Innovative approach of EIT Digital Summer School helps a professional evolve

EIT Digital Summer School

Chadoulis Rizos-Theodoros is a bit of a renaissance man. A physicist who researches artificial intelligence and writes code for a living, he has a side project developing a platform to get the public involved in promoting pocket parks. He's also currently working on a PhD focused on making AI more explainable, to make it more believable.

When Rizos-Theodoros was looking for a learning experience for the summer, he felt that the EIT approach to innovation and learning matched his needs. "I was pretty aware of the way EIT works, of its priorities, of the way it functions as a European body," he said. After completing the "Solutions for Healthier Digital Cities" EIT Digital Summer School, Rizos-Theodoros said he was glad he made the choice, because the programme not only helped him learn, it also helped him look at things differently.

"I want to keep evolving because it keeps you healthy, it opens doors, it increases your adaptability and it keeps you relevant," he explained.

The two-week course was one of 11 EIT Digital Summer School programmes held in intriguing cities around Europe this year. With travel opening up and in-person education returning, the courses were very popular, enrolling 300 students from the EIT Digital Master School and 200 external students and professionals, like Rizos-Theodoros.

A focus on digital cities

The Digital Cities course that Rizos-Theodoros chose was able to meld many of his interests. He explained that his PhD work, and often his professional research, both involve use of remote sensing and AI for local public service needs.

Municipal public service is also important to Rizos-Theodoros's side project, called "Let's Park", which he runs with a couple of friends. "In this platform, citizens will be able to sign up, and express their interest for a pocket park in their municipality - and describe the qualitative aspects of the pocket park they would like to see constructed. Municipalities have access to the data, and they can evaluate and decide where to build the next park, taking into account citizens' preferences," he explained.

Undertakings that employ data collected through research are important for Rizos-Theodoros. "I want with this park project to help both ways. Help society, but also help to give life to research results," he explained. "I'm generally interested in making something useable out of scientific research."

He said this attitude is what attracted him to the EIT Digital Summer School programme.

Learning about innovation and management

Rizos-Theodoros hoped to benefit from EIT Digital's expertise in developing innovations into market-ready goods and services. It turned out that the lessons in innovation were "the most important takeaway" from the course, he said.

"Before the summer school I thought that innovation is something that only a few charismatic people can do, and something that mostly has to do with the spur of the moment. But in fact I realized that it's more than that. it's a way of thinking that can be learned, can be taught, and under specific preconditions, everyone can perform innovation," Rizos-Theodoros said.

Rizos-Theodoros said he also benefitted from the managerial training provided by the EIT Digital Summer School. "Coming myself from a more technical background, all this managerial stuff was a bit new for me," he said. "During the two weeks of the summer school, we got our hands on a wide variety of managerial tools and ways of thinking, and I have already employed those in my day-to-day work."

Other benefits: The place and people

The course was held in the historical city of Rennes, France, and for Rizos-Theodoros that was an added attraction. "I really liked the fact that it's a city with two universities. I also come from a city in which universities sustain part of the local economy and part of the life," he said. "So I like this kind of city very much. And I think that some of the best cities around the world owe this to their universities, for example Glasgow, Bristol and Thessaloniki, where I come from."

His fellow students added a great deal to the experience, sharing their knowledge and their viewpoints from around Europe and beyond, including places like China, India and Pakistan. "I think that people have to work for at least some time in such multicultural environments, because in this way one can really appreciate how much a diverse environment has to offer," he said.

Overall, Rizos-Theodoros found the experience to be useful on many levels, and he said he would highly recommend EIT Digital Summer School's special kind of education to other professionals. "Even for someone who does not want to become an entrepreneur, understanding how this ecosystem works is crucial because it's a very productive way of approaching work and seeing the world," he explained.

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