by: Chad Knusten
An obstacle in the arena of "problem solving" is that often the ones trying to find the answers only have one pair of glasses to peer through (so to speak); A point of view built from their personal experience and expertise. Especially in the worlds of academia and science and politics. These areas are ever increasingly full of experts, and despite the immeasurable need and value of specialists, they are often to one extent or another limited in the breadth and range of their expertise. Hence their classification as specialists.
In itself, being surrounded by specialists is not a bad thing at all. Its simply that many technologies are misapplied, or worse yet, not applied at all due to lack of effective exposure to other schools of thought, and other fields of study. For example how in recent years, solutions in the video game design industry are leaking into the world of finance, as well as genetics and the sciences where they are solving problems related to data visualization/handling that were until then being frustratingly tolerated. These unrelated fields coming together is will accelerate the speed at which research can be done, and as a result, numerous diseases and disorders are undoubtedly going to be cured sooner than they would have otherwise. It took someone with a foot in both worlds to even imagine that the rendering engines and equipment he used as a game designer could accomplish the tasks his friend at University studying genetics was working on much faster. Together they designed an incredible genetic sequence visualization program. If they had not already been friends by chance, who knows if those two minds would have connected, and if their innovation would have been born.
The SIA will be the organization specialized in having its feet in many worlds, so that it can quickly connect problems to solutions, without being so specialized as to limit its potential scope of vision.
Often times, the solution to problem A in industry A, can often be the solution to problem B in industry C etc etc. Finding these seemingly unrelated connections and use cases will be the primary focus of the research arm of any SIA office.
The other half of the equation of course is the identification and understanding of the problems facing their own communities, and a strong ability to prioritize based on which projects will have the greatest positive effect, for the greatest number of people, in the most appropriate timeframe.
The ideal process could be divided into 5 steps.
To illustrate, here’s a hypothetical:
Step 1. A problem is identified by a regional government, in this case a major storm blocks an important shipment of agricultural goods from a port surrounded by notoriously choppy seas. As a result, the tons of product is going to rot in containers at the port for lack of a customer. Meanwhile, there are nutritional shortages amongst the local communities.
Step 2. The local chapter of the SIA is notified of the urgent issue. Its research division quickly searches its database network first for food preservation solutions, to see if there could be some way to preserve the product without spending too much on the preservation, and without excessively sacrificing nutritional quality.
Step 3. The SIA Identifies a small company, producing an all natural sustainable proteomic dehydration technology that preserves 100% of the nutritional content, while still being economically feasible. The SIA will have already vetted the tech and its creators. The technology provider is introduced, and a feasibility study is performed if necessary. If it passes muster, it's implemented by the problem holder, or introduced to the regional government for a pilot demonstration. If appropriate, a plan would be then be devised for implementing and operating the dehydration technology for the preservation of the foods in those containers, and/or foods in future similar situations on a wider scale.
Step 4. The technology provider would then facilitate the setup of the drying technology at the port, and train the staff to operate.
Step 5. Problem is solved. A new sustainable technology is demonstrated, jobs are created, it enables inventors etc. to demonstrate their solutions capabilities in the real world. All the while, converting waste into abundance.
In the world today, a community facing that problem would likely turn to its transportation experts, or food storage experts, one might not have thought to look into the field of proteomics. Thats where the SIA would bridge the gap, connecting seemingly unrelated dots to solve seemingly impossible problems, in faster timeframes.
Not only could problems be addressed sooner, but more of the sustainable innovations that exists only in the realm of potentials could be put into the real world to solve real problems for real people. The adoption rate for innovations can be accelerated once they have been utilized by larger institutions, and having a trusted organization on hand to deliver proven and applicable technologies quickly and appropriately when the need arises is priceless.
The SIA would serve as a conduit through which the innovations birthed amongst its membership and associations could be channelled efficiently into real world use. All the while helping people worldwide to prosper. Transforming local problems, into global solutions.
In its ideal incarnation, an SIA would be actualized as a hub, with many regional field offices worldwide. The localized SIA offices could be as large or small as needed, very lightweight teams in most places. Their goals would be to network with members of the industries and economies in their regions, organize and attend events where their community’s influencers gather, cultivate relationships with a balanced combination of people with resources, people with connections, people with problems, and also with the local “maker” communities and universities. Not only will these regional offices be the point of contact for people seeking solutions in their areas, but they will act as liaisons between their regional or national governments and the larger body of the SIA.
As metaphor, one could think of Science Parks, Inventors and Innovators as farmers. The SIA would be a marketing and distribution powerhouse that connects the farmers and their products to markets both locally and internationally that want what they are growing. They are not focused on the creation of any one product or technology, but are focused solely on being a connecting force for good.
By organizing and leveraging the individual powers of independent thinkers across many industries, we can illuminate and cultivate paths to effective, sustainable solutions to humanities greatest challenges.
An organization thus described could be funded through a variety of channels. Facilitation fees, membership fees, government subsidies, charitable donations from institutions and individuals, and by possibly acquiring small percentages of IP ownership of the projects launched through it.
Another hurdle for innovation is that often those with the resources to enable innovative projects often do not want to devote significant time or capital to developing solutions that could potentially miss their mark. An SIA would focus on building its roster entirely of projects and solutions that have been vetted, and are at least determined “pilot ready”. Utilizing an agile methodology to aggressively focus its energies on getting solutions from the lab/workshop/incubator, into the field where they can prove themselves and their efficacy and solve problems.
Within any organization there are certain internal walls. Such obstacles as basic as personality conflicts, inflated egos, fear of change, burdensome bureaucracy and even downright corruption. By creating an organization that is not particularly attached to any individual project, the SIA can be an objective entity focused only on what ideas are best, not necessarily on what anyone think’s are best/most popular amongst the group. The best ideas don’t always evolve out of the c-suites, or come from those with the most pedigreed credentials, the SIA would be looking for ideas, and filtering them based on merit and usefulness and applicability. Whether the innovation is that of a janitor or a CEO should not be a part of the equation.
One possible analogy of the SIA’s primary function is how a talent agencies in Hollywood find the best actors for films. The SIA will seek problems all around the world with one eye, while with the other one identifying inspiring solutions from amongst the global body of AOI’s and Science Parks, as well as individual innovators and smaller entities that might have otherwise never seen the light of day (so to speak). Connecting the dots between problem holders, and those with the sustainable solutions. In this way, the SIA will be a tool for innovators and tech companies, and offer a valuable a resource/outlet/role for science parks and other AOI’s.
The Sustainable Innovation Association, and its many Field Offices will offer a much needed bridge between today, and tomorrow.
This paper is abridged from the original.
The complete paper by Chad Knutsen was first published by the International Association of Science Parks and Innovation Areas as a part of their innovation program at the 35th World Congress in Isfahan, Iran in 2017.