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Forecast of SYNTRE Learning Journey in Latvia

Kirjoittanut: Katrina Cirule - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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Forecast of SYNTRE Learning Journey in Latvia




SYNTRE’s second Learning Journey will take place in Riga, Latvia from 17 to 23 April. As SYNTRE’s first Learning Journey was in Finland, this is our first and last Learning Journey abroad. Not only do we plan to get to know the Latvian business scene by volunteering at TechChill and visiting different organizations such as Startup House Riga, but we also plan to do a 12 hour challenge related to Senior University. In this essay, authors will reflect on last year’s Learning Journey and share this year’s plan, prepare for volunteering at TechChill Riga by diving deeper into the event themes, including learning more about Latvia’s business scene.




One thing we learned from the first Learning Journey (LJ) was that we need to have clear objectives and everyone’s motivation. One struggle from the first LJ was that SYNTRE hosted about 15 teampreneurs from the Swiss Team Academy, and we spent the first week getting to know each other and the second week preparing for the Sales Days. As it was a large group with unclear objectives, it was difficult to get everyone on the same page. This year, the objectives are the following:

  • Each member of the team is motivated by positive energy and brings the work to be done. Getting ready.
  • Successfully completing a task for a Senior University of Latvia: understanding the general problem of Europe’s aging population and the lack of activities for seniors to support lifelong learning.
  • Experience the startup scene and ecosystem in Riga
  • Get to know the trends in the business scene: From big Baltic companies to small start-ups, what are the hot topics and in which area are they investing a lot of effort? What is the raising field?
  • Networking with different people. For example, students from Riga Business School, different business people in companies, etc.


The improvement we want to make from the first Learning Journey is that SYNTRE members are aware of the learning objectives and the 12H challenge before the Learning Journey takes place and are well prepared to get the best out of it. The Learning Journey leading team assigned the team to make in total 5 points of the essay related to Senior University and topics that will be discussed in TechChill such as game-changing technologies (AI, defense tech, climate tech, space tech), essential startup skills, and how diversity and inclusion is seen in a changing business world.




The challenge we are given is following: 

  1. How to build a user-friendly virtual senior university for both students and teachers, especially considering that the students are elderly? – What are the examples of this and what kind of struggles have they (teachers, students, all stakeholders) faced?
  2. How to make the Virtual Senior University more attractive for teachers to teach?

To take a closer look at the issue of Europe’s ageing population and the need for senior universities, the current elderly population that is 65 years old or above in 2020 accounted for approximately 20.6% of the European Union’s population (Fanni et al., 2023). Furthermore, the percentage is expected to grow by 31.3% in the European Union by 2100 (Gallego et al., 2022). As the figures show, Europe’s population is aging. 

The client’s students range from 57 to 90 years old. Based on their experience, there are many older students who would like to join the Senior University as it is a good way for them to socialize and get back into the education system. As you can notice, there are needs for senior universities. However, one of the biggest problems the client is facing is that there are not enough teachers to join. At the moment, the senior university is funded entirely from students’ pockets, which makes it difficult to pay good salaries to teachers. Further research should be made to find ways to acquire funding from the governmental level or collaboration to attract more teachers. 


During Covid, the Senior University went online. Students faced many difficulties with technology, especially the fact that they are older, but also learned that change is possible. After Covid the Senior University went back to ‘face to face’ learning and there are some wishes from students to make it hybrid. There are many reasons why the client wanted to make the Senior University virtual. The Virtual Senior University allows more students to be enrolled as there is no space limitation compared to the physical university, saves on rental costs and allows students to study the recordings whenever and wherever they want. It also makes it easier for many teachers to participate, not only local Latvians but also Latvians living abroad. 


3.1 Preparing for the 12H challenge


To understand the given challenge better, some benefits and challenges of Virtual Senior University will be introduced. 

What could be the benefits? 

  • One of the benefits of establishing virtual senior universities is that it allows different age groups and regions of older people to participate in lifelong learning and academic programmes such as digital skills, different languages, sports, cooking and so on, while creating more opportunities for internationalization (Carvalho 2015).
  • From the students’ point of view, they can gain not only intellectual learning opportunities, but also social well-being from different online programs, which could have a positive impact on public health and social cohesion (Kwiek, M., 2015).
  • Both students and teachers can have more flexibility on time, location, speed of learning, etc.


Then what could be the challenges?

  • Although seniors have experienced and learned some new technologies, they may find it difficult to follow the course or submit assignments as they are not used to learning in a digital format. There could be limited resources to support difficulties coming from virtual learning. 
  • Despite the fact that the concept of virtual education is more normalized and visible than ever before, students may have mistrust or negative perceptions of virtual learning (Avendaño et al., 2021).


Similarly, there are advantages and challenges to the Virtual Senior University, where some of the positive aspects can be cleverly exploited and some of the challenges can be reconsidered depending on the circumstances. 




4.1 What is TechChill?


What started as a birthday celebration for the local co-working space TechHub in 2012, has now grown into the leading tech and startup event of the Baltics. TechChill is organized by the TechChill Foundation (non-profit) with the aim of “offering the network, skills and know-how to boost success of the Baltic founders”. In April 2024, more than 2000 people will gather in Riga to attend the TechChill conference, including various side events, competitions, and iconic parties. This year the three main tracks of the event are:

  1. Frontier technologies (AI, defense tech, cybersecurity, energy & climatech, space tech);
  2. Startup foundations (founder stories, startup hard skills);
  3. Navigating the new normal (empowering diversity & changing mindsets, new metrics of success for business, economic development in different regions, Baltic landscape). (TechChill 2023)


Hazas Perone in Riga

Image 1. Location of TechChill at Hanzas Perons. (Hanzas Perons 2019)



4.2 Let’s prepare for TechChill


To better enjoy and soak in the event content, the authors of this essay decided to cover an introduction of each theme. 


4.2.1 Frontier technologies


Frontier technologies arise when a radical scientific breakthrough meets real life implementation. These technologies are transformative in the way we communicate, create, and do business. For instance, artificial intelligence, the metaverse, space tech, and many more. (World Intellectual Property Organisation 2022)


Over the past two decades the frontier technologies market has experienced remarkable growth, and it is expected to expand even more- from $1,5 trillion in 2020 to $9,5 trillion in 2030. Frontier technologies is a broad term, thus, this umbrella is usually divided into three categories: industry 4.0, green technologies, and others (see Figure 1). (Coelho, Roy, Bacil & Freire 2024)

Figure 1. Frontier technologies division. (UNCTAD 2023)



However, due to geographical imbalance not all countries are similarly placed to take advantage of this growing market. Biggest developments of frontier technologies are usually centered in the United States and China, which own nearly 70% of the patents of frontier technologies listed in the graph above. When looking at the top providers of frontier technologies, only two of them are from developing economies. (Coelho, Roy, Bacil & Freire 2024)


Based on UNCTAD research, this trend reflects “how developed economies have so far captured most of the economic opportunities linked to frontier technologies”. Therefore, businesses and governments in developing countries need to pay extra attention that the stakeholders have the capabilities to enter these sectors and the local policies and infrastructures support that growth. To better understand the global state of readiness to use and adapt to frontier technologies, the UNCTAD has ranked leading countries and regions in a list. If you (the reader) wish to learn more about where each country is ranked, feel free to visit: https://iap.unido.org/articles/moving-fast-frontier-technologies-0. (Coelho, Roy, Bacil & Freire 2024)


4.2.2 Startup Foundations


Although this track is mostly focused on founder stories and experiences, it also touches a topic of startup hard skills. Thus, the authors of this essay wish to bring up the Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp). Created by the European Commission, this framework describes entrepreneurship as a lifelong competence and helps one measure the level of their entrepreneurial capabilities and skills. The framework has 3 bigger umbrellas (see image 3), however, the topics can be distinguished between creativity, ethical and sustainable thinking, self-awareness and self-efficacy, mobilizing others, taking the initiative, and coping with uncertainty & risk. This tool is a great place to start for a base understanding of entrepreneurial skills and their measurement. (European Commission 2022)



Image 2. EntreComp framework visualization. (European Commission 2022)



4.2.3 Navigating the new normal 


Based on TechChill official website, “navigating the new normal” track focuses on  empowering diversity & changing mindsets, offering new metrics of success for business, learning about economic development in different regions, especially focusing on the Baltic landscape. (TechChill 2023) The authors of this essay will further introduce you to the business scene of Latvia, while letting TechChill do the rest.




5.1 Entrepreneurship in Latvia


As we are traveling to Latvia and having a local commissioning company, knowing the basics of the Latvian entrepreneurship scene may be essential. In this chapter, we are going to dive into some of the specifics to get a better understanding and hopefully an overview of our destination country. 


Latvia has a growing entrepreneurship scene, particularly in the areas of sustainable development and technology. The Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) is the main governmental body promoting sustainable entrepreneurship, providing support and resources to new entrepreneurs. (Mežaraups 2022) 

Observing the self-employed sector, we can see that the industries differ substantially between the Latvian and EU averages. By far the busiest industry in Latvia is agriculture (21%) while in contrast the EU’s was retail. However, Latvia is almost completely missing industries of self-employment when it comes to finance for example. 


5.2 Innovation in Latvia


In the figures below, it can be observed that innovation in Latvia is relatively low (GEM 2023). The first figure depicts the percentage of adults starting a new enterprise with innovative products and services, while the second shows the percentage of adults starting a new enterprise with innovative technologies. However, through globalization and internationalization, new companies can harness previous technologies for innovations. This process is called innovative start-ups that in Latvia are supported the most amongst all the Baltic countries. 

Figure 2. Percentage of adults with innovative product or service-based enterprises in the researched countries. (GEM 2023)


Figure 3. Percentage of adults with an innovative enterprise based on technology in the researched countries. (GEM 2023)


The perception of entrepreneurship has been continuously changing in Latvia, both when we look at society as a bigger entity and self-perception of it. However, both are well-below the region average and even lower than the world average. (GEM 2023)


5.3 Challenges and barriers in the Latvian entrepreneurship scene


Based on research that was released in 2008 (Manolova et al. 2008), Latvia was deemed unfavorable to entrepreneurship, however, a more recent report shows that the current climate is more favorable for entrepreneurship. (GEM 2023; OECD 2020) In Latvia, although the overall population reports above-EU-average entrepreneurial skills, almost as many also report that fear of failure would stop them from starting their own companies. (GEM 2020) Another barrier can be the bureaucracy and the ease of establishing a company as according to GEM (2023), only about 30% of Latvian adults thought that starting a company was easy. Additionally, the reason people become entrepreneurs is often a necessity (over 25%) rather than some kind of other drive, and this number is even higher amongst senior entrepreneurs. There are challenges in terms of financial and human capital, as well as a need for greater governmental support for small and medium enterprises. (Mežaraups 2022) 




In conclusion, last year’s Learning Journey gave us a great base of reflection, and highlighted areas that SYNTRE as a team must improve when working under pressure- clear goals and preparing in advance to perform well when it is time. This year SYNTRE will host its Learning Journey in Latvia, where we will tackle a 12 hour challenge by Senior University and volunteer at TechChill. Senior University of Latvia is currently facing a challenge of establishing a fully remote user-friendly learning platform, while attracting teachers from all over the world. Meanwhile TechChill Riga is the leading tech and startup event of the Baltics, where SYNTRE will gain experience volunteering and hearing founder stories. The aim of this essay was to introduce the reader to all of the main Learning Journey 2024 activities, so SYNTRE would be prepared to take the best out of them. Hope you enjoyed!




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Coelho, H. P., Roy, S., Bacil, F. & Freire, C. 2024. Moving fast with frontier technologies. Read on 7.4.2024. https://iap.unido.org/articles/moving-fast-frontier-technologies-0


European Commission. 2022. EntreComp: The entrepreneurship competence framework. Read on 8.4.2024. https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/entrecomp-entrepreneurship-competence-framework_en


Fanni, S. C., Shalaby, S. M., & Neri, E. 2023. The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the management of geriatric patients. In Imaging in Geriatrics (pp. 445-456). Cham: Springer International Publishing.


GEM. 2023. Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Attitudes. Read on 8.4.2023. https://www.gemconsortium.org/economy-profiles/latvia#:~:text=Latvia’s%20National%20Entrepreneurial%20Context%20Index,2019%20and%2013th%20in%202023


GEM. 2023. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2022/2023 Global Report Adapting to a “New Normal”.


Hanzas Perons. 2019. Hanzas Perons gallery. Read on 7.4.2024. https://www.hanzasperons.lv/en/about#gallery


Kwiek, M. 2015. Reforming European universities: The welfare state as a missing context.


Manalova, T., Eunni, R. & Gyoshev, B. 2008. Institutional Environments for Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Emerging Economies in Eastern Europe.


Mežaraups, R. 2022. Promoting Sustainable Entrepreneurship Through Competition: The Case of Investment and Development Agency of Latvia.


OECD. 2020. Latvia. Inclusive Entrepreneurship Policies, Country Assessment Notes.


TechChill. 2023. About Us. Read on 7.4.2024. https://www.techchill.co/about-us


UNCTAD. 2023. Technology and Innovation Report 2023. Read on 7.4.2024. https://unctad.org/publication/technology-and-innovation-report-2023



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