By Karolina Kempa
On the 30th of October, I made my way to Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre for the annual Sustainable Innovation Summit. I was really excited about attending this event because of the wide range of speakers from different countries/backgrounds. It seemed promising, and *spoiler alert* it did not disappoint.
To outline but some of the reasons I found this event worth attending amidst the chaos of being a final year student; firstly, I loved the concept of experts from particular fields coming together with the aim of forming a plan for the future. Secondly, who doesn’t love innovation? I always look for new ideas and ways of approaching problems. In terms of the sustainability aspect of the event, I think the need for a cleaner environment is self-explanatory.
It’s difficult to piece everything from the summit together into one article eloquently, but I’ll start at the beginning. The event opened with Mary MacSweeney, Deputy Head of Enterprise and Economic Development with Dublin City Council, talking about the circle of influence within the different enterprises in Ireland and how they can take steps to affect change. Dublin being the heart of Ireland’s economy, is a smart city and “Smart Dublin” is an initiative of the four Dublin local authorities to engage with smart technology providers, researchers, and citizens, to take on challenges and improve city life. Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are an important aspect of this initiative. They aim to provide a range of financial support for the growth of enterprises, such as Feasibility Study Grants, Priming Grants and of course Brexit supports for your small business!
Panellist Norman Thompson mentioned “Fishing for Plastic”, an initiative which removes 3,500kg of rubbish from Amsterdam’s waterways each day. The tourism industry has been the bone of contention for taking globalisation a step too far and polluting beloved cities. Locals have been driven out of Venice to accommodate tourists. They bring in money and herald economic prosperity, but at what cost? Should we draw the line somewhere? Or in James Bond’s spirit, simply “Live and Let Die”? Unique tourism initiatives such as the Dutch Fishing for plastic initiative demonstrates that, through innovation, we can take steps to make tourism smart and efficient, so let’s not “Live and Let Die” just yet!
Data from a survey carried out by Young Social Innovators showed that nine out of ten young people in Ireland believe that their life is more difficult than that of their parents (when they were young). This caught my attention because I could immediately imagine my own parents rolling their eyes at this statistic. Technology has made our lives much easier in certain ways, but it also brings about some unwanted dregs, including but not limited to increased levels of depression and anxiety, poor sleep quality, dissatisfaction with body image, and cyberbullying. This highlights that the youth today face much different problems than those of previous generations. This demonstrates the need for innovative approaches and highlights the importance of education programmes like Young Social Innovators!
You simply can’t have a daylong innovation summit without Einstein being brought up at some stage. Maurice Knightly, an entrepreneurial specialist at UCD’s Innovation Academy, quoted the prodigy; “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions”. This was further emphasised by Knightly’s opinion that if you’re “moving too quickly to a solution you are simplifying it”. Food for thought.
To summarise, it’s important for students to make themselves aware of some of the opportunities and initiatives mentioned above. As George R.R. Martin wisely put it, “knowledge is power”, and with power, we can initiate change!
Sustainable, innovation, and summit, are three powerful words, but placing them together as in “Sustainable Innovation Summit” triples the impact. The summit gives those with vision, motivation, and passion, a platform to explore different ways to make positive change and pushes for a global mindset in the realm of innovation. Karolina was funded to attend by NUI Galway’s ALIVE programme – the focus of ALIVE is to provide students with opportunities to build civic skills and gain experiences that build civic literacy. ALIVE hopes NUI Galway students can be engaged in communities to create change and build social fabric. For more information, check out nuigalway.ie/alive or visit ALIVE in Aras na Mac Leinn. #makewaves