Geneva’s Open Innovation Festival for Science, Technology and Society, best known as Open Geneva, was established in 2017 with the support of the GTI, to promote citizen participation in research for the common good. In particular, Open Geneva aims to foster open innovation for people from all walks of life in the Greater Geneva Area, as well as for the global network of humanitarian and multilateral actors represented by the International Organisations and NGOs that form a unique and vital part of the city.
A first Open Geneva Hackathon took place in 2015, organised by the Geneva Creativity Center with the Centre Universitaire d’Informatique and other higher education partners Geneva, in order to promote innovation for tackling social challenges in Geneva. During the event, teams of students worked over several weekends on social and technical innovations related to energy, health and mobility. The 2016 edition of this hackathon was hosted by Citizen Cyberlab at Campus Biotech and focused on medical technologies and global health innovation. It welcomed 50 participants from a range of professional and academic backgrounds, during a curated hackathon co-organised by The Port association and the Hôpitaux Universitaires Genève (HUG).
2017: birth of a city-wide hackathon festival
In 2017, a single hackathon evolved into a festival of innovation. The bold idea was that running a range of hackathons as part of a single event, over a weekend and across a whole city, would create more attention and stimulate more participation than a series of disconnected hackathons could ever do. And the idea proved to be correct: with the support of the GTI and the Digital Strategy of the University of Geneva, some 21 hackathons were organised, with the involvement of high schools, research centers, public administrations and private companies. Approximately 400 participants with a broad variety of skills and motivations developed over 50 innovative projects, several of which continued to develop after the event. This keen interest is a confirmation that there is a real appetite for open innovation amongst a broad population in a city like Geneva. The first Geneva Festival of Open Innovation coincided with the launch of the SDG Solution Space, a unique open innovation hub in the heart of International Geneva, supported by the GTI. The same year, an Open Geneva association was established to run the Festival annually.
Open Geneva since 2018
In 2018, Open Geneva lasted over an entire week, with a concentration of activity on the weekend, attracting more than 800 participants to 31 hackathons, as well as 250 people who joined conferences, open door events and workshops. There were more than 300 attendees at a final Hack Show, where the some of the best results from the hackathons were showcased. In 2019, the number of hackathon participants exceeded a thousand. With these figures, Open Geneva has become one of the largest innovation events in Switzerland, which is in turn one of the most innovative countries in the world. And in 2020, confronted with a pandemic, Open Geneva made a smooth transition to an online event, tackling the challenges to societal resilience that the Covid crisis created. The success of Open Geneva is due in part to the establishment of an Open Geneva Association that represents a broad engagement by public institutions, private businesses, students and researchers as well as citizens from all walks of life and all ages. Open Geneva has gone on to inspire other large scale hackathon events, such as SDG Open Hack, a campus-wide event first launched at Tsinghua University in 2019.