Last week we attended The Economist’s Ideas Economy: Human Potential conference in New York City. As you may recall, InnoCentive is the chosen Challenge Partner for this series of Economist conferences. I am writing to share with you some of the energy and outcomes from that conference and to tell you a bit more about the role played by InnoCentive.
Over the summer, InnoCentive and The Economist ran an Ideation Challenge on InnoCentive.com looking for fresh ideas to enable a 21st Century Cyber-school to educate the next billion students born in developing countries with insufficient access to educational opportunities. The Challenge was advertised on numerous Economist communication vehicles including print advertisements and web-based promotion. Overall we received over 1200 project rooms and 119 submissions. Ultimately one Solver was chosen to receive the $10,000 award and to be highlighted at the Human Potential conference in New York.
The meeting took place in a swank, modern conference center at Chelsea Piers, on the Hudson River. It was attended by approximately 250 people from around the globe. The presenters included top-notch academic, business, media and government leaders, including:
• David Brooke – Columnist, New York Times
• Scott Cook – Founder and Chairman of Intuit
• William Clifford – CEO, Spencer Trask
• Shirley Tilghman – President, Princeton University
• Sir Ken Robinson – Author of ‘The Element’
• Joel Klein – Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
• Steven Pinker – Harvard College Professor, Harvard University
The meeting was emceed by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Global Correspondent for the Economist. Sprinkled through the workshop were many references to Challenges, InnoCentive and our partnership. The winning Solver, Andrew Deonarine, a medical resident from Vancouver, was interviewed for 20 minutes on stage by Tom Standage, Digital Editor for The Economist. Andrew described his technology, EduCell, designed to enable mobile phone-based distribution of educational materials. With his soft-spoken, cool demeanor, and stellar academic pedigree, he couldn’t have been a better exemplar of an InnoCentive Solver. Likewise, for him, this level of endorsement and exposure is the perfect springboard for him to garner funding and additional support of his ideas.
InnoCentive President and CEO Dwayne Spradlin was also given considerable opportunity to participate on-stage during the conference. On the first day of the conference, Dwayne was chosen as one of the six conference members to lead a 20 minute unconference discussion on the future of work in a Challenge driven world. Dwayne was given the opportunity to articulate a compelling 3-minute preview of this topic and as a result his unconference session was one of the most well attended. Likewise, InnoCentive SAB member Chris Meyer and two other InnoCentive Solvers, Mercedes Talle and Tristram Hewitt, Challenge finalists in the Cyber School Challenge were given the opportunity to run unconference discussions. It was clear that InnoCentive and our Solvers played an active and valued role in the conference.
On the second day of the conference, Dwayne and Vijay announced our next Economist-InnoCentive Challenge on Biological Solutions to Global Warming which will be prominently featured at the Ideas Economy: Intelligent Infrastructure Conference in February 2011. There was a palpable enthusiasm in the room after Vijay explained the inspiration and background of the Challenge, so we expect good things to come of that excitement. Stay tuned and check out the ideas.economist.com website for more conference updates, videos and information on future events.
Gabriel Eichler, Ph.D.
Innovation Program Manager, InnoCentive