Sustainable Innovation as the Driving Force behind the Post-Pandemic Epoche


“As the etymology of the word crisis indicates, we are at a turning point whose orientation will be determined by today’s choices.”

The impracticability of a return of business to pre-COVID-19 times while on the one hand increasing the uncertainty of the post-pandemic, on the other hand it can represent an opportunity. In fact, it is an opportunity to review business models, learning from past lessons and identifying new opportunities in line with the vision of a sustainable, resilient and digital Europe aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Among the challenges highlighted by the pandemic we find useful elements for the restart, such as the impulse given by COVID-19 to digital, highlighting potential and accelerating a cultural change that saw us lagging behind the EU average. The pandemic has also brought a greater awareness of the consequences caused by human action on the environment and the urgency of carrying out an ecological transition hitherto procrastinated. In particular, he highlighted the risks and costs of a failure to act, even at the level of the individual company, and the ineffectiveness of a short-sighted approach aimed at preserving the current state of the business, which often considers sustainability as a cost and not as an investment.

Combining digital innovation and ecological transition by helping SMEs to identify new business opportunities for post-pandemic relaunch is the objective of ecoSurge, a lab of innovative co-creation projects focused on the creation of new digital solutions Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), integrated with new business models through a collaboration between SMEs, research groups and institutions.

The ecological transition combined with digital innovation can represent the driving force of the restart of SMEs, for the many business opportunities linked to emerging needs.

Eurobarometer’s 2020 analysis shows Italian SMEs lagging behind the European average in terms of sustainability. For example, 69% of SMEs surveyed say they have no action in progress towards the sustainable transition of their business and 31% do not plan actions in the future, compared to 18% of the European average. This gap, if not filled through a decisive change of pace, will lead to a progressive loss of competitiveness in Europe.

The current crisis can represent an opportunity for SMEs to review products, services and business strategies from an innovative and competitive perspective using digital technologies. For example, data analysis and real-time automated monitoring systems based on IoT and AI can not only increase productivity, improve the quality of production processes, reduce costs and risks and make the best use of resources such as energy and water, but also strengthen the relationship with the customer by providing a personalized offer.

Digital innovation, combined with innovative business models, for example based on circular economy andin

Clearly, the definition and implementation of an integrated “digital-sustainable” strategy requires skills and resources that often go beyond the capabilities of an SME. Openness towards interdisciplinary forms of collaboration can be a key element for the company’s restart. Alliances and forms of co-creation can lead to a reduction in development costs and risks, the availability of new resources, and the expansion of its netw

Clearly co-creating requires openness to innovative ideas and different points of view. This involves a cultural change and a transition from a competitive mode based on personalisms and often responsible for inefficiencies and slowdowns in growth in times of crisis, to a cooperative mode based on a shared vision and benefits. As many successful cases show, the co-creation project is strengthened when guided by shared values and a clear social or environmental impact.

Innovation and interdisciplinarity play a key role in ecoSurge’s collaborative projects, which draws on a community of experts, researchers, entrepreneurs in Europe and the USA, and addresses challenges related to sustainable agriculture, reuse of packaging for sustainable consumption, remote care of chronic patients, energy efficiency and water management. ecoSurge also offers in-depth events on issues related to digital for the ecological transition of the post-pandemic and thematic meetings between experts and companies to share experiences, tools and reason together around the opportunities to be seized to encourage the restart.