind of Estonia we want to live in 2035. In that context, aEstonia is a tool for becoming a trendsetter in solving global challenges. The solutions created here deal with global issues such as climate, demography, security and aim to benefit the society at large.

Secondly, we have all the assets - a quite lean government and a booming startup-sector - it is now the question of building a close cooperation and turning it into something even more valuable. Project lead Mikk Vainik concludes: “The mission of AccelerateEstonia is to turn wicked problems into economic development for Estonia. In close collaboration with the tech ecosystem, the Estonian government is exploring the public domains which are ripe for disruption and build models that would bring about that disruption.”

In practise, it means exploring different policy fields and identifying problems that have the requirements to be built into an actual solution. For example, how could we turn lack of attention to circular economy into an ambitious marketplace that will help to preserve our planet? What if we take a deep look at our social welfare issues so that socially-driven entrepreneurship will become the next wave of innovation in Estonia? What will be the ambition of Estonia to build cyber-solutions that will keep our internet safe in the IoT and 5G era?  

In the pilot phase, we aim to choose up to five concepts that would help create new markets and that solve the wicked problems in our society. These five concepts will go through a custom-made incubation program that includes business support as well as legal help and close cooperation with the policymakers.

The program has been kickstarted with topic-specific meetups where anyone could present a problem-statement to be discussed in groups. The events have covered RTE (Real Time Economy), living environments, social welfare and work force and most recently the general issue of data collection, literacy and usage. All the problem statements have been collected to the Guaana platform for further comments and reviews and are available to everyone. The next step is the official launch during this year’s Latitude59 conference. Our keynote speaker Evan Burfield, author of “Regulatory hacking”, will be going more in-depth into the topic of government innovation and how to scale a business in an industry deeply intertwined with government. It will be the drive for skill-specific workshops during summer and an upcoming concept hackathon in autumn.

If you are serious about the future of society and want to make a change, then join the AccelerateEstonia community. Follow us on Facebook and/or Eventbrite and get the freshest updates on our events and activities.

The AccelerateEstonia program is powered by Startup Estonia. ‘’Startup Estonia is happy to cooperate with the new and exciting aEstonia project and to launch innovative public-private cooperation ideas together,’’ says Maarika Truu, the Head of Startup Estonia. ‘’Estonias success in developing our e-services and the strength of our startup ecosystem are a good foundation for a successful pilot program, from which we hope to find ideas on a global scale, comparable to E-Residency.’’

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