How global tech companies promote sports innovation

One Madrid centre is playing team games to nurture sports innovation

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We tend to hear a lot about innovation and collaboration but what does it really mean? Is it just an excuse to put table tennis tables into clean and tidy workspaces, where walls are actually whiteboards, and soft chairs and coffee tables are called break-out areas? There’s a lot of nonsense attached to it but we are regularly told there’s also lot of value in enabling collaboration between individuals within organisations and also between different businesses.

Microsoft, for one, has taken this to heart and developed a chain of innovation centres around the globe – over 100 at last count – with the aim of helping startups and entrepreneurs build their ideas and work with other companies to form partnerships and overcome skills shortages. It has a few success stories on its site but perhaps one of its most ambitious centres was set-up in Madrid in 2015 to “develop collaborative technology solutions for the sports industry,” at least according to its launch statement.

Located on Madrid’s Calle de Goya, next to the WiZink venue, The Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC) is actually a not-for-profit collaboration between the Madrid Government, Microsoft and a number of strategic partners including Camilo Jose Cela University, LG and Real Madrid CF, among others. It was initially backed by a 17 million euro investment with the aim of serving as a business incubator for 50 startups and to support 200 over a five year period.

Of course, two years is a long time in sport, so has it worked and what can we learn from it?

On the startup collaboration front there certainly seems to have been a few success stories. Lidia Valverde Jimenez, comms manager at the GSIC reels off a few names of companies, or associates as they are called, that have, as a direct result of connections made through the centre, sealed impressive deals or partnerships.

She talks about Wildmoka, a French company providing a digital content creation platform for broadcasters, that now works with the likes of Orange and Fox Broadcasting and Triboom in Italy, a crowdfunding platform for sports communities. There is also G2K, based in Germany, a data management and analytics business that offers crowd security and personalised marketing capabilities. It’s already attracted interest from AC Chievo Verona and facilities management company Wisag, which looks after a number of airports in Germany.

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