In late November, innovators from Brussels, Poland, Germany and France met in Barcelona. Not everyone was able to attend in person – perhaps twenty of them were there – but in the course of 2016, fifty young innovators were honoured with the “Innovators Under 35” award presented by the prestigious journal MIT Technology Review.
Prior to the Barcelona event, the MIT Technology Review teams visited Paris, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Madrid to honour the ten most outstanding innovators from each country – and in the process to create a European community of innovation. To showcase this community, they held a European “Summit” in Barcelona, home to the Barcelona Tech City digital cluster: a victory lap for the up and coming innovators of 2016, and a final opportunity for them to win an even more illustrious award.
An already strong community
The innovators came together, first and foremost, for the opportunity to work together. In his opening speech, Pedro Moneo, an international partner of the MIT Technology Review and the CEO of Opinno, advised them that “The best thing we can do for you is to connect you, to see what happens when we bring you together”. The morning was given over to discussion workshops for developing solutions to issues that are at the intersection of technology and society, such as “how to make personalised medicine accessible to underprivileged communities”, “how to design educational solutions to help minorities” and “how to innovate to create a green gas network”. In the afternoon, there were very practical conversations about leadership in startups, investment in future trends and how to market their ideas.
Clémentine Chambon, Social Innovator of the Year for France, later said during the closing ceremony: “This community has become very important for us.”
“ THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR INSPIRATIONAL ENERGY. THANK YOU FOR CHANGING THE WORLD – WE NEED YOU. WE WANT TO HELP YOU, TO KNOW YOU, TO UNDERSTAND YOUR NEEDS AND PROMOTE YOUR IDEAS. WE BELIEVE THAT THIS EVENT IS WHERE WE NEED TO BE.”
Président of l’Atelier BNP Paribas
Changing the world, a job for the generous
During the closing ceremony, ten of these innovators were invited to deliver the three-minute pitch that they had given during the national events. The best ideas from these ten people were then chosen by their peers. Among the ten who took the stage to present their projects were a non-invasive technology for diagnosing meningitis, a website that “translates” medical reports into understandable language, and a revolutionary idea for treating the flu, highlighting the strong commitment towards innovation in the health field. But health was not the sole focus. There was also a transparent, fire-resistant and extremely solid form of timber; a platform that enables groups of citizens to come together to raise funds; micro-hydro power plants; and connected objects with sensors that recharge through the movement in their environments.
Amid all of these outstanding ideas for changing the world, the roundtable bringing together investors and startup accelerators was also a way of showing the general public that the life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one: you have to know when to raise money, when and how to spend it, how to hire the right people, and how to grow in a rapidly changing and fast-growing market. Everyone agreed on one point: it’s the people who drive the success of companies – their passion, their enthusiasm, and their generosity.
And it’s this idea that remained with us as we applauded the three innovators who were specially honoured by their peers and received their awards on stage – a little overwhelmed by the surprise, and probably also a little tired at the end of a very demanding day.