The 1st Asturias Science and Innovation Fair

The 1st Asturias Science and Innovation Fair in Spain was held as part of Science and Innovation Week, and was mainly aimed at students and teachers of Secondary, Baccalaureate and Vocational Training. Unlike the usual School Science Fairs, this Fair’s format sought to encourage contact and the establishment of short- and medium-term collaborative relationships between educational centres and the different entities, companies and research centres of the regional R&D&i ecosystem that also participated as exhibitors.

It was organised by the Regional Ministry of Science, Innovation and University, together with the Institute for Economic Development of the Principality of Asturias (IDEPA), with the support of the European Business and Innovation Centre (CEEI), the Foundation for the Promotion of Applied Scientific Research and Technology in Asturias (FICYT), and Valnalón/Asturias4STEAM.

During the Fair, students and teachers from 13 secondary and vocational training schools in Asturias were able to present their scientific and technological projects under the same roof, sharing space and experiences with 28 research teams from the University of Oviedo, Several centres belonging to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), such as:

  • INCAR – Institute of Coal
  • CINN – Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials Research Centre
  • IPLA –  Institute of Dairy Products),
  • ISPA –  Institute of Health Research of the Principality of Asturias
  • SERIDA – Regional Service for Agri-Food Research and Development

Technology centres, consortia such as COGERSA, museums such as the Jurassic Museum of Asturias, and eighteen companies from the regional R&D&I field.

52 research and innovation projects were presented, a sample of the talent of Asturian R&D&I in all its stages: from the research that begins in schools and promotes scientific vocations, that which is generated in research and technology centres and that which is developed and reaches the market through companies. Next to the fair stands aimed at secondary school, high school and vocational training students.

The theme of the Fair revolved around the areas of the Asturias Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3), a document that defines the strengths of the region in terms of science and innovation and which is structured into: Heritage and Biodiversity, Smart and Resilient Industry, Agrifood, Active and Healthy Ageing, and Energy and the Circular Economy.

In order to verify the synergies established between the educational centres and the different entities, companies and research centres of the regional R&D&i ecosystem, teachers were asked to evaluate the experience and it was verified that the average number of contacts was four per educational centre. These contacts were made mainly with companies, research groups of the University of Oviedo and other educational centres. The type of collaborations planned in the short or medium term is very diverse, but the teachers told us that they will mainly consist of technical advice for their projects (21%), visits to the facilities (15%) and talks in educational centres (8.5%).

The Vocational Training centres have taken full advantage of these opportunities. For example, in the case of the Integrated Centre for Occupational Vocational Training Laboral, which is well advanced in the digitalisation of a 5-axis machining centre (digital twin) for the simulation of CAD/CAM processes, the Fair has allowed them to open a collaboration channel with the MediaLab chair located at the Polytechnic University School of Engineering in Gijón. In the case of the teaching staff and students of the Automotive Vocational Training of the Sánchez Lastra Secondary School, who took their electric car to the Fair with which they have already won several competitions at national level, they established contact with the Fluidodynamic Engineering Group of the University of Oviedo, which had set up its wind tunnel next to their stand.

On the other hand, secondary schools have not been left behind either. For example, the Candás Secondary School, which had sent a balloon probe into the stratosphere to record changes in pressure and temperature, was visited by staff from the Institute of Space Sciences and Technologies of Asturias (ICTEA), and the Number 5 Secondary School presented a project on the application of machine learning to detect gender bias in professional image recognition algorithms and established contact with Uriaxait, a company specialising in Artificial Intelligence.

In addition to promoting entrepreneurship and scientific vocations, the teaching staff highlighted the didactic value of this experience for the students by having real contact with companies and experts on the topics of their projects; and in addition to the preparation of scientific posters in the days prior to the Fair, there was also the possibility of developing soft skills during the event.

The proximity between educational centres and companies linked to the projects presented by the students was an important nexus that demonstrates the relationship between education and employment, with a clear demonstration of the viability of entrepreneurship in these sectors and the importance of intra-entrepreneurship in the world of work.

By Amara Hinojal Rascón & David Fernández Montes
Tutors Entrepreneurship Education Programmes