Technology and knowledge connecting university and business
Issue 17 | Year 7 | NOVEMBRE 2017

CLab Trento. University of Trento Photograph Collection.



CLab Trento: interdisciplinary lab for university students and young graduates

Versione stampabile
Paola Fusi
is head of the Communications and Events Division of the University of Trento.
After their experience at CLab many young people continue their startup projects, by joining pre-incubation and acceleration programmes or through funding competitions.

Paola Fusi interviews Alessandro Rossi.

Opened in 2013, CLab Trento, where C stands for “contamination”, is a centre where young minds meet:  students with different backgrounds and from different degree courses learn to compare and discuss perspectives in a process of idea sharing.  But where does this lead? We asked Alessandro Rossi, CLab Chief and associate professor of Economics and Management at the University. 

Professor Rossi, what does it mean to say that CLab Trento is a centre for innovation? 
CLab Trento is the University’s interdepartmental learning space, set up to spread a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and proactivity in a teaching context that is innovative, informal and in touch with the world of work. Cross-contamination for us involves organising learning opportunities (seminars and intensive labs, hackathons and courses) that exploit the diversity of knowledge and skills among the participants.  These initiatives are based on active learning methods where the students are asked to deal with and resolve complex challenges such as developing and launching a startup, or working on an innovation project for an existing company. 

Who is CLab Trento for, and how can people participate? 
It’s for all university students (from undergraduates to post-docs) who want to complement their traditional university education by opening themselves to an interdisciplinary perspective and to the world of work, and by exposing themselves to new ways of learning based on creative ideation and developing a project, at the same time developing their so-called soft and transversal skills. All activities are also open to researchers, companies, and all the other actors in the local ecosystem. In some cases people participate as a mentor, tutor or client who has commissioned an innovation project. In other cases mixed working groups are formed where the distinction between roles and backgrounds is less important.  

Cross-contamination also comes from the alternation of teaching staff from different departments and also from outside the university (such as managers, entrepreneurs and innovation experts). For a complete picture of our activities and to find out how to join, see our social media (CLab Trento). 

What have been the most significant results of these four years of operation?  
Contamination Lab Trento is just starting its fifth year of activity, and in the last academic year it offered training opportunities to over 500 students of the university. The results we are most pleased with are related to what happens next, after CLab: many students continue their startup projects and joining pre-incubation and acceleration programs (e.g. the program offered by HIT); they participate in and win competitions for business project funding (e.g. the D2T Start Cup), national and international business competitions and hackathons (ENACTUS; VTKW, FGCI hackathon, UPF Hack, etc.), or special study programs (e.g. Silicon Valley Study Tours); they start student associations that transform the contamination into a real pandemic (e.g. the Inama association).  Other students take up internships to complete the innovation projects developed on behalf of companies. 

Looking ahead, what are your expectations for the coming year?  
We have recently obtained funding from the Ministry of Universities and Research (MIUR) to increase the number of students involved and the types of activities, which is also possible thanks to CLab’s new premises in piazza Fiera in Trento (in the Artigianelli Institute building), which we run together with HIT (Hub Innovazione Trentino), our strategic partner in cross-contamination. We want to become even more interdisciplinary, involving colleagues and students for the departments and degree courses that have been less involved so far. We want to make Contamination Lab Trento an even more active space, open to “CLabbers” not just during courses and seminars, but also especially as a meeting place, a project workspace, an opportunity to socialise, and a place for student associations to organise events related to innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity (with workshops, interactive seminars and talks).  The vision is to make this space really accessible, attractive and a defining feature of university life at UniTrento.