The new director of the Innovation Center of Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME) will fill in the position in June. To fill the position, MOME and the accreditor Foundation for the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design announced their open international call last November, which was won by Latvian-born Lāsma Ivaska.
For almost two decades, the goal of MOME has been to strengthen the international character of the institution and to put the university on the world map. With the model change, all this was given a new impetus: as the new accreditor, the Foundation for the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design set the goal particularly to make MOME the most recognized creative workshop in the region by 2030. In order to strengthen cross-border networking, the institution sought a new director to lead the MOME Innovation Center through an open, international call.
The call announced last November and the subsequent selection process were not only unprecedented in Hungary, but also exceeded all expectations: more than one hundred and sixty candidates from twenty-nine countries on five continents submitted their applications. From the United States through India to Japan, applications were submitted from all over the world—leading experts from Latin America’s highest-rated private university, from a French architectural studio or from Apple, for example.
“We were amazed by how much international interest was generated by our call for the Head of the Innovation Center. The number and caliber of applicants from all over the world was not just impressive but also confirmed to us that MOME can truly target the forefront of European design universities. People’s curiosity and interest prove it,” said Margaret Ann Dowling, Head of Brand and Business Development of MOME.
The submitted applications were reviewed by both the university and the accreditor, who then made their final decision by consensus. The selection process lasted two months and original thinking, experience in innovation management, knowledge of the challenges of the Central European region, increased sensitivity to social and economic problems, and providing MOME with a valuable new network of contacts were taken into consideration.
Lāsma Ivaska, who is of Latvian descent and represents a young and fresh perspective, eventually proved to be the most suitable candidate to achieve the future vision of MOME and the Innovation Center. Her specialties are open innovation and smart city: before the leadership position of the Innovation Center, she filled in the professional leader position of Riga’s innovation district, VEF. The district is named after one of the largest Latvian manufacturers of electrotechnical and electronic equipment, the former State Electrotechnical Factory (Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika). The factory was mainly known for its portable radios, but micro-cameras and airplanes were also manufactured here. In cooperation with VEF Kulturas pils, a cultural center owned by the Riga municipality and the district’s leading businesses together created an innovation movement called VEFRESH to rebuild the VEF district and then turn it into a dynamic innovation ecosystem and center.
In addition to her leadership position at VEFRESH, Lāsma Ivaska also runs an exciting, own civil project in the Latvian capital called Repair Café. The Repair Café movement started in 2009 in Amsterdam, reached Latvia in 2012, and then it took another three years for Repair Cafe Riga to start. The initiative calls attention to more responsible consumption: at various events, it teaches city dwellers to repair their electronic and digital devices on their own, so that they buy fewer new products in the name of sustainability.
In addition to her professional experience, Lāsma also has an interdisciplinary background, which is particularly valuable in mapping the social and economic impact of various creative projects. As Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, also emphasized, “Lāsma is above all an extremely positive and dynamic personality who can energize her environment in an instant. Her versatile qualifications are a major advantage, as she studied at a high level in mathematics, economics, urban planning, literature, and even political science. The selection process also revealed that she is an ambitious, conscious and methodical leader, which is essential to achieving MOME’s international goals”.
Moreover, the Baltics are among the most successful innovation ecosystems in the world—a region with significant experience in effective cooperation between state, municipal, business and civil society characters. Lāsma Ivaska herself comes from such a background, as Riga’s innovation district is being developed precisely in this dynamic framework—this approach can be an important value not only for MOME but also for its partners.
The new director will also play a key role in the long-term development of the Innovation Center, finalizing its professional strategy and organizational model, and strengthening international academic, technological and business relationships.
“There are few design universities in Central Europe that focus on innovation and social responsibility among their activities. I believe that MOME is on the best path to becoming an internationally recognized institution. I am excited to join the team of the Innovation Center to dynamize our partnerships, strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation and develop a working solution from as many promising ideas as possible,” emphasized Lāsma Ivaska.