Meet Zeynep – The Helsingborg Innovation District Visionary

Helsingborg Innovation District is becoming a global hub for impact innovation. This ambitious project in Oceanhamnen, Helsingborg, brings together the public sector, business, and academia to drive transformational global impact innovation. At the helm of this transformative initiative is Zeynep Erdal, a dynamic forerunner whose diverse background and visionary approach are already making waves.

With a rich and diverse background, Zeynep’s journey to becoming Head of Helsingborg Innovation District is rooted in global experiences and significant achievements. Since August 2023, she has led the district, initiated by the City of Helsingborg, Lund University, Region Skåne, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden. Before this role, she spearheaded a multi-dimensional city development project between the City of Malmö and Malmö University, earning the title of “Student City of the Year 2021/2022” from the Swedish National Union of Students.

With degrees in International Development from Lund and Fudan Universities, she embarked on a diverse career. Specialising in the intersection of infrastructure and socio-economic development, she taught at prestigious universities including Fudan University, analysed policy and financial trends at “In On Africa,” and consulted internationally. Before returning home, she contributed to a UNDP Global Policy Center in Istanbul, building private-public partnerships to enhance sustainable development. Zeynep’s latest venture as a founder of Wovid Diaries, amplified women’s COVID-19 experiences globally, reaching audiences in over 80+ countries.

Zeynep believes that her global experience and expertise within multidimensional urban development projects, is a crucial asset when building Helsingborg Innovation District. Her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to cross-sectoral collaboration underscore her dedication to driving positive change on a global scale.

Having a vision for Helsingborg Innovation District, Zeynep’s inspiration for joining the innovation district was sparked during the H22 City Expo, where she was captivated by Helsingborg’s forward-thinking culture. Her experience at the UN and as a consultant made her envision the potential of cross-sectoral collaboration, and she saw the perfect platform to elevate Sweden’s innovative power on the global stage.

“I want Helsingborg Innovation District to facilitate and enable innovation processes in a structured way, to truly elevate our innovative power and role on the global scene,” Zeynep says. “Innovation districts have a transformative power, and Helsingborg is uniquely positioned to create a thriving innovation ecosystem based on the triple-helix principle – bridging academia, public sector, and private sector.”

Helsingborg’s established diverse industrial landscape, entrepreneurial spirit, and strong community sense make it an ideal location. Zeynep envisions the innovation district as a cross-sectoral platform challenging traditional collaboration methods in a physical location, interlinking spaces that generate an inspiring environment for the community, promoting advancements in research and development into practical solutions that improve everyday lives.

Contributing to the innovation ecosystem, Zeynep has been deeply engaged in understanding and mapping the local ecosystem behind the scenes. “What makes an innovation district unique is its ecosystem,” she explains. “I’ve been meeting with entrepreneurs, researchers, and public officials to understand the stakeholders, needs, and possibilities unique to this region.”

Her efforts include attending international and local conferences, networking gatherings, running workshops, and fostering collaborations that spotlight Helsingborg Innovation District. This extensive engagement is essential for building a cohesive and vibrant community within the district.

Overcoming challenges with vision creating a cross-sectoral collaborative platform like Helsingborg Innovation District is both challenging and rewarding. “Moving away from ‘business as usual’ takes effort and requires a clear vision and roadmap that appeal to all stakeholders,” Zeynep acknowledges. “Innovation districts are a new phenomenon in this region, and initially, they can be hard to grasp. We have just started our journey, our common vision is crafted, designed, and redesigned over time to address the future needs of the triple helix and society.”

Zeynep’s global experiences and innovative spirit drive the district towards a future full of possibilities. In Zeynep’s words, “We are building more than a district; we are building a legacy of innovation and collaboration that will resonate across the globe.” Helsingborg Innovation District is set to become a model of innovation and collaboration.

Curious about finding out more and how your organisation can become part of our community?

Meet Zeynep | Helsingborg innovation district

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