Equity, Economics and Entrepreneurship at Euro Science Open Forum, Dublin

 Talk 1 – 12.07.12 – Equity and Climate Science

 Mary Robinson (President of Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice)

I always enjoy listening to Mary Robinson, her wisdom is inspiring and compelling and on this occasion, it was no different. As an advocate of Climate Justice and member of the ‘Elders’, she made a call to action to scientist, to focus research and applications on ethical problem solving. She expressed her recent frustration at the Rio de Janeiro climate conference where no definite agreement or commitments were made. She urged that common and differentiated policies were required to drive it forward. In analyzing the roles of the developed and developing nations to make commitments, she saw developed countries more responsible historically for putting the greenhouse gases in the air, so the main responsibility lies with them, as they have more resources to invest in the challenges of over coming it.

She urged for effective policies that were informed by science and our finite resources. In 2050, her grandchildren will be forty-two, emphasizing that these cardinal points of change are closer then we think. She suggested that policy world required a high-level representative or ombudsman to access the effectiveness of scientific policy. As part of her Climate Justice Trust, one of her projects involves giving women’s leadership in nutrition and the inclusion of a global footprint on all packaging.

Talk 2 – 12.07.12 – Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship: What Next?

An entrepreneur –

“One who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

A. Neil Leyden (International digital services centre)

“The total size of the global digital economy is currently estimated at $20.4 trillion. In the the next five years the web will impact the worldwide creation of 25.3 million new jobs.. SME’s is where 90% of digital transformation is expected to occur.” – IDC

Neil Leyden kicked this session off after a failed Skype connection to Kieran O’Hea in Brisbane (The former Digital officer to the government) and original organiser of this talk. After watching this failed effort at communication, I realised the importance of real-time communication, the basis of what the Silicon Valley is built upon.

Neil described his purpose as an an entrepreneur as someone who goes against the grain, undertaking a journey of self-realisation. He highlighted the importance of the kick-starter programme and the opportunity for a kid in San Diego to launch his penny arcade. He stated that the US had market led innovation, while the EU had a quasi-socialist approach, which consists of governments, stakeholders, consultants leading to mediocrity. He thought their role was to mitigate risk and failures, allowing mediocrity come to the fore. He doesn’t believe in failure of entrepreneurs, just honest feedback.

He challenged the deficiencies of the current education system built around the industrial model. Which is geared towards certain subjects with less focus on interdisciplinary groups. He noted that Japan has had success with the industrial model, but cannot innovate fast enough now. Surprising facts were that the average age of a NASA engineers was twenty-seven. He underlined that the focus on children to become doctors, lawyers and barristers does not create an economy; they merely serve it, these professions do not create businesses and jobs that create an economy.

B.  Gráinne Millar (Temple Bar Cultural Trust) “Unlocking the potential of cultural and Creative entrepreneurs”


Gráinne highlighted some interesting statistics stating that 2.6% of Europe’s GDP came from the cultural sector, larger than the food and beverage and created five million jobs. Eighty thousand are employed  in the cultural and creative industries in Ireland. In temple bar she spoke of using culture as a catalyst, the role of the digital hub to incubate business and the initiative in Merrion Square to create an innovation cluster.

She highlighted a project the Dublin Cultural trail which gave a tour of sixteen cultural venues in the cities, also highlighting the challenges of tourism with very few repeat visits to Dublin. She noted that there needed to be a single voice in the creative and cultural industries and integration of these industries in applying for EU funding programmes.


C. Vinny O’Brien (e-commerce manager in Arnotts)


Vinny is the E-Commerce manager of Arnotts, 300,000 sq. ft. store with a million products located in the centre of Dublin. There is a backlog of tradition spanning 169 years, yet online selling does not require reinvention of the wheel. The e-commerce business represents only 1% of the company’s turnover.

He outlined the challenges of measuring clean data. But does this help the customer find what they’re looking for? I had the experience recently in Arnotts looking for an accessory, instead of these items been grouped together for the convenience of the customer, I had to search through each of the outlets with the assistants only able to help me with their particular ‘concession’. I wondered would it help the ‘sales assistant’s she had a hand held device with the location  of the stock in the store. This would give them the ability to point the real time customer in the right direction.

Instead of the company focusing on how many search terms they should buy from Google so that their merchandise comes to the top of the searches, enhancing the existing customer’s experience would seem like a better base to build from, but using the tools that data mining and e-commerce provides.

In conclusion, it was thought that the word ‘Digital’ might be the problem, rather than focusing on the issues of creating good strategies for communication. At the moment there are too many agencies representing the same ideas and concepts of working with Digital. Human behaviour hasn’t changed and this is what we should be focusing on rather than sticking to digital for digital sake. If we forgot about the word, we might be able to get on with the service.

Talk 3 – 12.07.12 Science and the Future of Cuisine

(Albert H. Teich, Eva Dowling – ESOF 2012)

The Head Chef becomes the Head Scientist

Food has become an intellectual exercise with different parts of the brain been activated by different flavours. In the future of cuisine, food has become the main ingredient in the laboratory used to explain scientific principles, with the Head Chef becoming the Head Scientist. At this talk the presenters took the novel approach of preparing there experiments in real time, with blue smoke rising from desserts and using liquid nitrogen to make crunchy pop-corn.

Interestingly, I learned that food tastes different if it is cut with really sharp knifes. Japanese chefs use ceramic ones, as the food simply tastes different depending how the flesh is cut and bruised. The speaker spoke of this new intellectual pursuit and the names that were been created for these dishes, one being – ‘The idea of an Oyster’.

This new type of cuisine juxtaposes reality, with food that looks like an egg but tastes like acid, or an experiment of cooking foie gras in a dishwasher. Leading us to believe that we need more chemistry than ever in food.

Is this really the future of food? Should this ‘new’ food have an old appearance, should these new paintings rely on an old story? Should food delight or nourish? And will these esoteric pursuits really help us solve the problem of what nine billion people will eat in the future?

Talk 4 – 12.07.12 – Water Challenges for a Changing World

Damien Bacelo (Catalan Institute for Water Research), Durk Krol (Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform)

Children drinking from ‘nano-straws’ in the developing world

China has 7% of the world’s drinking water, yet it has 20% of the world’s population. It was noted flippantly, that ‘the Chinese want to eat steak now as well’. Provision of safe drinking water is now a security issue with biodiversity problems and the threat of pharmaceuticals in the water. There are also many human hormone pollutants dissolved – thyroid, oestrogen and cortisol to name a few. As one of the scientists noted, all the stuff that we’re pooping and peeing into the water is returning  requiring even greater purification treatment.

The effect of climate change was discussed with flooding of industrial areas a major problem, washing toxins and chemicals back into the ground water. The scientist noted that the health damage from water was thoroughly under estimated. A novel product of a Nano straw was presented, allowing people drink directly from contaminated waters with the Nano straw containing a filtration system to remove impurities. This is also a high-risk solution, as who is responsible for diseases if the Nano straws stop working. It was pointed out that living beside the cost was healthier but it is also the most dangerous place considering climate change.

Luisa Prista (European Commission)


Luica Prista from the EU commission spoke about the Water Horizon 2020 programme, which would be led by policy and public public partnership. The vision document is ‘ Achieving sustainable water systems for a sustainable environment in Europe and abroad. Next year the EU presidency will be in Ireland, taking with it the challenges of continuing this joint programming initiative.

Talk 5 – 12.07.12 – The Secret Mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy explores the world of the secret mathematician


There is a false dichotomy in education that a student should choose either the pursuit of art or science. As an architect, I made the choice to go right down the middle, as for me both sides of the brain explored the mysteries of the universe and architecture was the main option to pursue this renaissance type education.

The premise for du Santoy’s talk was based on that through out time artists have been influenced by the structures of mathematics. His first example to support this was the composer Olivier Messiaen who used the prime numbers 17 and 29 to give a sense of unease in his piece – ‘ The end of time’. There are also species in nature that use this structure reproducing in cycles of 13 and 17 years to avoid their predators. Artists also use the Fibonacci series to mimic the growth patterns in nature.

Architects reflect the proportions of nature using the golden ratio to give a natural sense of growth in a building. This ratio also gives a sense of beauty, with Palladio’s villas using whole number ratios in symmetry and le Corbusier using asymmetrical proportions.

Left: Palladio’s symmetrical villas    Right: Le Corbusier’s modular man

Salvador Dali was interested in new spaces, shapes and fractals with Jackson Pollack also containing this fractal character. At the same time scientists were exploring the fourth dimension transcending a 3d universe. The writer Luis Jorge Borges explored the ideas of the infinite, paradoxes and the shapes of the universe. His library of Babel was shaped like a beehive.The Chorographer Rudolf Laban shapes in motion with dance movements travelling along an invisible network of paths.

I was left wondering what students should be pursuing if interested in both the arts and sciences? Are there new courses and careers evolving as our society and methods of communication are changing. Are career councillors best positioned to advise on the trends in the future or will we continue to produce industrial age professionals?

Talk 6 – 12.07.12 – What are the important Criteria for successful Open Innovation?

Rick Wielens (NineSigma Europe)


Rick Wielans opened up the discussion by saying that you need to train to perform open innovation; you can’t just pick up the trombone and start playing.Interesting statistics in relation to nation innovation, China has had 203,000 patent application last year with the most patents been applied for by Huawei, a telecommunications company.


Wielans recommended a book ‘the mesh’ by Lisa Garsley that explores meshing new business models together for open innovation. Some example were the ‘Zip’ car rental system for convenient pick up and drop off and the latest innovation, the ‘Whip’ which is a car sharing system using existing cars. Organisations are not designed for innovation. It threatens the predictability and certainty of cash flows by changing the business model formula.

Michael Evan Goodsite (Nord Star)


Nord-star presented a project, which is collaboration with insurance companies to model the unstable weather conditions, flooding and erosion. An online tool is being developed which homeowners, companies and municipalities can make use of in order to secure homes and plan for future building sites.

In conclusion, it was debated if open innovation was just R&D on the cheap, often companies see universities as suppliers of information and research rather than partners, with the smiling crocodile of American companies noted. Leaving it unclear if open innovation and competition can work together.  The speakers agreed that communication was only ‘open’ at a certain point of the development process and companies needed to construct their competitive advantage and value chain around around this sequence.

About Gemma Ginty

Service Designer // Architect // Strategist // Interested in cities, interactions and the ephemeral
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