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UTEC Ventures and La Mezcladora Innovation Hub set the ground for corporates and startups to build together

Since 2021, La Mezcladora Hub join corporates and startups from the construction sector to work together in the challenges the industry faces and close the gaps.

Since 2021, La Mezcladora Hub has been joining corporates and startups from the construction sector to work together in the challenges the industry faces and close the gaps.

“In Peru, every year around 140,000 families look for a house, and only 40,000 succeed in doing so formally. The other 100,000 end up in land trafficking and informality.”

For a long time, the construction and housing sector has been facing a crisis in the country. A largely invisible and critical housing situation, lower productivity of the sector because of a shortage of technology, and a lack of innovation seemingly due to a lack of promotion for entrepreneurship in this industry, are some of the main issues feeding into the problem.

In 2021, 6 organizations formed an alliance to propose solutions to address these issues and, with the support of UTEC Ventures, built “La Mezcladora Innovation Hub”.

“Initially, we did not know with total clarity what to do and how to materialize it, but we were sure that they wanted to make a change, and this change would be achieved through working with startups, attracting solutions, talent, and technology from others, and finally, making that change collectively while we were building a mindset and a culture of innovation”, explains Luis Enrique, Executive Manager of La Mezcladora.

Right from the start, La Mezcladora evolved. A total of ten important organizations linked to the construction sector (8 companies, 1 NGO, and 1 university) have already joined as partners, open innovation challenges were launched, an innovation training program was developed, and pilots were set up between corporates and startups which represent the ultimate objective of La Mezcladora's work.

However, initially, the difference in communication and working approaches between corporates and startups were obstacles to collaboration, and often, corporations considered working with startups as a client-supplier relationship, rather than as a partner. The team realized that training was key to involving corporate members in the innovation ecosystem and facilitating work with startups. Aiming to increase the probability of pilots being implemented, they set up “La Mezcladora Academy”, a three-module innovation training program for corporate.

“The Academy program is a space to build innovative solutions in the construction sector, with an eye to open innovation and sustainability. It is back to basics to create from scratch: empathize, unlearn, take risks, and put people at the center. Innovation does not come out of offices, it comes out the more we talk to other people, from other sectors, with other "journeys" of life.”, highlights Juan Jose Rebaza, Sustainability Coordinator at UNACEM in a LinkedIn post.

In August 2022, the team worked with Swiss EP Entrepreneur-In-Residence Monica Novoa to co-create a mentoring training and development program for corporate members working with startups. In October, the diaspora Marita Cadillo helped them to enhance the Academy curriculum content with a user experience approach, obtaining the basis of the methodology for the next iterations.

At the same time, to connect stakeholders in a field, they supported startups in adapting their solutions to fit partners’ needs and set the stage for a pilot working together in the design of a business case., which could become a market-ready service or product. In just one year, the initiative helped bring to light 22 solutions, 8 of which led to pilot proposals.

One of the innovation challenges, sponsored by Swisscontact, sought a solution for builders to improve the calculation of steel rods, and the startup ARCUX proposed “Costea”, a simple cost-calculation tool for construction materials.

Every obstacle that is overcome is a lesson learned. And it is still a key question to align the interests of nine partners and understand the needs, differences, and specificities of each one. Through this process, UTEC Ventures’ team has developed its ability to fail, correct and improve, be flexible, and adapt rapidly.

This first stage of “La Mezcladora” has made them realize that this initiative has the soul of a startup. They are now looking forward to continuing optimizing their operations, with ambitions for internationalization. As they partner with public organizations and test new innovative approaches, they are poised to generate meaningful impact for thousands of families.