Four years in, festival is leaner, fitter, faster

 

INNOVATION PROFILE: Innovation DublinDUBLIN CITY is gearing up for the fortnight of talks, lectures, debates, performances and other events that make up the Innovation Dublin Festival which this year runs from October 15th to October 26th.

The festival has grown over the past four years to become an internationally recognised celebration of innovation which provides a platform for debate and discussion and an opportunity to discover the huge range of innovative, creative activity happening in the city region.

Last year, the event included some 122 partner organisations and more than 900 events. These partners included the four Dublin local authorities, UCD, Trinity, The Science Gallery, DCU, National College of Ireland, DIT, Institutes of Technology Tallaght Blanchardstown, Ballyfermot College of Further Education, IADT, the Enterprise Boards, Dublin Chamber, IBEC, Diageo, IBM, Dublin Web Summit, Dublin Business Innovation Centre, Irish Software Innovation Networks, Microsoft, NDRC (National Digital Research Centre), Scraper Wiki, Siemens, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Royal Irish Academy.

“We still don’t know what the full programme will look like, but all last year’s partners are on board again, and it’s just a question now of confirming the details of the events,” says Lorna Maxwell, senior executive officer of festival organisers Dublin City Council’s Economic Development Unit. “But we already have hundreds of events lined up during the fortnight.”

This year’s festival is running over a shorter period than 2011’s month-long event and this is in response to feedback from participants as well as due to a slight shift in emphasis. “Participants told us that last year’s festival was perhaps a little too long with too many events and this made it hard for people to get to everything they were interested in,” Maxwell explains.

“Also, when we started out, the focus was very much on quantity; we wanted to put on as many events as possible to generate the maximum level of interest. Now that the festival is so firmly established both at home and internationally, we are now focusing more on quality.”

It is anticipated that some 450 events will take place during the 2012 festival, and one which is already proving popular is Dublin Talks. This comprises a series of inspiring talks by and about Irish people with big and interesting ideas which they want to share.

From genetics and cancer research to marine biology and economics there will be something to suit everybody’s interests.

The events are taking place on September 3rd and October 15th in the Sugar Club and each of the six speakers will have six minutes to tell the audience what their big idea is without the use of PowerPoint, notes or podiums – challenging even for the most experienced public speakers. Among those appearing are Ivan Coulter of Sigmoid Pharma, John Dunne of Intune Networks, Barry Smyth of UCD, Luke O’Neill of TCD, John Crown, Emmeline Hill of Equinome and Claire Wardle of Storyful.

“Our plan is to film each of the contributions and make them available on the web so that they can be seen by the widest possible audience,” Maxwell adds.

Another event this year will be the Collaborate to Innovate seminar on October 22nd. Organised by the three Enterprise Innovation Networks (EINs) – the Industry Research and Development Group, the Irish Software Innovation Network and the Construction IT Alliance – the event will focus on the benefits and issues in collaborating with third level research institutes as well as with other companies.

“The opening address will be given by Frank Ryan, the chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, and we will have speakers from TCD and DIT as well,” says Michael Martin of the Irish Software Innovation Network. “The aim of the event is to show how companies are using innovation to create new products and new jobs. John Whelan from TCD and Tom Flanagan from DIT will speak about how they work with companies to assist them in the development of new technologies. We will also have speakers from companies who will talk about their research efforts and how they collaborate with the third level sector.”

Last year’s event was highly successful and Martin is anticipating strong demand for places again this year.

“We had a waiting list of 20 companies trying to get in last year,” he says. “One of the highlights was the discussion which took place after the formal presentation. This highlighted the good points about collaboration as well as some of the pitfalls. It turned into a fascinating discussion and everyone learned a lot from it. It is great to have a festival like Innovation Dublin to provide a focus for events like this. It has now established a very good reputation for itself and is very important to us in terms of bringing people together and encouraging collaboration and innovation.”

The National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) is another strong supporter of Innovation Dublin and will be running one of its Open Mic Idea Jam events during the festival. “Our focus is on bridging the gap between research and commercialisation,” explains NDRC chief executive Ben Hurley. “We try to ensure that research is converted from an idea into viable start-ups. This is a very complex space to be in. It takes a lot of capital and skills to do this. We help make ideas investor ready by helping the people get the market proposition right and put the right team in place.”

He believes that Innovation Dublin plays an important role in this. “It is very important as it is excellent at taking on all facets of innovation and not just technology. It is very important to showcase innovation in this way. The Open Mic event we are organising is to allow people put forward their ideas in a three minute pitch. They will have three minutes to stand up and bravely pitch their most inspired and imaginative ideas to an audience that will include everyone from venture capitalists to curious passers-by, who will ask questions and give instant feedback.”

Back again this year is the enormously popular Dublin Web Summit since its birth two and a half years ago as a small event in Trinity College which attracted 200 people. “We are expecting 3,000 people to attend this year’s event in the RDS on October 17th and 18th,” says event co-organiser David Kelly. “We will have more than 200 speakers at the event – more than 40 per cent of them from overseas.”

A feature of this year’s is event is the number of international start-up companies attending. “We are getting start-ups from the US, Germany, France, Africa and Asia attending,” Kelly points out. “We will have 250 start-up companies exhibiting over the two days and only 70 of them are Irish. We are very pleased about this because our aim is to turn Dublin into an international hub for web start-ups. It is very useful for us to be part of the Innovation Dublin festival. The idea is to put the right people together and showcase what they are doing. We also have a strong focus on women in technology this year. Just bringing people together creates networking opportunities and it gives those involved in start-ups the chance to meet with inspirational people who have already done it.”

This is just a very small selection of the several hundred events which await anyone with an interest in innovation at this year’s festival. “If you see yourself as an innovator or just want to find out more about innovation this is an exceptional opportunity to meet the people who are involved in it,” says Lorna Maxwell. “Whatever aspect you are interested in – the arts, technology, the web, healthcare, entertainment – there will be an event to suit just about everyone.”

For more information about this year’s Innovation Dublin festival, see innovationdublin.ie

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