Six minutes to talk for Ireland and create a new world


INNOVATION PROFILE: Innovation Dublin: AMONG THE MOST interesting and inspiring events at this year’s Innovation Dublin festival is likely to be the series of DublinTalks being run in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and Dublin City of Science.

The highly unusual format features six well know speakers addressing the audience for six minutes on their big innovative idea without the aid of slides, notes or even a podium.

Speakers include Prof John Crown, behavioural economist Pete Lunn of the Economic and Social Research Institute, John Dunne of telecommunications networking company Intune Networks, Equinome’s Emmiline Hill, who discovered the “speed gene” in horses, and award-winning TCD immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill. The talks take place this evening and on October 15th in the Sugar Club.

“We want to showcase inspiring ideas,” says Pauric Dempsey of the RIA. “People keep talking about the Irish knowledge society but who and what is it? We came up with the idea of DublinTalks to showcase the people who are the knowledge society. We wanted to answer the questions that people are asking: Who are these great thinkers? What are they doing? We want to showcase the best thinking and best ideas out there at the moment.”

The events will resemble the TED (technology, entertainment and design) talks, which have been taking place internationally for some years, in that they are devoted to “ideas worth spreading” and will be made available free on the web.

“TED talks can be quite long, around 18 minutes,” Dempsey says. “Speakers at DublinTalks will have just six minutes without the aid of slides or anything to get their ideas across. They will be telling the audience what they are working on in Ireland and why it is important. It is a very immediate format and will be much more compelling than a longer presentation.”

The idea for DublinTalks arose out of an event the RIA put on at last year’s Innovation Dublin festival.

“We hosted a panel discussion on what’s smart about Ireland’s smart economy and that went very well. We decided to look at how we could evolve that. There is so much going on in terms of innovation in Ireland, there are so many great stories out there but nobody is really talking about them.

“DublinTalks is about getting the people behind these stories to tell them and then putting that up on the web to allow people to hear about them at home and internationally.”

One of the big ideas being presented at tonight’s event is how behavioural economics can be used to help companies to sell products and governments to sell policies. “I study economic and consumer decision making,” says Lunn. “What I want to get across is how the science of consumer behaviour is evolving and advancing, and how behavioural psychology techniques can be used to influence consumer decision making.”

He points to some very simple examples of how this works. “There are some things that marketing people have always cottoned on to but which the science is now confirming,” he says. “For example, if you say that a product is 90 per cent fat free, it is much more likely that people will buy it than if you say it is 10 per cent fat. Similarly, if you talk about a credit card surcharge rather than a discount for cash, you are likely to turn people off.”

In some cases, such techniques may actually make it very difficult for a consumer to make a decision. “Making things like financial services or telecommunications products very complex can mean that consumers are incapable of making decisions about them. Regulators are now starting to ask whether consumers need some form of protection from such practices.”

There are opportunities for companies here not just to indulge in clever and devious marketing strategies but to do the very opposite. “It could be argued that companies which present themselves as enlightened and that offer services which are scientifically proven to assist consumers to make the right choices will do better in future than those that act like conjurers forcing a card.

“I hope my talk will help people to realise that these things are happening and they should be ready to take advantage of some of the opportunities they will present.”

John Dunne of Intune Networks will share his vision of a new type of telecommunications network, which will be necessary to deliver the guaranteed levels of service required by the cloud-based commerce of the future. “For that past 10 years everyone has been talking about the internet as the network that everyone will use, but it is impossible for it to deliver the guaranteed performance required. At any moment in the day, you could be trying to run an application in the cloud and the network could go down,” he says.

According to Dunne, this spells real problems for large corporations that are dependent on their critical IT systems staying up and running at all times. “When you use Google or eBay or any other service like that, there is not a very high level of real-time interactivity and that will be perfectly alright on the internet. But no one will use it for systems which are vital to a company’s operations. The internet can be routed through any country in the world and there are huge security and reliability concerns which will only grow.

“The next big idea will be the creation of local networks in cities and other areas which will guarantee the performance and level of service required by these activities.”

He foresees a time when we will use these local networks for important things, such as banking, while the internet will run side by side for functions that don’t need to be available constantly. “We have an opportunity in Ireland to be the first to develop this new generation of networks and become a world leader in it,” he says. “Someone in the world is going to be the first to build one, why not do it here and we can become exporters of the new technology?”

If someone told you we could all live longer healthier lives just by being nicer to each other, you’d probably take it with a large grain of salt. However, Professor Rose Anne Kenny of Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital will be showing that there is sound scientific evidence to back this up and that one of the key responses that should be adopted to deal with our aging population is a return to engaged community living.

“There is solid evidence to prove that people who live in socially engaged communities enjoy reduced stress and reduced anxiety and this reduces the incidence of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and improves at a cellular level the body’s repair processes which deal with wear and tear on it,” she says.

She points out that this first came to light in the 1940s when a study was carried out in the town of Rosetta in Pennsylvania.

“The community in Rosetta was largely made up of immigrants from the town of Rosetta in Italy,” she explains. “In the 1940s, a local GP alerted a university professor to the fact that no one in the town suffered from coronary heart disease. He went and studied it and found that no one committed suicide either. He could find no standard medical or physiological reasons for this and then he realised it was because of the way the community worked.

“In a town of 2,000 people there were 1,200 civic societies that people belonged to. People helped each other and they still had group meals in the piazza.”

Given the strains on our health service and with people living longer with each passing year this is a very big idea indeed.

Admission to DublinTalks is free. To book a place or find out more go to

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