Technology & growth session comment piece: Innovation and the Future of the Planet by Professor Andy Hopper

As mentioned in a previous post,  I will be sharing comment pieces  from GGCS speakers in the build up to the Summit! I am delighted to share the first of these by Professor Andy Hopper below…

Innovation and the Future of the Planet

Andy HopperComputing has already revolutionised the way all of us live our lives; so it is reasonable to predict that it will play a major role in shaping the long-term future for society and our planet. However, first we have to overcome a major disconnect between technology and sustainability and most importantly be able to harness ‘green’ innovation and our expanding knowledge, to address global environmental challenges.

In my inaugural address as incoming President of the IET in October last year, I highlighted the need to provide more open access to intellectual property created in universities. In particular, I want to empower dynamic small to medium sized businesses to exploit and commercialise innovation.

The interface between universities and industry typically takes one of two forms. The turnstile model is a high-barrier and high-cost approach in which the university is encouraged to produce IP and sell it for as much as possible. The alternative is a low-barrier, low-cost model – the revolving door – in which companies can access intellectual property with greater ease – even through open source. In turn, universities are incentivised to kick-start and accelerate new ideas and processes. With this model, the cake is bigger and everyone wins.

Put this in the context of our need to focus on sustainability and the creation of a better environment and the need to ‘free up’ potentially disruptive technologies becomes more acute. There is arguably a real moral imperative. Our role in universities is to create a positive environment and nurture young creative minds with the vision to see beyond physical barriers.

However, innovation has to live in the real world and in a world where we can only be sure of death and taxes; we also have to accept that regulations and legislation are also inevitable. Not least as we strive to create a more sustainable environment – in the form of recycling, carbon tokens or personal energy use, for example. But while innovators need to anticipate and adapt to regulation, they need to help shape it and not be constrained by it.

by Professor Andy Hopper – GGCS technology & growth session panelist.

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