Global Innovation Summit - San Jose, July 16-18
This was a stimulating, 2-day event at the Marriott San Jose. It brought together participants from some 40 countries. There were many attendees from multilateral agencies like the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the Inter American Bank, as well as senior people from USAID and the State Department. Panels on various topics exploring creativity, design, cross-border innovation, financial tools were designed to promote the concept of creating and nurturing ecosystems as "rainforests" - where weeds and undergrowth are as important as the canopy. Apart from the content - often stimulating and thought-provoking - participants were grouped into "houses" which worked over the 2 days in crafting consensus around such areas as "what makes a rainforest?" and "how do we build rainforests?" I was equally drawn to the diverse thoughts and conversations occurring in the wrap-around corridors outside the ballroom, where people who would not ordinarily have a chance to connect were engaged in lively conversation. This was a particularly wonderful feature - that this area, global innovation, which otherwise could be a tar baby or, worse, taken straight from the parable of the blind men and the elephant, could explore, inspire and create opportunities for the exchange of knowledge, experience and anecdote, both formally, in the designed content, and as importantly, informally, in the interactions between the unlikeliest of people. True, one tends to gravitate towards colleagues, especially since there were so many of one's colleagues in attendance if you were from one of the larger groups represented. For me, the opportunity to truly cultivate the diversity inherent in this exciting area by conversing with and enjoying the company of people drawn from all kinds of areas of activity broadly under the rubric of innovation. The Summit was the embodiment of "network-centric innovation." I was also pleased to moderate and lead the discussion on "Accelerating Ideas to Markets" with a stellar group of panelists - Stan Kowalski of University of New Hampshire, Peter Singer of Global Challenges Canada (and a fervent Twitter aficionado), Megan Clark of CSIRO (representing Global Research Alliance), Joe Bradley of WIPO and Shigeo Okaya, of Japan Science and Technology Agency. This panel truly captured much of the impetus of several other panels and discussions occurring at the Summit, exploring issues related to collaborations on the development of solutions. These could relate to issues, for example, of global health and hunger (the "challenges" and the "alliances"), the creation of local solutions that have relevance locally (which may have broader relevance as well for e.g. in farming or education), and issues relating to increasing opportunities for interaction between innovators everywhere.
Kudos to the organizers, Al Watkins (formerly of the World Bank), Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt (of T2VC), good friends of Larta, for recognizing the importance of serendipity, while leaving nothing to chance, and for the opportunity to participate in a great event!