Day One at Technoport 2014

Social entrepreneurship took centre stage as Technoport 2014 opened in Trondheim today.
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The opening session of the innovation conference showed how significant change is possible using the power of entrepreneurship and innovation.

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Johan Andresen, owner and Chairman of investment company FERD, described how his group invest in a wide range of social projects in lieu of bigger dividends. They range from Pøbelprosjektet – which aims to get young people who, for one reason or another are outside the established school system and the labour market into further education or a job – to Lyk-Z & Døtre, who work with children with schizophrenia.

The most valuable asset you have is time. The longer you wait, the less future there is to change – Johan Andresen

Pär Almqvist, Chief Marketing Officer at OMC Power, described how his company builds small-scale power plants with renewable sources where there is no reliable power grid today, mainly in one district of India where some of the country’s poorest people live. Evocative images and hard-hitting stats showed the positive impact of OMC’s work, but also the sheer amount of people out there who need solutions like this.

“Of the 1.2 billion people without energy access in the world, 400 million are in India. We need to change how we produce things, distribute things and consume things,” said Almqvist, adding that investment in renewable energy has actually fallen since 2011, and that 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels.

Leila Janah rounded off the session with the story of her company Samasource. It’s outsourcing with a twist – as Samasource create thousands of “micro-work” tasks from major corporate projects, and assign them to individuals in places like Uganda, Ghana and Haiti that are trained to do those jobs. Over 24 million tasks have been completed by Samasource workers, including SEO, data mining, classification, data clean-up and machine learning, but most important was the difference it makes to those people’s lives.

This venture is still young. The first step is showing this model is economically viable. By completing work for corporations like Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn, we are doing just that – Leila Janah

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Share The Problem

Our highly-anticipated Share The Problem sessions featured presentations from OMC Power and Transnova.

OMC Power asked how we create applications and services that make good use of the fast local (solar-powered) wireless that meets the needs of rural communities in India.

The multi-skilled group identified the needs of the communities, with the help and guidance of Pär Almqvist. From here, the group honed in on three low-bandwidth and easy-to-use applications, developing plans and business models for each.

  • Local live radio run by and for the community funded by advertisements
  • A marketplace for group-buying products
  • A comprehensive tiered educational tool in partnership with big companies and NGOs

“You never end up where you think you’re going”, said an excited Almqvist. “Rural wifi is burgeoning market with massive potential space for entrepreneurship, as this session has proved.”

Transnova asked that if we free ourselves from basing the electric car on the traditional fossil-fuel powered cars, what would the electric car of the future and the system within which it functions look like?

Led by Carl André Nørstebø from EGGS Design, the participants split into three groups. Each group held an idea creation session, designed to develop as many ideas as possible, picked one to develop a prototype for and presented to the rest of the group. Transnova particularly liked the idea of a portable battery charger that you could pick up at a service station, attach to your vehicle so it charges as you drive, before dropping it at the next station. Battery sharing rather than car sharing!

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Share The Problem – Transnova

As participants were enjoying the Share The Problem sessions, others attendedBeyond the Buzzword and Less is More sessions in the main room.

Beyond the Buzzword examined the “knowledge economy” buzzword, looking at how intellectual property helps or hampers open innovation. Marshal Phelps from ArticleOne Partners summed up open innovation nicely:

“Open Innovation just means you can’t do everything yourself!”

During Less is More, the panel of speakers looked at what business opportunities can drive the fight against climate change. Dr Jonathan Cullen from the University of Cambridge suggested industrial recycling not consumer recycling is the big story, before Frode Hvattum from Accenture discussed several potential business models for firms that want to grow their business without being dependent on raw materials, such as recycling and reusing. He used the example of Norwegian company Borregaard, who is a leading global supplier of lignin-based binding and dispersing agents.

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Technoport 2014 continues tomorrow (Tuesday) with a focus on entrepreneurs and crowdfunding.


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