Last week I attended the Falling Walls Lab and Conference, a great idea of a german foundation (aka the Falling Walls Foundation) of putting the spotlight on the most innovative ideas of the year and presenting them in a unsual format. The FW Lab brought together 100 young innovators from across the world and from ALL fields of expertise that had to present their ideas in maximum three minutes, questions from the public included. I had the chance to present my research on building a Global Agricultural Policy in order to end world hunger. I`m not the greatest public speaker so I didn`t explain a complex topic very good in 3 minutes.
It was a very fast paced event, with great speakers and awesome ideas being presented…but…
Innovation & Creativity VS. Utility
A few hundreds of years ago we were astonished by every invention that was brought into the daylight by scientists and ordinary people. We saw the invention of the telephone, the airplane, steam engine and many other great things that helped improve our lives. In the past decades, people invented personal computers, mobile phones, new diagnostics methods and medical devices that improved our lifespan and, when that is not possible, it decreased pain and increased the comfort. All inventions in the past years have one major thing in common: utility.
The persons that started thinking of solutions of how people could travel faster or further came up with the airplane, train and ships, those that thought about how devastating are diseases passed on from parents to children discovered the DNA.
Innovation is defined as the introduction of something new (an idea, a method, a device) while creativity means that you have the ability to create or the quality of being creative. It sounds great, but what happens when you create something useless?!? It`s still innovative and/or creative, but what`s the point in creating it, in spending time, money and your energy just because you can?
I saw at the Falling Walls, both in the Lab (where the young researchers presented) and in the Conference (where the senior researchers presented), research outputs that were completely useless.
I am a young researcher. I am lobbying, like any other researcher in this world for more money to be allocated to research as this is the only way to move the world forward.
But I do NOT understand why, in research, there is no, let`s say, a cost-benefit standard that could measure the impact of that research. Today we have a lot of problems. From the 842 million persons suffering of undernourishment to the 345 million that don`t have access to water, from the 3.6 million people dying of cancer each year worldwide to the 34 million living with HIV, we have problems that need solutions. But more and more money go to military research (as if we need to arm ourselves even more) or to research things like music history or the effect of music on plants.
Trying to bring down the wall of what innovation means to people today …I am trying to give a clear definition of what innovation should be. Should it be just something new or should it be something useful?