Innovation Convention 2014 #Part I

Opening in Golden Hall

Opening in Golden Hall

The second Innovation Convention organised by the European Commission took place in Brussels on 10th and 11th of March 2014 (previous edition was organised in December 2011). This well prepared event happening in such an attractive venue as Square- Brussels Meeting Centre had a lot to offer. Participants from the world of business, EU institutions and media could attend thematically diverse sessions. First day was the most intense and lasted from around 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. including networking lunch and coffee break (perfect time for rest and socializing). Second day of the Convention ended earlier around 1 p.m. with Pa-li-Tchi UV Light show. It was like a first moderator promised, we could certainly „feel the pulse of innovation”. Many displays of different firms were available to see.

SQUARE- Brusselss Meeting Centre

SQUARE- Brussels Meeting Centre

At the begining all guests were entertained by two physicists who performed scientific show „The Physikanten”. Mr. Marcus and German „Professor Iberman” did their best to welcome and wake up everybody. For this special occasion they prepared stage trick in which they engaged some people from the audience. The task was thought to conduct electricity through their bodies to play music. After the fun opening, the very much awaited speaker showed up, namely President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. He was accompanied by the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte who later also gave a speech about innovations present in his country. President Barroso once said before that „innovation is not only about turning new ideas in new products and new services. It is above about improving the quality of life. I would like Europe to be leading innovation efforts globally” This time he also confirmed big, European aspirations in the field of science by saying: “the future of Europe is science, the future of Europe is innovation”. He stressed one crucial point: „Innovation needs to be translated into regular life”.


Jose Manuel Barroso

Both politicians stayed to see the presentation of the European Women Innovators Award. Three winners were from Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Every one of them succeded in business connected to medicine.

During breaks in the whole event we had an opportunity to become more affiliated with new technological ideas, like for example Google Glass (Google browser built in glasses) or car powered by hydrogen.

Networking area

Networking area

Of course our team collected for you some interesting information from different meetings we were lucky to participate in. In summary you can read about thoughts that faboulous speakers shared during Innovation Convention 2014.

Ewa Krakowska

Lessons from Generation Z- What do young innovators (18 and under) think?”:

From a number of sessions I took part during two- day event this one made the biggest impression on me. I was delighted to watch and listen to those very young and smart people. Surprising for me was also the fact that they had so much to say not only about their accomplishments and science itself but also about education policy in their home countries. In the discussion took part EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Maire Geoghegan- Quinn.

The representatives of Generation Z were: Jack Andraka (the USA), Jordan Casey (Ireland), Alberto Elias (Spain), Elif Bilgin (Turkey), Sophie Healy-Thow, Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey (all from Ireland).

Jack Andraka became famous after medical breakthrough that he had made. This high school student at the age of 15 created a cancer sensor, specifically it detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. The revolutionary aspect of this is that this detector can confirm the existence of cancerous changes in 5 minutes at the cost of 3 cents. For this achievement he was named a Champion of Change by president Obama. During the meeting the young man recalled obstacles that he had to overcome in order to finalise the project (he was turned down many times by professional scientists).

Elif Bilgin gained the attention of the world because of her innovative project “Going Bananas! Using banana Peels in the Production of Bioplastic as a Replacement of Traditional Petroleum Based Plastic”. She won Google Science Fair 2013 “science in Action Award. Her work on bioplastic material lasted 2 years and involved many experimentations that she conducted in her parents’ kitchen table.

Jordan Casey, the youngest speaker (13) shocked many people from the audience with both his achievements and modesty. He is self taught programmer and businessman who already owns 2 companies: casey Games and TeachWare. Jordan assured us that he can find balance between school and business. In the future programmer wants to move to London and keep what he is doing.

Alberto Elias, also programmer is engaged in Web and Android development. He created different Android apps. 18 year old is an advisor to Vice- President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes. Alberto encouraged youngsters to work and find passion as soon as possible and assured: “You do not need to wait till 40 to be happy”.

Alberto Elias

Alberto Elias

Three girls: Sophie Healy-Thow, Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey worked together on the project titled: “A statistical Investigation of the Effects of Diazotropth Bacteria on Plant Germination”. Their motivation was to formulate a concept which would be helpful in the fight with food crisis. Obtained findings allowed them to join the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in September 2013. They were awarded First Place. This became the opportunity to share the discovery in prominent places like Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Girls pointed out very strongly that it would not be possible without much of help from a science teacher in their school.

After sharing stories of their fields of activity young geniuses answered questions from the audience as well as those sent via Twitter. The Commissioner, sitting among them started discussion about education system, mainly its drawbacks. Elif advised specialisation in very young age. Alberto mentioned too big homework load, which may prevent exploring passions. Jordan sees that IT teachers are poorly prepared to work with pupils. Ciara concluded that potential in a student must be recognized.

As Commissioner said, in hands of such brilliant people our future is safe. Let’s hope there are more such unique minds in Europe to discover and promote.

Emil Wojtaluk

„Sports Innovation”:

From my perspective “Sports innovation” session was very interesting, especially during the second part when May El Khalil had the opportunity to share her experiences.

May El Khalil(Lebanon) Founder and President of Beirut Marathon Association. Thanks to her, the first international Marathon took place in Lebanon in Oct 19 2003.

Mrs El Khalil used to be a marathon runner and described her serious troubles of being hit by a bus in 2001. After the accident she spent 2 years in hospital being in coma and had 36 surgeries just to be able to walk, without any chances to be a runner again. After she went out from coma she promised herself that if she cannot participate in the marathons she could help others to had such possibility. She asked her husband to take some notes while recovering in hospital, and few months later the idea of Beirut Marathon was born. Her innovating idea was realized in 2003 when the first edition of this marathon took place with 6000 participants. El Khalil wanted to pay back to her community and take away bad thoughts about the accident. She started her lecture with reference to Arab Spring and difficulties of her country. Now Beirut Marathon is like a “platform for peace and unity” as she says. It helps to regain international credibility of Lebanon. May El Khalil recognizes taking part in the Marathon as a support for reforming country.

Values of sports according to May El Khalil are:

  1. bringing people together,

  2. idea of giving,

  3. and the last point is connected with disadvantaged persons taking part in it. Beirut Marathon has a lot of different participants like for example blind or mentally challenged people.

In the opinion of Mrs El Khalil if we continue to follow those values that she indicated, it will help to change the world through the sport. She achieved huge success starting from 6000 participants in 2003 to over 46000 registered participants of Beirut Marathon in 2013. Marathon helped to unite people and promote peace when her country was going through political difficulties and that is what makes Beirut Marathon special.

Taken from the discussion at the end of this session:

Someone from the audience asked Mr Francesco Ricci Bitti a question what he think about betting sponsors giving the example of Real Madrid and Bwin.

The answer by Ricci Bitti was that betting is not necessarily something bad in sport. Sponsorship is also a way of investing in sport, helping to develop it. Betting in the regular way is helping sport in the opinion of Mr Francesco. The problem is not the betting itself but the real problem is the use of betting by criminals.

Kamil Augustyniak

Shaping the 21st century, imagining the 22nd”

For me it was an interesting meeting due to the fact that even if we know how the economy works and we can predict some simple behaviors on the market we still lack of experience to push forward success internationally. The key point is partnership and social innovations that have to be developed to achieve next level in innovation. The idea of 22nd century is not clear until we organize and study completely the 21st.

The basic question stated during the meeting was: ‘Who funds research and who benefits from it?’ The second part is obvious for everyone because we, as society are the group who benefit. But what about founding? It can be noticed that there is a decrease in founding research by the governments that are still critical founders of innovations research. However, money is not so big problem in contemporary times. The key drivers for innovation are much more complicated we could imagine. There is so called eco system, consisting of: talent, education, capital, purpose (because of the practical point of view: purpose for what the company was created). We see that there are many approaches to achieve success but every time the fundamental research is crucial.

Practice: 40% of energy goes to old buildings that are inefficient and waste the resources that are hardly available. Now the world has problem with speed of development. 80% of resources are used by 20% of people that leads again to energy and resources inefficiency. That all happens because of the state of mind ‘use it and throw it’ that is completely wrong and opposite to innovations.

The simple scheme was presented: research challenge effect. So if the problem is so well known and we know how to deal with it, why is it not changing? We know something about future but still we do not know anything (or almost nothing) about what will be valid for economy in a few years. The 21st century is hard enough to see significant effect of worldwide innovations. So the tasks for now are:

  • Firstly, the issue of social innovation must be completed to talk about economic/material innovations. Only cooperation leads to success. We have to understand how the partnership works.

  • Secondly, we have to learn how to re-use data. The success will be an effect of numerous failures.

  • Thirdly, the innovation itself is inefficient without collaboration and society awareness.

To be continued…


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