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Innovation a key focus at Dublin Tech Summit

by Iris Daly - April 24, 2018

The eye-catching Dublin Convention Centre played host to the Dublin Tech Summit on 18th and 19th April. The event, now in its second year, attracted thousands of eager technophiles all keen to gain insights from experts across a wide variety of areas, from music and YouTube to smart cities and space exploration.

The Dublin Tech Summit kicked off on a beautiful sunny morning on Wednesday 18th April. Like in 2017, the queues to get in were evident from afar and once in the convention centre, the buzz and excitement were palpable. Many talks this year were heavily attended, with some filling up in record time. Unsurprisingly, the Innovation stage proved extremely popular; the line-up of speakers on this stage covered a wide range of areas, but all speakers focusing on the central theme of innovation.

Strive for continuous innovation

We heard from Sofie Lindblom, CEO of Ideation360, who’s presentation “Avoid Your Kodak Moment: How to Set Up for Continuous Innovation” focused on instilling a culture of innovation within an organisation. Sofie has major innovation pedigree; she was Global Innovation Manager for Spotify before founding Ideation360 in 2017. There’s no question, it’s an ongoing challenge to keep up with the pace of change; but innovation is the way businesses can do it. However, it can’t simply be innovating for innovation’s sake. In her presentation, Sofie highlighted how important it is for companies to understand why they are innovating, and any innovation needs to be connected with the strategic direction of the business. She also spoke about establishing an innovation culture, and more than that, an innovation process, backed up with an innovation team if possible.

We heard this same message echoed by Kevin Mako of Mako Design later in the day, who urged attendees to invest 2% of their time each year in innovation. “Think of it as a bank account for your future,” he said. Innovation can be a differentiator, and organisations that formulise an innovation strategy can put themselves at the forefront of evolution in their space. Kevin also outlined his four pillars of innovation: innovation needs policy (write it down), innovation is incremental (don’t be afraid to fail, always try things out), innovation is science and innovation is thinking big.

Dare mighty things

Nothing quite sums up thinking big than Jordan P. Evans of NASA, who took attendees on a fascinating journey through NASA’s many space exploration innovations, from Voyager and Cassini to the Mars Curiosity rover and the Leonardo helicopter for Mars. We heard first-hand about the innovation process behind many of these achievements, and how NASA is quick to leverage past innovations. Jordan spoke about the culture of innovation within NASA and how the organisation works by the Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

In the spirit of daring mighty things, we heard from Paul Walsh, SVP, Visa Platform Strategy and Innovation, who outlined Visa’s appetite for innovation. He told attendees that Visa was actively working to make all connected devices ways to make payments or receive payments. A connected fridge for example, could become a connected device that orders and pays for a litre of milk.

Meeting the changing world head on

It is this digitisation of things that Laurence Buchanan, Head of Digital with EY, focused on in his presentation, which was called “Transition from Digital Experimentation to Industrialisation.” We heard how 90% of companies are considering increasing capital allocation towards digital. So much has digital infiltrated everything we do and how we do it that Laurence said the term digital should be eradicated. But he warned, it’s critical that organisations don’t think about different technologies individually and how they can be applied to a business, it’s about how these technologies combine to work together, like IoT creating massive volumes of data that organisations need to understand and turn into data sets and models that can then be used to inform artificially-intelligent systems. In his final warning, Laurence predicted that 75% of companies in Standard & Poor’s’ 500 will be new entrants by 2027; the world has changed, and organisations need to respond to that change through innovation and digitisation.

This changing world was summarised perfectly in a panel discussion, and separate presentation, on smart cities. We heard from Jonathan Reichental, CIO of Palo Alto and Jamie Cudden of Dublin City Council who painted an interesting picture of the city of the future. We heard how vital technology and innovation will be as we struggle to deal with the explosion of growth in our global cities (by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities). The underlying message though was how important collaboration will be as we build smarter cities: both Jonathan and Jamie urged the building of multi-dimensional partnerships between academics, scientists, citizen activists and start-ups. The challenge is so massive, that there is opportunity there for everyone, said Jonathan.

A sprinkle of stardust

Arguably the most popular speaker on the day was the keynote speaker on the Innovation stage, Casey Neistat. The YouTube sensation took to the stage to thunderous applause and gave attendees an insight into his rise to success in the world of viral content. Casey told attendees how important originality of content is. It is only through fresh content that you can make yourself stand out…”that and some brute force”. Casey brought an element of celebrity to the event that filtered through the day, and he even had to deal with an over eager fan who was determined to get a selfie with Casey. Truly a rock and roll moment.

Startups in the spotlight

Over the course of the two-day Dublin Tech Summit, we heard from an impressive selection of startups who took to the stage in the exhibition hall to pitch their business to attendees and judges. The ultimate winner was crowned on day two of the event and the award went to Kontainers, with its ocean freight platform aimed at ensuring on-time deliveries for the world’s top shipping brands. As the sponsor of the StartupxPitch competition, we were delighted by the interest in the startups, and were amazed by the calibre of the businesses.
The calibre and variety of speakers, coupled with the insightful presentations, meant the Dublin Tech Summit was a hit again this year. We’re already looking forward to the 2019 event.

 

Head of Digital, eir Business

Iris Daly

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