Incubation and Innovation: a Former Church on Giudecca Nurtures New Ventures for Venice

After being delayed by the pandemic, MITDesignX held its first successful term in 2022, concluding with the Final Pitch event on Nov. 23.

By Paul Rosenberg

Nov. 29, 2022

The term “startup incubator” evokes a sort of mid-2000s era image of rooms full of overworked young people, coding furiously and living at work – eating and sleeping at their desks in between caffeine fueled bursts of activity. But this is 2022 and we are in Venice, or more specifically on Giudecca, and while there is plenty of coffee, the “incubating” going on here is much more varied – and considerably more relaxed – than the above image suggests. Nobody here sleeps at their desks, but that’s not to say there is not a lot of committed work happening.

In the former Church in Campo Santo Cosmo on Giudecca, also known as the ex-Herion factory (where garment manufacturing was once the main activity), now called “H3”, today there are people of all ages working on new projects, plans and ideas to bring to new businesses and new work to Venice. The overall goal is actually quite simple, even low-tech: help new companies to start up in Venice, where they can create new jobs and new economies, and thus help repopulate the city. For more details about SerenDPT, the benefit company that is the driving force behind these efforts, see their website.

While many of the initiatives underway involve technology to be sure, H3 is also being used to cultivate cultural initiatives and journalism, and hosting concerts (in the acoustically spectacular apse) and international events. There is even a composer in residence here, Emanuele Wiltsch Barberio. His new album, In Cosmo, was recorded here at H3 in the midst of the first pandemic lockdown, and recently premiered on NTS, a leading station in Europe.

So, there’s a lot going on at H3 that doesn’t quite line up with the typical image evoked by “startup incubator”. Like Venice itself, the dynamic is more complex and runs deeper than the superficial images conjured by the name.

One of the big events that took place here recently was the Final Pitch event for the first MITDesignX Venice project. In their own words, “MITdesignX Venice is a program at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) dedicated to design innovation and entrepreneurship, that will support local entrepreneurs and help launch new firms and organizations dedicated to solving problems experienced in Venice as well as other coastal and historical cities, and places experiencing major loss in full time population.”

The project received 56 applicants, and 10 were chosen to participate in an intensive three-month program designed to help new companies evolve and grow – and ultimately succeed – right here in Venice.

The projects that were presented last week are innovative and interesting, but rather than explaining them, I will let these startups describe themselves; first to offer a better idea of what types of things are being “incubated” here, and also in the hope that these ideas might inspire companies or teams to apply for the 2023 edition, which will begin preliminary workshops in the coming months. The following text is from the MDXV website, and shows each company’s own brief description of their work, with links to their websites:

  1. 2GIFT

2Gift makes it easy to support a local cause or neighborhood sports club through day-to-day shopping at local stores and supermarkets. 2Gift website

  1. ACCAINDUSTRIES

Our device uses renewable energy sources to reduce fuel consumption and emission of CO2 and pollutants of combustion engines. Accaindustries website

  1. AGROPOP

Agropop is a project of TECTUM GARDEN, a spin-off of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, created by 6 researchers working in urban agriculture. AgroPop is the new service to design and maintain your outdoor plants. With this project we want to help people grow in their terraces and balconies, transforming cities into greener and more sustainable places. Agropop website

  1. ARTI

Makes available an innovative fundraising platform for the preservation of heritage for Municipalities, Foundations and Museums. The donor can decide the portion of the monument or artifacts he intends to support and record the donation in an immutable way. Donations are rewarded with coupons for purchases of local products and services, related to the traditions and creativity that enrich the notion of Heritage.  Arti website

  1. E-DOCK

Our mission is to decrease marine pollution by creating the first worldwide charging infrastructure network for electric boat users thanks to our patented E-dock charging and docking system. E-dock product page (from e-concept website)

  1. FAIRUP

We envision a world where travelers always contribute to make the places they visit better. We have created a marketplace full of unique experiences that allow you to add “values” to your time. When you book Fairup, you donate half of the commission to a local social project, connected with the experience. Live new experiences with us and fairup the communities you visit.  Fairup website

  1. PESCO

Promotes sustainable fishing through a web platform that connects global fishing enthusiasts with local experts who can share knowledge and equipment, while amortizing their costs. Pesco website

  1. REHUB

Rehub gives new value to glass waste. They have developed a process to transform Murano glass waste into a “ paste” that can be extruded using a 3D printer or injected inside molds, creating new objects that are made from 100% Murano glass, while reducing energy consumption and the environmental impact of the glass industry.  Rehub website

  1. SEA THE CHANGE

Sea the Change gives a unique and comprehensive solution to companies to meet their sustainability needs through innovative CSR services aimed to protect marine ecosystems in order to address carbon neutrality through the Blue Carbon Credits to mitigate the effects of climate change in the Venetian lagoon and in other seaside locations. Sea the Change website

  1. VOGA YACHTS

Voga Yachts designs and produces hydrogen-electric, low-wave boats to give people the peace of mind to move freely on a cleaner planet.  Voga Yachts website

The MITDesignX Final Pitch event, where these companies presented the results of their work and their now evolved products, took place  here on the evening of Nov. 23, 2022, was recorded live and is available to watch here (the event is in English).

As alluded to earlier, MITDesignX Venice is far from all that is happening at H3, and more of those ongoing activities will be featured on this site in the coming weeks and months. For now, get those business ideas incubating! There is a home for them, here in Venice.

 


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