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Every year, the Berkeley Business Academy for Youth (B-Bay) organizes a summer program where middle school and high school students have the special opportunity to learn about business in many areas from entrepreneurship, corporations, marketing, accounting, and innovation. Particularly, high school participants have the extra privilege to participate in a case study session where they diligently exercise teamwork and critical thinking skills to design their own innovative solutions to city planning and urban advancement.


On July 26th, these high school participants attended an Open Innovation lecture taught exclusively by Professor Solomon Darwin, a leading expert in the field of Open Innovation. The primary focus of the case study was “Smart Cities”. In the discussion, Professor Darwin encouraged the students to express thoughts about what they think is needed to build cities. Some of the students’ examples included finance, transportation, education, land, factories, labor, capital, etc. Professor Darwin expressed some perceptions about the ancient cities of India, which led to insightful dialog on what a city needs to prosper.


The first instructive insight by Professor Darwin was “Before you build a city, you need to plan it…most importantly, you need energy. You can’t do anything without energy. When you have all those things, you can make an intelligent society”. Professor Darwin then proceeded to speak about the three frameworks crucial to designing a promising smart city.  The three frameworks are classified as the Triple Helix Framework, the Open Innovation Framework, and the Business Model Framework.


The Triple Helix Framework applies the importance of government, research, and innovation. Professor Darwin shared a personal touching life story of being part of a caste called the Untouchables and how moving to the U.S gave him the opportunity he couldn’t dream of having in India. From observing startups, Professor Darwin explained how the government plays a crucial role in providing funding for university research. In turn, research turns that funding into knowledge. Then, innovation turns that knowledge into money back to the hands of the government. In this way, a strong triple bond creates a foundation for stronger economies.


Professor Darwin then introduced the Open Innovation Framework, the idea that you openly share and encourage new business ideas to drive the success of companies.  “Innovation comes from all over the place. You need to study the models to come up with ideas” said Professor Darwin as he emphasized the necessity of working together and contributing to the working economy.


Lastly, Professor Darwin covered the Business Model Framework as another component to building stronger economies. This framework particularly is based upon vision, mission, and core values. It relies on the essence that businesses are structured upon creating values, and maintaining a relationship with its citizens. Professor Darwin pinpointed, “People have needs and pains. You, as the architect of the city, turn pains into gains”.


Professor Darwin’s session on Open innovation ended with a powerful applause from the high school students. Although it was a brief discussion, Professor Darwin virtually covered the main focus taught in his Spring 2015’s Building Smart Cities course at UC Berkeley – a course where undergraduate students extensively study and prospectively apply India’s modern business models to identify social economic misconstruction, and improve the quality of major urban cities in the U.S.



By: Pagaaluck Toonkum Oonsiri