INSURE.hub: A Unique Ecosystem of Innovation in Sustainability and Regeneration

Thursday, October 13, 2022 - 17:41

INSURE – Innovation in Sustainability and Regeneration Hub turns one year old! A joint initiative of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Porto – through ESB and CBQF and the Católica Porto Business School -, with Planetiers New Generation, to which more than 40 national and international entities, from the most diverse sectors, have already joined. The most recent organizations to join this range are ANJE – Association of Young Entrepreneurs and Fundación Ashoka Emprendedores Sociales.

João Pinto, vice-president of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Porto and professor at the Católica Porto Business School, makes a very positive assessment: “it was a challenging year that made us more and more certain that we are treading a demanding path, but with a lot of sense. We realized this in contact with our national and international partners and in strengthening the partnership we have between Católica and Planetiers.” João Pinto also mentions “we complement each other and we realize that we have an important role to play in bringing Portugal to the forefront of the desired transformations at European level.”

We spoke with João Pinto, Manuela Pintado (director of the Centre for Biotechnology and Fine Chemistry) and António Vasconcelos (co-leader of Planetiers New Generation) about the main milestones and challenges that lie ahead when leading an initiative such as the INSURE.hub, which is developing a set of activities aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the European Green Pact Strategy and the goals set for Europe 2030, helping to bring Portugal to the forefront of countries progressive within the EU.

On the 17th of November, the 2nd Conference of INSURE.hub took place at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Porto.


What were the main challenges you encountered in this first year?

In this first year of activity, one of the main challenges was to find an area of ​​convergence between the needs felt by companies in Sustainability and Innovation vs. approaches based on holistic thinking that result from the work we have been developing with international thought leaders. We had an active and very rich dialogue with the leaders of the companies, which reinforced the need to have business strategies in which the business operates within social and environmental limits; and the importance of having training for company staff with a systemic and multidisciplinary perspective, something we consider essential. As a result, we designed a Postgraduate Course in Innovation for Sustainable & Regenerative Business, scheduled for February 2023. Another challenge relates to the difficulties in financing sustainable and regenerative entrepreneurship.

The financial system still views cutting-edge scientific knowledge with some reservation, which it sees as “closed” in university laboratories and research and technology centres. Investors with more suitable characteristics for 'ventures' are still scarce in Portugal, despite all the evolution of entrepreneurship in recent years and the growing access to investors in international markets.


What are the big achievements?

We felt, firstly, an important reception for a dynamic to strengthen the approach of the business and associative sector to the academy, having as a backdrop the cooperation and the creation of mutual learning networks. There are more than 40 entities that joined the INSURE Hub throughout the year, having felt the importance of going beyond signing an agreement, and taking advantage of what the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (through Católica Porto Business School and ESB and CBQF) and Planetiers New Generation, have to give - not only from the point of view of skills and technical approaches, but also in supporting the establishment of an integrated vision of the business.

Additionally, we realize that our partners are fully aligned with the need for new approaches that help them navigate through enormous uncertainty and complexity, and within environmental constraints, moving from the take-make-waste philosophy to new environmental, social, and social paradigms. and economical.


Is the launch of a new executive course in the area of ​​Sustainability and Regeneration intended to respond to a market need? What are the big differentiating factors?

The new executive course aims to prepare professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform current management models and evolve towards a clean and circular economy, in accordance with the objectives of the European Green Deal. It is important that such knowledge be transdisciplinary and holistic, understanding the system in which each business operates and including its entire value chain. This is, from the outset, a major differentiating factor compared to other types of offers, which is made possible by the mobilization of relevant national and international partners, who have been developing work of great impact in their areas. More than a traditional management course, we thus integrate, in a coherent and synergistic way, the knowledge of the Faculties of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa with the vast experience of international partners in the areas of innovation and sustainability, crossing sciences and management.


What are the big short and medium term priorities for INSURE.hub?

Next year we want to increase the relationship with existing partners, substantially expand the network of partners (by doing so, we will expand the learning of new challenges to be faced), and we want to work more diligently on the theme of literacy and the articulation between the business sector and the new generations. We know that Católica has great flexibility and multidisciplinarity, which we want to put fully at the service of INSURE.Hub. We are, in fact, in a new era of the economy of societies, which integrate economic and business development with the development of people and the education of the new generations. And this is the path that the INSURE Hub will increasingly develop.