Innovation Against All Odds :: Open Foresight Series QI/QII 2021

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QI/QII 2021


Innovation Against All Odds Open Foresight Series

Contents Overview


- No Places Like Home




- CoSourced


Signals of Change


- Analogue Alternatives


Many Minds


- Certified Credibility


Old Splice


- In My Club


Do It Yourself


- Sense of Community


Big [Complex] Picture


- Schools Never Out


Evolution vs. Extinction


- Here and There


Key Trends


- Of the Essence


- Climate Changed




- Going to Ground




- Nature Knows Best


Further Insights


- Mass to Measure


Terms of Use


- Right to Repair




Innovation Against All Odds


Overview The coalface of innovation has never been an easy ascent. Though, in the minds of those that talk it, without having walked it, taking ideas from paper to market can be accomplished by following a series of bullet-points and soundbites, in reality no idea is too good to not fail, and even the best usually have a sell-by-date. Yet, even amidst the turmoil of present - a pandemic with more twists and turns than a gnarly old oak, tectonic political shifts on every continent but for the North and South Poles, whole industries mothballed or all but, and against the backdrop of a socio-environmental crisis of such complexity and scale that it’s not yet fully understood, let alone fully quantified - some businesses aren’t just surviving, but thriving. How, against such odds, do they do it? In this, the inaugural report in the Open Foresight Series, several foremost factors that are shaping innovation-at-the-edge are discussed. An independent work, the lens through which its contents are seen is autonomous and without intent to catalyse publicity for any product, service, brand, or other commercial entity. Authored at the interface of disciples and demographies, this report is holistic in its methodology, rejecting siloed quantitative approaches of the all-too-quickly dateable kind, such as online surveys and spot-check polls. Drawing on insights from oneto-one conversations with individuals of whom the careers have been spent treading paths unknown to pioneer groundbreaking new ideas, inventions, and the industries they collectively manifest, together with review of data of copious kind, this work stresses the imperative for innovation led by highly informed choices on the part of businesses of every size, type, and location.

Forewarned is forearmed, and particularly when working against umpteen odds. Though often presented as either the sum of exponentially expanding and invariably disconnected parts or one of many qualitatively distinct trajectories of which the outcomes sit at tangents, in practice not [always] theory, the future - or at least parts of it - is relatively predictable: history does often repeat itself, and it repeats itself because at the level of systems outputs are coupled to inputs and thus patterns tend to emerge. As will be discussed in the pages that follow, an array of advancements both technical and conceptual are enabling more dots to be joined, and joined at speeds unthinkable in the past. The Internet now laden with often deeply conflicting accounts of possible near futures, this report is designed to disseminate what developments in not one, not two, but many disciplines collectively suggest to be key considerations that they working in business and beyond need consider in the immediate years ahead.

Dr. Melissa Sterry Design Scientist | Systems Theorist | Futurologist

Innovation Against All Odds


Post-Usual “There are lots of ways to try and guess at what the future has in store. But, it would seem to me that the first thing to do is to work out where we are now, here, today. That sounds simple, but we take a great deal for granted and base lots of our opinions on assumptions that are actually quite shaky: Why is the US so polarised? Why has climate change become so important? Is China a threat, and if so, why - and why did it become a threat? All these issues and questions have deep roots. So to understand them, I think it is not just helpful, but vital, to turn to history.” Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History, Oxford University & author of international bestsellers ‘The Silk Roads: A New History of the World’ and The New Silks Roads: The Future and Present of the World’.

Post-Usual A change from the old routine… Once in a not so long ago time, business was ‘usual’, or at least that’s how some framed it. This ‘usual’ business was, so-say, a place where parameters remained relatively constant. Though manifold reports, articles, and other publications had, and for not months, nor years, but decades, highlighted growing threats of myriad kind - pandemics included - together with possible means of their mitigation, as became all too apparent this past several months, most had been ignored. Across industries and nations, human civilisation is re-configuring to this, the ‘post-usual’ era. For some, such as the not incremental many that pre-pandemic were already largely working remotely, that process involves minor tweaks to their day-to-day operations. But, for others the process of adapting to their new reality involves not merely changes of the practical kind, but of the philosophical kind - of embracing new ways of seeing both old and new problems, and in turn, of solving them. Put another way, it’s not just budgets and business plans that are transitioning from one way of doing to another, its mindsets.

Of course, change doesn’t come in a vacuum. Hence why, some scientists, among others, were able to warn of the rising threat that a pandemic was likely imminent and with that, explain some of its likely implications years before the arrival of Covid-19. From a systems perspective, pandemics are a product of power laws, in that the probability of their occurrence rises and falls in response to both environmental and social changes taking place elsewhere, and both near and far. Pandemics, in turn, catalyse system changes, and so the process goes on. What we are collectively experiencing isn’t ‘an event’, it’s a process, and that process isn’t occurring within a system, but a system of systems.

But, science isn’t the only discipline from which we can glean insights into how and why this pandemic may shape tomorrow. History repeats itself. Time and again. Hence why, when seeking to understand our possible future we need look to our past, and more specifically to patterns in societal response to change. Through the lens of history, we see that individuals and the communities of which they are a part respond to pandemics in diverse, yet relatively predictable ways. Essentially, these responses fall into two categories - embracing or rejecting change. This basic tenant of human psychology and cognitive functioning shapes not only how we respond to pandemics and to hazards more generally, but to changes in all their many shapes and forms. Our psychology and cognitive function are so consistent in how we mentally process events that not a few, but many studies have revealed that the likes of our political affiliations and wider ideological choices can be predicted based on a few simple tests on how we respond to everything from visual images to everyday situations, which is an issue that lies at the heart of debates over what personal data the likes of Facebook should harvest, and where and how they share that data. Put simply, we are creatures of psychological habit.

Innovation Against All Odds


Post-Usual On the surface of it, change is anything that ‘looks’ new. Yet, many ideas that present themselves as such are anything but. For example, some suggest that concrete, steel, and glass tower blocks with balconies laden with foliage represent a ‘new architectural paradigm’. In reality, most such buildings do little, if anything but dress old architectural thinking in new clothes - in potted plants. The same is true of many development proposals, which though claiming to represent ‘the future’ regurgitate ideas that though ‘looking good on paper’ - the emphasis on ‘looking’ given that most are accompanied by sunshine-drenched CGI imagery - are unlikely to be so in practice. Examples abound and include, among many other things, ‘flying taxis’, for which none of the advocates appear able to answer the question of how to mitigate the impacts of the inevitable inair collisions that would occur, let alone how those collisions and their consequences would square with the viability of gaining vehicle/driver insurance in the medium to long-term, among other things imperative to making the proposition investment, let alone market viable.

Another example of an idea being widely touted as ‘new’ is the concept of high-rise timber buildings, which many an architectural firm and property developer has proposed as a ‘solution’ to climate change. But high-rise timber buildings are anything but new, indeed they were common for centuries, with a primary reason for their demise being the not one, but many fires that engulfed cities as far flung as London, Chicago, Moscow, Hangzhou, and the city today known as Istanbul. Its material properties mean even dead wood - timber - behaves like a living material, in that its state changes over time in response to shifts in temperature, humidity, and precipitation. Hence why, as many a homeowner knows only too well, maintaining the condition of timber structures, such as fences and sheds, requires regular maintenance over time. Had proponents of timber high-rises looked to records of past climate and affiliated meteorological patterns and compared that data with current and anticipated near-future climate trajectories, they might also realise that the risk of fire in many urban, peri-urban, and rural environments is rising sharply. If this community continues to propose an uptick in timber structures of any height, let alone high-rises, in the absence of due care in regard of fire-risk, the science suggests that history will simply repeat itself, as ‘great fires’ of the ilk that swept through cities of old return, only this time in the presence of yet more combustible interiors, in such forms as gas-based heating installations, and carbon-based objects of various kind.

One man’s vision of utopia being another’s dystopia, we see conflicting currents across society, which are all the more diverse for the cognitive bias they invariably and indeed often exhibit. Through the lens of some, the pandemic is catalysing a whole new ‘tabala rasa’ world - a ‘postpandemic’ place where life as ‘we knew it’ no longer exists. In this place, industries ‘as were’ are ‘no more’: The office and the high-street are ‘history’; in-person events by the wayside; airline travel is all but extinct, the car likewise. Through this lens, humanity has shed its consumptionaddiction and, within a microcosm of evolutionary time, changed not only its behaviour, but its inherent social needs and wants, and psychological functioning, and in doing so made the business of building a better future all the ‘simpler’. Through the lens of others, a very different future is foreseen. In this place, and at the earliest opportunity, the masses will resume life ‘as-was’, and ‘then some’: holiday bookings will be through the roof; be it for work or for play, citizens will congregate copiously; many, having dropped or gained a clothing-size, will be eager to shop until ‘they drop’, or at least until they’ve refurbished their wardrobes with an abundance of new attire; and an economic bounce back will see a ‘boom’. Innovation Against All Odds


Post-Usual Both these visions are extremes. Recent studies have shown that those that go to extremes lack the ability to process complex scenarios, and thus mentally default to expectations that fail to accommodate the complexity of reality. Looking to records of pandemic precedents, we see evidence that both the above-described lenses obscure our view, and that whatever the future brings it will be tailored to neither the one or the other’s preferences, but a hybrid of both. William Gibson once famously said that the ‘future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed’. However, it’s not just the ‘future’ that we live with, but the past, as that past comes around again. The proof in that pudding lies in predictive modelling, and in the fact that if power laws and their like didn’t manifest particular patterns in how phenomena both human and non-human, and hybrids of both tend to manifest, such fields as foresight studies may not exit.

Futures are as mixed as the societies that create them, and only those that don’t look beyond their own mental and disciplinary horizons can’t see that. Which begs the question of how to navigate not one, not two, but many possible futures, each of which is distinct and, by nature, messy in its expression. More specifically, how might businesses both large and small, established and emerging, plot a path through such complexity?

Innovation Against All Odds


Signals of Change “Any business that wants to remain viable – let alone be sustainable and competitive – needs eyes and ears on the horizon, continually asking how emerging changes could transform their what, how and why. It’s not just about adapting: it’s about rethinking what’s possible, challenging the status quo.” Anna Simpson Iles, Director and Chief Innovation Coach, Flux Compass, Curator of the Futures Centre, and author of ‘The Innovation-Friendly Company’

Signals of Change Reading the moment… Against the many odds of the moment, many businesses are thriving. But how and why are they making profits while others fall further into the red? In seeking to answer that question we might start by bearing in mind that, immense though the impacts of the pandemic itself, it is not, and by a long way, the sole driver of recent rapid change. Indeed, each of the industries now struggling to survive were facing significant challenges long before the name ‘Covid-19’ was even coined. For example, high streets had been said to be ‘dying’ for years, air travel had been under fire for its contribution to climate change for yet longer still, and the music industry had been in commercial turmoil since the at least the arrival of the Internet and the still unfolding changes it created in how music is consumed, both experientially and commercially. Likewise, manufacturing and distribution had already started the process of migrating away from the hallmark of the Industrial Revolution - mass ‘one size fits all’ production, to factories with the capacity to produce bespoke items, such as clothing that, though produced using industrial processes is tailored to an individual’s measurements, fabrics printed to one-off customer-generated designs, and modular homes built off-site to specs generated online by their future owners. The companies that worked with not against these and other recent changes were well-placed to adapt to the parameters presented by this, the most recent, in a line of pandemics so long it dates back to before the advent of our species.

Working with change is a symbiotic process that involves businesses being constantly alert to signals of change both within and beyond their industries, and with that, regularly re-evaluating the relevance of their model, operations, positioning, and talent. As in any other endeavour, successful results don’t magically become manifest, but are a consequence of consistent strategic interventions across a business, or group thereof. This sounds simple enough, yet, among other things, the high failure rate of start-ups makes clear that it’s harder than some imagine. Be they entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, or advisors thereto, those that are consistently successful in ‘reading the moment’ are systemic in their analyses. They don’t just monitor what’s happening in one sector or two, but across multiple sectors. They consider how developments in one arena may impact upon another and why - where knowledge, models, facilities, and talent may be shared and how. They seek a diversity of opinion both demographically and technically, and particularly from individuals and communities of whom the expertise and wider experience is very different to their own. They don’t buy into hype, and especially hype of the kind crafted by marketing professionals and promoted in press releases - they understand whole industries are in the business of selling ideas and that, as in all domains, quantity of ideas often trumps quality. The most commercially successful always keep an open mind about how the concepts they research and develop may be applied. In effect, every idea, to borrow a term from the music industry, is a ‘white label’ in that it is a first cut of something which, with a bit of remixing, may end up reaching some very different audiences over time, in one and the same ways that many classical compositions have been sampled to make Electronic Dance Music hits. Innovation Against All Odds


Signals of Change Innovators that craft new markets are typically precious about their values and ethics, but not about applications, which is one reason why it’s common to see notable entrepreneurs and inventors with highly diversified folios and careers that span multiple industries.

Like most things, change can come with a big or small ‘c’, and foreseeing which changes matter most to a business can be the difference between becoming a market-founding company and an idea that, though perhaps compelling, ‘exciting’ even, goes on to disrupt no more than its creator’s cashflow. Cutting through the cacophony of changes - real and imagined - of the moment, and the now innumerable musings on how the pandemic may influence business and wider society, the following pages document the big ‘Cs’ that, no matter the sector, businesses need be alert to now.

Innovation Against All Odds


Many Minds “Neurodiversity means being wired differently and this difference brings with it higher abilities in specific areas. Problem solving, pattern recognition, analytics or general creativity - neurodiversity comes in various forms and holds many special skills that when given a safe space to flourish in, can become a key driver in any business’ success.” Soumaya Bhyer, Founder, Neuros

Many Minds Problems shared… Neurodiversity is imperative to eradicating bias from the lens through which business risks and opportunities are seen. Yet, it’s typically conspicuous by its absence on many executive boards and in the wider strategic functions of businesses, some of which have only recently started to grapple with the issue of diversity more generally, i.e. gender and ethnicity, let alone at the level of cognitive functioning. Bringing context to that statement, the advent of the Industrial Revolution catalysed not merely mass production and with it relative homogeneity in goods and services markets, but in how those goods and services were promoted. Though societies throughout history have shown some general tendencies in their ideals of beauty, character, and personhood more widely, in the 20th century those ideals narrowed, as once small firms became global brands that commodified particular personal attributes in their advertising, wider marketing, and public relations campaigns. The stock imagery that populated both business-to-business and business-to-consumer advertisements in the latter half of the last century spoke to the idea that a successful company is largely run by a very narrow demographic. In other words, many businesses, wittingly and otherwise, created the impression that it wasn’t just goods that come off production lines, but successful entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and innovators too, i.e. success was a product of particular modes of appearance, education, experience, background, ethnicity, and culture. Thus, is it any wonder that, even now white males are more likely to get investment in their start-ups, get a book deal, get a promotion, get press coverage, and more?

But, where diversity is concerned, gusts of change began blowing in the 1990s, when thought leaders and opinion makers across multiple fields began to champion alternative visions. In fashion that meant Amazonian women with golden tans and flowing locks being displaced by women of whom the bodily statistics, facial features, and overall appearance would not have secured commercial modelling contracts in the past, of which one example is Kate Moss, who is shorter than was the catwalk model norm. Whereas, in science a new paradigm in neurology emerged, it being a lens that sees the value that non-neurotypical individuals bring to society and its various tenets. In other words, both inside and out, dominant ideals were being questioned. Of course, they working at the edge of innovation in all its myriad guises had long recognised that, though not formally acknowledged, variation in neurocognitive functioning had been of benefit to business for centuries, if not millennia. For example, technology pioneers knew only too well that a notable number of the best computer scientists and programmers were on the autism spectrum, just as many innovators in the arts knew that a high percentage of the most influential designers, artists, musicians, and actors were dyslexic.

A quarter-century since the term ‘neurodiversity’ was coined, not only the winds, but the tide has turned. Not merely thought leaders, but anyone paying attention to the ideas that are framing how we do business, and particularly innovation, recognises that neurodiversity enables old problems to be understood in new ways. Equally as importantly, stigmas of old are falling, as slowly, but surely, understanding of how skills and Innovation Against All Odds


Many Minds traits particular to neurodiverse individuals gain acknowledgement, and in turn become understood as a valuable asset in and beyond the decision-making functions of business. Working with non-typical neurodiverse individuals requires understanding of how and why they tend work differently to neuro-typical types, and how to adapt business practices and operations in ways that can help not hinder them. The pandemic forcing many businesses to work in new-to-them ways, there’s no time like the present for those wanting to up the odds of bringing forth marketfounding innovations to consider how they may bring more neurodiversity to their businesses. Though some champion ‘hive minds’, the fastmounting problems faced by humans are immeasurably more complex than they faced by bees, or insects at large. We humans are not, by nature, uniform in our thinking, let alone behaviours, and if we can learn to better harness the potential in that diversity, all the better. The term an ‘Ecosystem of Psychologies’ conveys how humans think in many and different ways, which in turn catalyses very different characters, interests, talents, and ambitions. These psychological and personality variations are not likely accidental, let alone incidental facets of human evolution, but a central tenant thereof, perhaps born of our inherently social nature and the complexity this enables in how we organise ourselves to meet our survival needs.

More particularly, humans are social creatures that have evolved to live in ways that necessitate individuals working in groups to solve complex problems and to thereon implement their solutions. Having many and diverse minds explore the scope of those solutions has enabled our species to create immeasurably more options than would have been the case had our every ancestor viewed problems from one and the same perspective. But, how does neurodiversity aid innovation in start-ups and other businesses? The research and development process of innovation, and particularly in STEM, typically requires the capacity to focus on highly detailed and sometimes complex tasks over an extended period, hence is well-suited to some on the autism spectrum. However, research and development requires investment, that being investment that someone has to raise. Making-up a high percentage of entrepreneurs, many dyslexics are highly adept at that task. Once market-ready, innovations then need be communicated to their prospective markets, which given the greater connectivity between the hemispheres of their brains, one might argue left-handers are, by their neurology, born to do.

However, the imperative of bringing neurodiversity to the business decision making process is but a part of a much bigger picture. For example, umpteen developed nations are witnessing a mental health crisis, as rates of depression, anxiety, and more go through the statistics roof. Added to this, autoimmune diseases and other chronic medical conditions that can stem from, among other things, sustained levels of stress over time, sedentary lifestyles, sleep deprivation, and other issues that are associated with many business activities are again, at epidemic-levels. In short, humanity has became so utterly consumed by technological ‘progress’ that, it seems, it's all but forgotten to evaluate how the human - or rather the human condition - factors in this, so-say, progression equation. Those that confront the depth and scale of this mental and physical health crisis, and that in doing so come to understand its drivers will be those that are empowered to develop approaches - thinking - and with it, innovations that assist in abating these deeply troubling trends. Which begs the question, what can your business do to make itself more ‘human’? Innovation Against All Odds


Old Splice “The future will be in developing sensing and computing adaptive buildings from living materials. Such houses will be co-living with their inhabitants, they will be feeling what humans feel and giving advice to humans. The interface with fungal materials will be via optical and electromagnetic channels. Fungi show pronounced patterns of electrical activity similar to that of neurons. We envisage that future fungal architectures will also work fungal neural networks embedded into their structures.” Prof. Andrew Adamatzky, Head of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory, UWE Bristol

Old Splice Altogether Now… Since Plato envisaged an Athenian society structured in similar fashion to how some industrialists run factories today, humanity has been dividing labour, disciplines, and more to conquer, among other things, markets. But, many though the discoveries, inventions, and innovations birthed by silos, they, like most things, have limits to their usefulness. Be they lines that delineate territorial borders or genetic variances that discern gender, boundaries of all kinds are human constructs, which though likely rooted in some primordial facet of our being need be re-evaluated over time. Polarity of opinion may, on the surface of it, suggest that individuals and groups are becoming even more entrenched in, among other things, ideologies. However, what the many and prevalent conflicts of present show is that people, in their many millions, are questioning social and other orders - why do boundaries lie where they do? This isn’t the first time this has happened, but one of a series of instances of which the drivers have included rising social inequality, resource inequity, and a general sense of there being a ‘them’ and an ‘us’, wherein the latter are perceived to have ‘the upper hand’. Social conflict being unsettling for most, it’s important to draw on past precedents, for they show us that, no matter how fractious conversations across society become, ours is the capacity to return to a point at which we can agree to disagree on the small issues, and reach points of compromise on the big ones.

Stepping away from social issues to some of the other places where boundaries are fast-shifting, look to the work of the most pioneering figures in science, technology, engineering, design, media, and the arts and one finds their works transcend traditional disciplinary lines. These in-between spaces are where knowledge, methods, and approaches old and new transfer, and in the process mutate to form new conceptual species. The inference to how, among other living things, viruses spread, isn’t incidental, because if there’s one thing that advances in virology have shown us this last decade it’s that viruses are masters of evolutionary innovation - indeed not only do they typically evolve at a higher rate than other known life forms, but they do so through extra-ordinary efficiency in their storage and use of information - of their RNA or DNA. It’s observations like this that are enabling technologists to imagine and thereon develop entirely new approaches to the likes of data processing, storage, and distribution, such as at Microsoft Research, which has already made notable progress in the field of DNA data storage.

When we look to the living world we find not merely viruses, but all life forms function in ways which if mimicked could enable far greater efficiency in resource use of myriad kind. In exploring these possibilities we are shifting the boundaries between that which is human and non-human, and both philosophically and practically. The interstitial possibilities are boundless, but, like all advances in our thinking and practice they don’t come easily. Though, many a publication has suggested that ‘Nature’ can be reduced to a series of bullet-points, other than the foremost fundamental traits that define ‘life’ this is anything but true, and not least when we consider some of the possibilities for artificial intelligence and machine Innovation Against All Odds


Old Splice learning more generally, of which some applications are being integrated, and literally, into both human and non-human subjects. In reality, ‘Nature’ is a subjective construct of which our interpretation changes over time. The significance of that statement to innovation cannot be overstated, not at a time when humanity is commodifying the natural world on a global scale, as we subject its every biotic and abiotic tenet to ‘evaluation’, be that quantifying the ‘cost’ of carbon or the ‘value’ of a forest or how we distribute funding for conservation of endangered animal and plant species. All too few stop to question what new discoveries we may make about the living world in the years, decades, and centuries ahead and how those discoveries could challenge the assumptions upon which our relationship with the natural world, and thus our future is being built. As in so many other regards, in thinking ‘we know it all’ we open up both ourselves and innumerable other species to our blindsides.

There are several terms that describe research and practice modes situated not in, but at the edge of disciplines, including transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and multi-disciplinary. Yet, it’s still rare to find a research or commercial project that’s found an effective way to overcome the primary challenges of working outside of silos. For example, there remain vast chasms in the interpretation of wide-ranging terminology from one discipline and another. Frequently this issue is not addressed at the foundational stage of a project, which in turn leads to many teams firing in what they believe to be one direction, to then realise they are travelling at tangents. This problem is further compounded by a general absence of journalistic diligence on the part of some press and media which casually use terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘resilient’, ‘ecofriendly’, and ‘green’ without considering whether this or that project, or other endeavour measures up to any reasonable standards of performance on these counts, let alone by what definition: If you don’t know what you’re measuring against, how can you possibly gage the merits of an idea, invention, or innovation? There are also significant differences in working culture and practice between the sciences, humanities, and arts, and between academia, industry, and government. Consequently, it’s common that endeavours of various kinds fail to reach their full potential, as their various members become embroiled in misunderstandings of one of another kind, and generally fail to coalesce around one and the same True North goal. The proof in that pudding lies, arguably, in among other places, our collective failure to resolve innumerable critical, yet fast-escalating problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, nano, micro and macro pollution of several kind, and much more.

These losses in translation can be particularly problematic for start-ups founded by those that are either virgin entrepreneurs or that are developing their ideas in a general absence of guidance from directors, both executive and non-executive, together with mentors and advisors with the experience to fill their knowledge gaps. The issue is yet further compounded when those same entrepreneurs fail to recognise the commercial value in experience, how that value need be expressed in the likes of business plans, board structure, investment bids, and industry relations, and especially when an idea is yet to attain proof-of-concept. All too often start-ups underestimate the challenge in creating both a culture and infrastructure fit for meeting the challenge of hitting moving and complex transdisciplinary targets. Nonetheless, these messy,

Innovation Against All Odds


Old Splice sometimes conflict-ridden spaces, where knowledge from one domain is spliced into others, is the place where innovation magic often happens.

Qualities that help innovation-led projects to overcome language and other disciplinary barriers include the humility and honesty to admit their knowledge gaps; the generosity to share their own knowledge, skills, and other resources; the professionalism to research the relative value of the knowledge, skills and other resources of those with whom they collaborate; the foresight to prioritise quality of work over quantity of work; the patience to do all such due diligence as is appropriate, including ensuring that - and at every stage - all aboard are singing to the same hymn sheet conceptually, ethically, and commercially; and the ambition to not just talk, but to walk beyond professional and other silos.

New discoveries, innovations, inventions, and ideas emerge every minute of every day, but the ways in which those things succeed or fail remains as constant as the rising and the setting of the Sun. In start-ups, as in research and development more generally, regular reflection is a prerequisite for taking a compelling idea from paper to reality. Just because a start-up or other organisation can do something, it doesn’t mean they should, and particularly so at the edges of the human and non-human world, it being a place where unintended consequences of innovation can extend not merely across our own species, but innumerable others.

Innovation Against All Odds


Do It Yourself “True resilience is a lifestyle not something stored in the basement for the day the shit hits the fan. Decentralisation of skills into everyone’s hands and homes puts slack in the system, enabling us to bounce back with adaptability when things change unexpectedly. I believe if we fully understand that humans need meaning in their lives derived from DIY and they truly value the role of community and communication, then we can fully embrace why we need to go full circle; perhaps to a future more like the past than the present, with accidental, built-in resilience.” Dr. Kate Stone, Creative Scientist, Engineer, and Founder / CEO at Novalia

Do It Yourself Me, Myself, and DIY… Disciplines weren’t the only thing that multiplied aplenty this past millennia. Where once there were relatively few trades, today there are more than most people could likely imagine, let alone describe. In the initial instance, the Industrial Revolution propagated specialisms that served to make factories and farming more efficient. But, as machines took an ever-greater share of the heavy lifting of manufacture and agriculture, a veritable Cambrian explosion of white-collar jobs evolved and the service industries expanded seemingly exponentially. By the late 20th century, those with the funds could hire helping hands for almost every task imaginable, be it at the office, the home, or elsewhere. As the first two decades of the following century unfolded the trend continued, apace until… lockdown.

The pandemic has propagated many forms of Do-It-Yourself. Many confined to their homes have invested copious time and money into everything from home and garden improvements, to baking and micro brewing, to hairdressing and assorted other grooming activities. Many with children have found themselves home schooling, and though assisted by teachers and tutors, the responsibility of tasks sometimes new to them has pushed many parents and guardians to learn new skills. Whereas, many of those working from home have, by necessity, acquired new expertise such that theirs is the capacity to undertake activities, such as IT maintenance and audio-visual production, which in pre-pandemic times were typically performed by others. Hence, regardless of whether they’ve retained a particular job ‘title’, of late, many have been a veritable one-person army. In turn their homes have become the office, the gym, the workshop, the lab, the restaurant, the bar, the nursery, and more. In other words, we’ve gone full circle… back to the pre-industrial age of cottage industries and of life centred around the home. But will it last, and if so, what are the tangible signs that support that possibility?

As with the wider picture, it’s complicated. On the one hand, the likes of property searches suggest that many have been reconsidering where and how they live. For example, in the UK interest in rural properties has increased since the advent of the pandemic. However, it’s one thing to window shop, another to make a purchase, and the economic reality for many will be that theirs will not be the luxury of moving. In the absence of a timemachine, ours is not the capacity to know how long the pandemic will last, and whether subsequent pandemics will arrive relatively quickly, i.e. within a few or many years. But, what we do know is that the pandemic has forced businesses to revaluate their perception of risk and to examine the means by which they may mitigate both future pandemics and other local and global disruptions to their operations and markets. Consideration of these hypothetical scenarios makes clear that increased adaptability will be key to enduring in the medium-to-long, as well as short run. Additionally, for all the challenges home-working brings, the pandemic has forced the mainstream to adopt a level of flexibility of relevance not

Innovation Against All Odds


Do It Yourself merely to the particular circumstances of the pandemic, but to troubleshooting some of the problems that centralised workforces present for some workers, such as working parents, part-time carers, and more. Add in the cost savings some firms will make from downsizing their office space, and thus rent, utility and other bills, and the longer-term benefits of running either partially or wholly decentralised businesses become clear. Enabling the transition to ‘Cottage Industry 2.0' requires all such means that enable a business to shape-shift its operation practically (i.e. where its staff are based) and commercially (i.e. which products and services it produces) be utilised. What might that mean in practice? Though much of the attention so far has revolved around information communications technologies - around web calling and conferencing platforms, and network and sharing software - these are but the tip of the ‘head office-to-home office challenge’. For starters, tech goes wrong, and Sod’s Law dictates that when it goes wrong it usually goes wrong at the ‘worst possible time’. It’s all well and good if a PC or phone go down at the office, factory, or other designated work facility, because in that instance there’s usually a spare device that can be borrowed until this or that bit of kit is fixed or replaced. But, most home-workers don’t have a warehouse of spare equipment, and most companies can’t afford to provide back-up kit for every member of staff. That gap equates to an innovation opportunity, be that technology manufacturers researching how they can make the business of repairs and parts replacement easy enough to be performed by a lay-person in their home, or start-ups that develop mobile IT repair services to help keep the home [working] front up and running.

The rule of thumb where personal devices is concerned has been that, as they’ve become more sophisticated in their operation, they’ve become harder to fix. For example, whereas replacing a battery on an Apple laptop in the early 2000s was a procedure so simple it could be performed any place, any time, so long as you had the new battery to hand, today the task of replacing an Apple laptop battery is practically surgical in its complexity. Ditto mobile phones. Looking beyond the pandemic and to wider societal issues, the need to make tech substantially more sustainable, and thus repairable, is great. So great that countries including France have introduced a policy that requires manufacturers to label the repairability of an item. As awareness of the consequences of tech firms making products unfit for the circular economy grows, including issues such as they found at places including Agbogbloshie, which, due to leaching of chemicals from hardware being broken down for recycling, has become the most toxic site on the continent, pressure will mount on manufacturers to design for disassembly, be that for materials extraction or repair. Added to this, the general direction of travel of both hard and software companies has been to move from one-off purchase models to subscriptions, this being a trend particularly prevalent in the latter category. It’s an approach that works well when both communications and distributions networks are working smoothly. But, what about when they don’t, such as when events like the pandemic and other socio-ecological events throw spanners into everything from shop/factory opening times to courier delivery schedules to reliability of broadband connections due to overloaded networks? This question becomes particularly pertinent when not only are workers home-based, but for extended durations, such as occurs in lockdowns. As Big Tech companies rake in the returns from heavier than usual use of personal devices and software theirs is the

Innovation Against All Odds


Do It Yourself ethical responsibility to reinvest at least some of those returns in innovating easier means of home-repair and maintenance. The fact that, ‘where there’s a need there’s a market’ means those that enact that responsibility will reap commercial returns: by empowering their consumers, such brands will empower themselves to sustain whatever policy and wider changes environmental and social changes necessitate.

The situation is summed up in succinctly by CEO of tech market disruptor Framework, Nirav Patel…

“There is a growing understanding among consumers that the electronics industry is broken. It’s increasingly obvious that these advanced, expensive products shouldn’t be designed to be disposable. That opens up a great opportunity for companies willing to counter position and build products differently”.

Innovation Against All Odds


Big [Complex] Picture “The only way to make progress in finding solutions, from options legion, to the seemingly intractable problems that we face is to remain technologically agnostic until the very last moment. Fixate on the endgame, hold your nerve, and the intermediate periphery will come into focus when your brain’s ready to give it life.” Dr. Robin Daniels, Managing Director, Red Pill Group

Big [Complex] Picture Beyond Birds-eye Perspective… Having so disrupted global supply chains that even businesses in regions where movement remains relatively unrestricted have found themselves working in fits and starts, the pandemic has heightened the need to re-consider how raw and other materials are sourced. Thankfully, there are several ‘here’s one innovators did earlier’ that offer ‘business as post-usual’ alternatives.

The urgent imperative for humanity to reduce its environmental footprint has, and for years, driven research and development into means of both reducing waste and recycling what waste there is. Like ‘neurodiversity’, coined in the late 1960s, the term ‘circular economy’ is relatively new. But, the fundamental concept is not. Indeed, for most of human history ‘waste’ was a dirty word. Revert to the pre-Industrial age and you arrive at a time when, global though supply chains were, the extent to which all but the wealthy could access resources sourced from afar was, by comparison to today, limited. Added to this, prior to the arrival of industrial extraction methods many resources were in scarcer commercial supply than today. Hence, ‘waste not want not’ was the modus operandi of both households and businesses at large.

Numerous indicators evidencing that our species’ rampant use of many accessible resources is leading to a situation so dire as to threaten not mere species, or whole genus, but, in the worst instance, entire taxonomic families, as in other regards, history has a lot to teach us about how to address our indisputably challenging predicament. However, of its many lessons, perhaps the most pertinent is that human civilisation constitutes not a ‘closed system’, but an open one. More specifically, for all their sophistication, human societies are, like ant and termite colonies, subsets of other systems, of Earth systems, these being systems of which our understanding has advanced immensely of this past few decades. Since humanity gained the capacity to see not merely ‘a bird’s eye’ perspective, but, thanks to the advent of space travel, an off-planet one, our place in this world and its workings has been illuminated like never before. The more we learn, the more we understand just how fragile our existence is, be it gaining insight into the numeracy of potentially emerging pathogenetic threats lethal enough to kill us in swathes or interstellar events at scales that could wipe the solar system we call home off the astronomical map. Collectively, we’re experiencing a reality check that it’s not all about us.

Today, we can’t just see humanity’s footprint on the planet, we can track it in real to near-to-real time from the nano to planetary scale. We no longer rely on manual microscopes - we have algorithmically-enhanced cyro-electron microscopy, which, among other things, enables us to study molecular movement in viruses. We have real-time artificial-intelligence enhanced software that can track not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of data points to map nanoscopic-scale movements in the environment. Our satellite imagery is, likewise, no longer analogue, but enhanced using a wide array of software, which enables us, among other things, to model storm systems in 3D and as they occur. Yet, our lens on the moment-to-moment changes happening about us is set to become yet clearer still, as at the edge of science we’re joining these and more Innovation Against All Odds


Big [Complex] Picture dots together. Technological advances in fields including artificial intelligence, big data, satellite imagery and more are enabling scientists to think even bigger and faster than before. Problems that would have taken months, years, or even decades to quantify, let alone understand are being understood at speeds unimaginable in the past. Robots aren’t ‘replacing’ scientists, or indeed anyone working in the wider STEM sector. On the contrary, when applied to the interrogation of scientific questions, technological advances are enabling researchers and practitioners in these and related fields to reach new discovery and innovation heights, which in the domain of space research is a statement that can be taken literally.

Space research may not seem an obvious place to look for insights into how to build circular economies down here on Earth. But, space crafts and stations are a place where a crew’s survival is reliant on ultra-efficient use of resources, thus teams from the likes of NASA and ESA have produced many notable innovations in the domain of resource efficiency. Both satellite and other forms of advanced space and arial imaging are already empowering government agencies, NGOs, corporations, and academics to track everything from pollution to illegal logging to statechanges in ecosystem health. Those that imagine that it’s still possible for acts such as illegal dumping of chemicals to go un-noticed and untraced may be surprised to know that the resolution on some satellite imaging is so fine that the dimples on a golfball can be seen from space. Thus, whereupon they cause discolouration of water and their volume is large enough, chemicals flows entering river systems can be seen-atsource, or near enough to. Furthermore, sensors calibrated at the nanoscale and distributed in monitoring systems embedded in the likes of sewage infrastructure and floating vessels can track both chemical and other agents, biological included, which further technologies can then match to origin with forensic accuracy. In short, ultimately, there is nowhere for environmental polluters to hide, and particularly given unfolding advances in environmental monitoring technologies of myriad classes of the e-tech, bio-tech, and hybrid kind.

In seeing the ebbs and flows of Earth’s socio-ecological and wider systems unfold in real or near-to-real time ours is increasingly the capacity to make informed choices about where and why we make interventions. The implications for policy are significant, because now the likes of the World Bank, United Nations, and governments worldwide need not guess the impacts of resource extraction and other sourcing processes, and can instead draw on precise data that both quantities the scale of the problem now, and with that, see not one, but multiple trajectories thanks to advances in modelling software. However, though some real and near-to-real time environmental data is beyond wider reach, increasing amounts are available to academia, industry, and even the general public. Thus, ever more of those with an interest in holding corporations and governments accountable for unsustainable practices and policies are becoming empowered to take informed actions, and to do so with speed.

As many not few come around again to the idea of holism - of recognising the connections between us, every action we choose to take, and the rest of the world - innovations that seek to both mitigate risks, while harnessing emerging market opportunities abound. So much so that the challenge before us is not so much one of availability of innovative ideas, but of developing adequate means to evaluate those ideas - of due diligence. In a world nigh consumed by content of copious digital and other form, syphoning the innovation wheat from the chaff is no easy task. Innovation Against All Odds


Big [Complex] Picture Compounding this problem is the fact that a not incremental number of brands and their public relations agencies tend to reduce the field of Futures to a marketing and public relations ploy to be used for little, if anything more than the attainment of column inches. The hallmarks of such treatment include Futures briefs of clear intent to push vested commercial and other agendas, such as sales of a particular product, service or policy; projects afforded too little time and/or other resources to produce any depth, let alone quality of research; use of outdated research data, such as historical studies of which the findings have been disproven or displaced; inadequate efforts to ensure the validity of research methods used more generally, such as ensuring against bias in polling and surveys; and bias in the authorship and/or editing of published materials such that the commissioning client is presented in an overly flattering light.

The imperative to subject new and emerging ideas, inventions, and innovations to a level of due diligence sufficient to expose environmental and social shortcomings in their conception is, and indisputably, great. Thus, the issues that Futures works need, at the very least, aspire to reconciling are many. Anyone, anywhere can speculate that this or that gadget or gizmo is the ‘product of the future’, but how many can and do provide evidence that the resources required for said gadget or gizmos’ manufacture will be available in the medium to short term? “Not many” is the short, but, arguably, appropriately blunt answer.

Innovation Against All Odds


Evolution vs. Extinction “We are all going to have to learn to live through complexity – moving from single-point solutions to directional systems innovation. Organisations that think change is something to manage or control won’t survive. Change isn’t a ‘thing’, it’s part of life, part of us and its perpetual. The companies who thrive will be the ones who are change seekers and makers, rather than mere managers.” Paul Taylor, Innovation Coach, Bromford

Evolution vs. Extinction Innovate or Die… Some posit that ‘Moore’s Law’ dictates that umpteen technologies and the now numerous platforms they support will exponentially grow in influence over time. Through their lens, if mapped on a chart, the growth potential for numerous hardware and software products would follow a near straight line of ascent. Some have even suggested that, thanks to technology, ‘we are the Gods now’, and that the advent of artificial intelligence will have greater significance to the human lineage than the advent of control of fire. But, examine these notions through the lenses of science and of history and their flaws become all too apparent. Here on Earth, and indeed in the Solar System and beyond, growth is never exponential. What ‘goes up’ inevitably comes down, sometimes with a bang, others with a whimper, and does so in consequence of immeasurably more powerful forces than we humans have the capacity to muster, entropy included.

Technologies, like everything else around them, are either in the process of evolving or of becoming extinct and in both instances shifts in human values, beliefs, aspirations, interests, wants and needs dictate the direction of systemic travel. The idea that just because we invented this or that thing ours will be the inclination to continue to improve it over time is easily upended when we look to technological innovations of past. Of all humanity’s umpteen inventions, those which remained in use the longest were the flint and the spear. Both brilliant and, of old, incalculably useful. But, they, like countless other technologies ‘had their day’. Arguably, we can’t gage which innovations will, most likely, shape our future if we can’t understand which historically recent technologies have had their day too and why. As with the flint and the spear we need look beyond our ‘tribe’, be that in the geographical or cultural sense, and assess the merits of innovations against global environmental and social parameters.

On paper, the household names of the technology sector are ‘too big to fail’. Their founders nigh worshipped like deities by some - their image elevated to iconic status within the dominant press and media temples of our time - it’s all too easy for those thinking about possible futures to become overly consumed by their many and frequent predictions - and especially when those predictions gain so much more attention than those of the wider community. But then, the same was true of the musings of feudal lords, emperors, pharaohs, and other individuals that once resided at the apex of long defunct hierarchies. Hence, when seeking to evaluate which innovations and ideas more generally may shape the years and decades ahead it’s important to look beyond individual visions and to consider how changes in society at large may influence human behaviour and why. Particularly so when, for by far the greater part, the world’s most financially successful tech entrepreneurs are male, middle-aged, white, and middle class.

In the initial instance, the impact of the pandemic on digital consumption was relatively homogenous - individuals consuming more of what they already had [i.e. social media], together with a surge in use of web calling and conferencing platforms. But, look to the peripheries and one Innovation Against All Odds


Evolution vs. Extinction sees yet more interesting developments occurring. The pandemic has bought forth far more experimentalism with digital media, and both creatively and commercially. For example, many musicians, dancers, actors, comedians, and other performers, and at both the individual and the company level, have live-streamed events, and in the former instance, typically undertaken most, if not all of the production themselves. Others still have experimented in using tools that were initially designed for web conferencing for integration into production of pre-recorded films, concerts, exhibitions, installations, and other artistic works. For those within the film, audio, and visual arts community, the task of working within the sometimes challenging parameters of this still evolving medium catalyses new conceptual and technical approaches. Questions this community have been answering include, ‘how can we shoot a film when our entire crew is working from home?’, ‘what can we use to improvise when we can’t get standard-issue kit to the film location, let alone someone that knows how to work it?’, and ‘what are the limits of web calling and other technologies, and how can we mitigate the impact of those limits to our productions?’. Pandemic-caused limitations on the creative industries ongoing, so too is the process of innovating ways around those limitations.

Since the advent of the pandemic not one, not two, but now several new platforms have launched to host virtual and mixed reality clubs, concerts, festivals, theatres, galleries, and other digital locales. Without exception, the most conceptually and commercially interesting of these concerns weren’t birthed by tech giants, but by start-ups or they that, formerly non-tech entities, are in the process of migrating aspects of their business online. Ultimately, any that have notable uptake may well be bought out by bigger companies, most likely tech groups, and in the case of the startups this will, at least in some instances, be factored into their investment pitch - the anticipated ROI for backing the fledging venture. But, that doesn’t detract from the fact that the most notable innovations in the digitised event sector came not from established industry players, but from upstarts and outsiders. “Life finds a way” said Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm in the film Jurassic Park. “Innovation finds a way” too.

Covid-19-caused limitations of movement aren’t the only factor shaking up the digital domain. Long before the present pandemic, behind closed doors, many within the creative industries expressed growing frustration at the state of social media play. Whereas, in the 90s and early 00s the Internet was populated by a rich diversity of social media sites that put user-experience above profit and that prided themselves on developing visually-impactful and experientially-compelling platforms, the twenty teens saw the rise of a veritable social media monopoly comprised platforms which, trying to be ‘all things to all people’, prioritised quantity of user and of content over quality of user-experience and curation: social media as a numbers game. Through the lens of some with first-hand experience of these early alternatives, the fact that the latter are seemingly led by revenues from sales of user-data and advertising to all and sundry, has added ethical insult to experiential injury, as has the role these platforms have played in hosting misinformation on issues as diverse as climate change, vaccines, political referendums and elections, and much more. It’s a state of affairs far from the hopes and wishes of the communities of research and practice that built the foundations upon which these industries

Innovation Against All Odds


Evolution vs. Extinction rest. At a time of information overload, but of the reductionist kind, wherein even so-say ‘complete’ accounts of the history of social media networks feature not so much as a mention of some of the seminal creative and other social networks of the early 21st century, the line of sight towards the emerging digital frontier can become obscured. Certainly, discontent with the dominant digital paradigm is seeding experimentation, but, it alone cannot displace the influence of corporations with net worth bigger than many nations. What can? The likes of 5G, artificial intelligence, and faster device processing speeds, among many other technical things, have made once thinkable, but not technically do-able ideas imminently achievable. Put another way, digital innovators don’t just have the idea, they have the gear, and that gear is sufficiently distributed and affordable to be powering the next generation in digital creativity.

Whereas, not so very long ago the primary challenge in crafting first-in-market digital propositions lay in building the technologies within the typically tight budgetary, wider resource, and other parameters, now the challenge lies in doing so in a way that doesn’t add to already global environmental and social problems. It’s a challenge compounded by copious conflicting information, inadequate studies of the impacts of fast-growing technologies, and by no small measure of technocratic cakeism - of companies speaking to solve the very issues their environmental footprints evidence they propagate. The moral of the story being, just because you have the gear, it doesn’t automatically mean you are justified in using it.

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends “We stand at a point of inflexion. One where an exhausted, over-exploited Nature has no more to give us physically. Yet also one where we can draw the lessons we need to survive and prosper sustainably as a society in the future from the natural systems that surround us.” Mike Barry, pioneer of sustainable innovation, former Director of Sustainable Business at Marks and Spencer plc, and founder of MikeBarryEco Ltd.

Key Trends #1 Climate Changed Climate change is no longer in the future tense and future-proofing against this present-day threat requires re-evaluating business models through the lens of not one possible climate trajectory, but several. The science of climatology moving as fast, if not faster than the climate itself, and proposed solutions to the problem often conflicting, we can expect to see strong growth in services and goods that enable businesses to keep abreast of the latest insights, ideas, and possible means of mitigation. In particular, services which provide informed evaluation of proposed solutions and at a granular level are imperative to insuring against the adoption of wellintentioned, but ultimately flawed sustainability strategies. Consumers, clients, and shareholders alike are becoming more alert to greenwash and more critical of companies that fail to show tangible progress in reducing their carbon and wider environmental footprint. Insurers and many investors are mounting ever-greater pressure on businesses to scale their commitment to tackling the climate crisis, and in ways that are transparent, therein traceable.

“The world is waking up to the inevitable reality of Climate-related Financial Disclosure. Governments, private companies, pension funds and individual investors, must realise that investments affect the climate; that policy is changing; and changed policy may decrease the value of investments, or even leave stranded investments.” Dr. Mark Hinnells, Snr. Consultant, Ricardo Energy and Environment and author of the forthcoming book, “How Green is Your Pension”.

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #2 Going to Ground Of the 300 million or so tons of plastic that are produced annually, an estimated 8 million tons or more end up in the oceans. Though copious science communications campaigns this past several years have raised awareness of some of the problems this causes, such as the problem of marine species becoming entangled in plastic debris, recent studies have shown that the problems caused by plastics are yet more serious still. From reports of freshwater fish becoming infertile due to ingestion of tyre wear that ended up in rivers to reduced infertility in humans from micro plastics more generally to micro plastics having been found in placenta, thus being consumed by humans even before birth, pressure is duly mounting to go beyond recycling to developing new classes of material that leave no lasting footprint on the planet. Thankfully, materials scientists have been contemplating this problem for some considerable time, and now myriad research programmes are delivering compelling new materials for wideranging purposes. From bricks and insulation made from mushrooms to sequins made from algae, and leather from bacteria feeding on sugar and other food stuffs, this may not be the final frontier of materials research, but it’s certainly got more than just the attention of many multinational firms and investors. A few projects that exemplify this trend include this Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy dress, Shellworks bioplastic, and Biohm building and insulation materials.

“Expect full-lifecycle care of these new materials - from how the 'ingredients' were raised, to how their performance is optimised, and rituals for their disposal (perhaps feeding into the next-generation of product).” Prof. Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture, Dept. Of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape, Newcastle University

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #3 Nature Knows Best Thought leaders in design, engineering, and architecture aren’t just exploring biomaterials, but with them, the wider information and other systems of which they are a part. Though looking to the non-human world, to ‘nature’ as we subjectively interpret it, for inspiration is anything but new - we’ve been doing it for at least as long as we’ve recorded our actions in image, word, and myth - wide-ranging technologies now enable us to look a very many times closer, yet on far greater scales than ever before. In no small way, we can see that which was unseen by our forebears. So abundant are the interrogations into ways and means by which we can mimic and/or incorporate natural processes, such as self-organisation to enable functions like healing and computing, that research projects number in their thousands, and one discipline has now evolved into many - biomaterials, bioengineering, biocomputing, biodesign, biofacture, biotecture, biomimetics, and many more ‘bios’ besides. Though not yet mainstream, bio-inspired and bio-informed approaches are now far from niche, as evident in the more than 2,000 recent projects featured in Bionic City magazine. More under and postgraduate courses coming online by the year to serve this growing sector, we can expect to see thousands, if not tens of thousands of bio-innovations to come, and in the not far future.

“More than ever before, we need to search for a non-anthropocentric mode of reasoning, and consequently designing. My team and I have been exploring interdependence of digital and biological intelligence in design by working directly with non-human living organisms. Cultivating and enhancing them to compensate and integrate with the functions of logical thinking enables us to gain a more systemic view of Earth and the dramatic changes it is undergoing.” Prof. Claudia Pasquero, Professor/Head of Institute at IOUD, UIBK, Director; Lecturer / Director Urban Morphogenesis Lab, The Bartlett at UCL, and Co-founder ecoLogicStudio. Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #4 Mass to Measure Pre-Industrial Revolution, everything was made to order. Then came the era of mass production when nearly everything came off a factory line. But, advances in design and production tech are rapidly re-mainstreaming the ‘one-off’. Of old, design decisions were, for the main part, the preserve of the practitioner not customer. Now, the latter is integral to the creative process. The return of bespoke isn’t universal, but focused on goods that typically involve few production processes and fast turnaround. Presently, most made-tomeasure services are provided remotely via websites and apps. However, Unilever have been exploring the potential for micro-factories small enough to fit into a shipping container for despatch to produce goods locally using local materials and labour. Variations on this theme involve customers using software to modify product designs, which they then download at point-of-purchase to produce themselves using either hardware [i.e. 3D printers] or more traditional means, such as hand-sewing. But, regardless of whether customers engage hi or low-tech making methods, theirs is the opportunity to both cut down the environmental footprints of their purchases, while also adding a personal touch to them. A few examples of modern-day made-to-mass-measure inc. ‘You Design It, We Make it’ programme, online tailor personal MTalior, and design you own companies Contrado and Design Your Fabric.

“The major software driver in the DACE (Digital, Attention and Collaboration Economies) is data - specifically the need to seamlessly share sensitive, hyper-personalised data across jurisdictional and organisational boundaries, adhering to increasingly complex business and contractual constraints, while maintaining data security and compliance adherence.” Kim Chandler McDonald, CEO of FlatWorld Integration Pty Ltd Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #5 Right to Repair Throwaway is yesterday. Factors driving thought leaders in manufacturing to redesign product lifecycles include the need to reduce consumption of resources and to cut down the bi-products of their manufacture [i.e. lower carbon emissions]. But, the tide-turning back to enabling longevity of goods is about more than making businesses eco-friendly it’s about survival. As many virgin materials - and particularly those used in electronics become scarcer, and as awareness of the speed and scale at which supply chains can be disrupted grows, forward-thinkers are working to adapt businesses to accommodate decidedly uncertain times. The migration away from goods built-to-bin requires most businesses invest more in research, development, and manufacture, though potentially reduces their marketing costs over time - as emphasis shifts from quantity of sales to quality of product and service. Meanwhile, for those buying new, yet wanting to ensure their old devices and the like don’t end up in landfill, several start-ups in the UK and elsewhere now offer to repair and upgrade donated items, which are then distributed among charities and others in need of a helping hand. A few examples of products and services that express the Right to Repair mindset are Framework and Kano’s repairable laptops, Apple MacPro’s “Fixmas Miracle”, philanthropic tech repairing and sharing start-up Tech Takeback, and champions of the Right to Repair movement, IFixIT.

“Right to Repair fits with a trend in providing services not stuff. Why wouldn’t a company engage with a customer while using their product so they get the most out of it? Maintain the relationship and learn how to improve what you really sell: value.” Dr. Mike Pitts, Deputy Challenge Director, Transforming Construction, Innovate UK Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #6 No Places Like Home If there’s one trend in particular that the pandemic has deepened it’s the adaption of home to serve not one, but many functions. Regardless of when movement restrictions are lifted, the many weeks, and for some months, spent in lockdown has catalysed new ideas about how we use our homes. A trend that, due to the rising cost of square-footage in many towns and cities, was already fast-growing before the pandemic, homeowners have had plenty of sources of inspiration and innovations to draw on. Whereas, pre-pandemic IKEA had the monopoly on doing more with less space, now numerous retailers offer novel ways to make our homes work harder for the not incremental sums we pay to live in them. But, it’s not just homeowners that have needed to shape-shift their real-estate to accommodate of recent events. Businesses of all shapes, sizes, and kinds have been forced to reconsider their bricks and mortar folios. For some that’s meant down-sizing office and/or factory space. For others still, it’s meant choosing to let go of their business premises altogether and switch to an entire staff remote working. Examples of concepts that help home and business owners alike create adaptable spaces include Cubit modular furniture, Walls on Wheels pop-up work-space rentals, Hana flexible workspaces, Fantoni and Gensler’s Atelier line of moveable office furniture, and reconfigurable kit-of-parts furniture company Loose Parts.

“Systems thinking has come home, as we have realised that the wider environmental issues around the world can reach us where we feel most safe and secure. The net effect is a need to apply greater sustainable measures and to consider how our homes can support our physical and mental wellbeing. This is an essential, but no mean feat in our homes, which are having to adapt to ever greater physical and social requirements.” Oliver Heath, Founder, Oliver Heath Design Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #7 CoSourced Long before the pandemic, many an innovative company grew from a founder’s bedroom, garage or kitchen table. But, rewind several years and, no matter how modest their initial overheads, most successful start-ups typically expanded their staff counts and other financial commitments over time. Workable when the global economy is booming and means of bridging the inevitable gaps in cash-flow are readily accessible. However, since the advent of the new millennium a growing number of companies have enabled business growth in the absence of extending medium to long-term overheads. From handling company administration, communications, and customer services, to managing design, production, distribution, and more, these businesses operate not unlike a concierge, in that for a - usually rolling subscription fee - they find and manage supplier networks. Consequently, the co-sourcing market has grown, and in the process the business of starting a start-up has become sizeably easier than in the late 20th and early 21st century, and particularly given that most such service providers also endow their clients with regular reports and other publications that help refine forecasts and other planning and operational activities. Examples of companies that typify how cosourcing enables efficiency optimisation and capacity for adaption include fashion product development and manufacturing service Bryden and eCommerce solutions leader in the hospitality sector Slerp.

“Cosourcing opens up a global talent base from which to craft the most expert teams specific to client needs. Counteracting the constraints/ overheads of permanent staffing, it facilitates true agility for businesses. It is a great innovation enabler through diversity of people, thinking and approach.” Valerie Bounds, Chief Strategy Officer, Aurora Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #8 Analogue Alternatives Most, if not all major trends have counter trends. For all those touting the idea that robots will ‘take our jobs’ there are many more that, most often quietly, continue to hone handmade skills of wide-variety. Consumer drivers of this trend are diverse and include the emotive, such as a nostalgia for the past, environmental, such as a desire to reduce resource-use, and creative, such as exploring how old ideas can be re-invented with the use of new tools and knowledge. It’s a trend that’s bolstering sales of wideranging products as diverse as sewing machines to gin making kits to carpentry tools. As with Mass-to-Measure, it’s also about adding that personal touch - creating with love, care, and often an individual not a market in mind. The ease with which individuals can share tips and ideas using social and other media has given this trend yet further traction, as has the fact that, for many, limitations on their movements during lockdowns has provided ample time to learn new skills and to revisit old ones. Added to this, the pandemic has led some to re-evaluate their lifestyle and in turn life goals, and in the process, to embrace a slower, but more enjoyable and less stressful way of living.

“People from Indigenous artisans to stay at home mums have been creating economic opportunities from crafts and I see the future being more of an even playing field. People now want to buy sustainable, ethical products, produced in limited quantities from small independents.” Jane McMillan, Fashion Designer and Start-up Coach

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #9 Certified Credibility Whether the objective is to readily discern a human from a bot on social media, a political fact from a fiction, a bonafide healthcare expert from a snake oil merchant, an original over a knock-off for sale online, or authentic footage of a public figure from an artificial-intelligence-generated imposter, we don’t just want to know what’s real and what’s not, but need to. Though fakery of all-kinds is not new, the Internet having made its dissemination abundant is catalysing development of multiple classes of software designed to stem the problem. Yet, there remain many gaps, both technical and legal, and especially at the scale of international markets. Not merely variations in law, but in culture render the issue of combatting fakery as challenging as it is complex. Yet, for companies that populate this fast-growing market the potential is clear. Whether creating products and services that identity fakes or that provide assurance of authenticity, and whether doing it with digital hallmarks or labels, by intercepting and blocking content, or otherwise, this is a trend with universal relevance to the business sector. Examples of tech that’s helping consumers decipher goods, services, and media fact from fiction include Google tech incubator Jigsaw’s fake image identification platform Assembler, AI fake news identification system Microsoft’s Video Authenticator tool, and authentication and anti-counterfeit solution Qliktag.

“We are increasingly operating in a “fake news,” post-truth era. UnifAI uses AI to predict likely outcomes and events for a range of use cases from healthcare to environmental monitoring. The same approach can flag unexpected news, stories or information as potential fiction with increasing accuracy.” Nuno Silva, Chief Scientific Officer, UnifAI Technology Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #10 In My Club Humans are tribal and have been for at least as long as anthropological and archeological artefacts can trace our social history. The extent to which we chose to group with others varies across cultures. Even social media platforms of intent to universally connect us to one and all our family, our friends, our colleagues, and more, have realised that we, all of us, typically choose to group our social networks into categories, and more specifically into categories to which we reveal varied levels and types of information about ourselves - lives not lateral but layered in their complexity. In that sense, our online lives echo our offline lives. Clubs of one form or another date back millennia, and in the instance of some, have been fundamental to the shaping myriad facets of society. Since the advent of the Internet, digitally facilitated clubs have grown in number and diversity, though, until recently, not typically exerting the level of influence of their offline counterparts. However, extended lockdowns have driven many clubs to rethink their operations. Some have expanded their online offer. Others have diversified their membership structure. For most this rethink has been a case of stick to what they knew and sink, or innovate and swim. Networking imperative to most businesses, and particularly they operating in sectors in which innovation comes thick, fast, and constantly, it’s worth reviewing which clubs offer what now and how to help executives meet the connections they need to keep apace with change. If looking for a case study in integration of physical and digital infrastructure in this sector, look to Soho House group's developments of late.

“Initiatives like United We Stream mean we can now attend club nights in Tblisi or Madrid from our living rooms in the UK. While nothing will replace the experience of being in a nightclub, people’s desire to connect and experience global talent digitally will continue long after the pandemic, with technical advances enhancing that experience over the coming years.” Marie-Claire Daly, Co-Founder, StreamGM Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #11 Sense of Community Whereas the latter half of the 20th century saw many urban communities become increasingly disconnected, the pandemic has strongly reversed that trend. A voluntary locally-focused, but globally-spread and self-organised movement has reminded many just how inherently social we humans are. A silver lining in an otherwise largely dark cloud, this is not a trend likely to demise once the pandemic has passed. For businesses its significance is severalfold. Firstly, the trend has highlighted how local actions to help communities provides a way to walk the talk of brand values - and ‘give back’. Secondly, no matter how global a brand, for many in sectors including retail, hospitality, leisure, wellbeing, and more, a sizeable swathe of their customer base is nonetheless ‘local’. Hence, in growing their relationship with the communities in which their shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs reside they help secure the loyalty that will enable them to endure the pandemic. Thirdly, the pandemic has helped many business owners and managers to think creatively about how they help their local communities in meaningful ways, such as how their facilities, expertise, and other resources can be used by nonprofit organisations to address critical issues - ‘sharing [business assets] is caring’, and problems shared are, at least sometimes, problems halved.

“Consumers now more than ever want to support brands that they feel represent them and their core values. If a brand creates a community of aligned individuals, they have a devoted, loyal, and engaged audience ready and waiting whenever they release a new offering” Anna Brettle, Founder & Business Development Director, Stellar.

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #12 Schools Never Out Online education has been fast-evolving since the early 00s. Pre-pandemic, many universities already had impressive online folios, including access to wide-ranging courses from introductory primers to Masters degrees. Likewise, most were already providing their students with access to wide-ranging online resources, including access to digital libraries, calendars, and other learning materials. Since the launch of the Open University, many institutions had diversified their course folios by means of accommodating of the needs of students with wideranging needs. However, the limitations on movement the pandemic has created has forced universities to rethink their operations and migrate whole courses online. Many institutions themselves have had a crash-course in the pros and cons of online learning. Though, from a market perspective, the relevance of this development is limited to those sectors that provide products and services to the education sector, from a training perspective the relevance is universal. Hence, any business that hasn’t re-evaluated how this trend offers new ways to help staff learn the skills they need to excel would be wise to do so, and when doing so to look globally, for it’s a development that gives access to institutions far and wide. A few examples of leaders online learning include MIT, Harvard, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and University of Salford.

“As educators, the pandemic has taught us that we need to reimagine learning for the digital age. So much can be learned independently now and the best educational content is often delivered informally outside of the sector. Securing our future as a sector resides in our becoming integral to the development of pioneering digital platforms that are genuinely exciting places to inhabit. This is what every digital classroom should be like and designing this future is critical to the survival of the education sector.” Prof. Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication and Future Media, University of Salford

Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #13 Here and There As highlighted on, “there’s no excuse to miss a meeting”… “when a hologram can easily fill your seat”. In science fiction and beyond, many have spent decades imagining how technology might help people bridge the Space Time Continuum. Holograms now so old hat as to be mainstream in the entertainment business, those researching the future of meetings and events more generally are looking beyond appearances, and to experiences which stimulate all five senes - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The likes of Oculus Quest 2 enabling event organisers to create virtually attended, but physically experienced concerts, clubs, conferences and more, has blurred the boundary between these once separate spaces. The integration of concepts from gaming to virtual events has enabled a new level of remote immersion, as exemplified by Chorus Productions’ virtual club Eschaton. But, it’s not just spacial boundaries being blurred. When FAC51 joined forces with The Haçienda to host a ‘stay at home rave’ as part of Greater Manchester’s United We Stream project, artists including David Morales and Toddy Terry resurrected a club of which the doors shut in 1997. Ever ahead of the creative curve, Jean-Michel Jarre was exploring the potentialities of mixed reality concerts many months before the name Covid-19 was coined. Attracting over 75 million viewers worldwide, his New Year’s Eve concert, which was hosted in a virtual Notre Dame, was a case study in the creative potential of live-streamed virtual reality events. However, as exemplified in groundbreaking physical installations, such as ‘Alcohol Architecture’, it’s not just tech that’s redefining what, how, and where we experience events, but good old fashioned imagination and spatial experimentation.

“As commercial and retail property is re-thought and rezoned there is the opportunity for an energetic reimagining of cities as the places where experiences happen and memories are made. The newly available space creates the potential for new forms of creative-led experiences. The most successful and robust are likely to have an extensive digital universe to explore, thereby lengthening and deepening guest experience.” Sam Bompas, Cofounder, Bompas & Parr Studio Ltd Innovation Against All Odds


Key Trends #14 Of the Essence Diverse as the psychological responses to the pandemic may be, there’s ample evidence to suggest that, for many, the event has catalysed a sense that time is of the essence. From an uptick in engagements and growing concerns over expiring biological clocks, to a surge in online dating, diverse data infers that, for some, the past several months have been a period of re-evaluating how, where, and with whom they spend their time. In addition to affairs of the heart, they of the mind, body, and soul have been copiously discussed in the likes of online discussion forums, webinars, and other gatherings. Added to anecdotal evidence, studies suggest that the pandemic has led a significant number of those that had previously exercised with infrequency to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which is a trend likewise inferred by an increase in sales in sportswear. Though only time can tell us to what extent these trends will endure, psychological and cognitive studies suggest that for many these changes won’t be fleeting, even when limitations relating to our personal freedoms lift.

“Pre-existing conditions determine how individuals respond to adverse events. In particular, an individual’s level of self-awareness and understanding of their emotional triggers defines their level of resilience to events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Self-aware individuals with the ability to think critically tend be more adaptive in their responses. Hence, among the several human behaviours we’re witnessing of present, one is adaptive individuals re-evaluating their priorities, goals, and dreams, and making changes accordingly.” Dr. Teyhou Smyth, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, GSEP Pepperdine University. Innovation Against All Odds


Summary “Learning lessons from the pandemic… the rapid development of the vaccines in just months reflects decades of fundamental research, regulatory development and technological capability. Progress often is more driven by ‘happy accidents’ and necessity than foresight. But, the value of foresight is that it increases the chance of happy accidents.” Dr. Chris Yapp, Technology Futurist and Author

Summary The long and the short of it… Individuals, businesses, and indeed whole societies reap the seeds they sow. The events unfolding today were, and in no small measure, shaped by choices made months, years, decades, and even centuries ago. There exist no boundaries, as such, between our past, our present and our future: the concept of the timeline, and the various units we use to construct it, are entirely a product of the human imagination. Indeed, the very idea that events can and should be organised linearly is at odds with the basic premise of Einstein’s theory of the relation of space and time. Thus, any ‘post-usual future’ as might occur is, in effect, a bi-product of past events. The past tells us that, to a lesser or greater extent, howsoever the coming years may unfold, their character will be hybridised - old die-hard human habits meet new and sometimes unexpected discoveries and the technological and wider developments they can enable. As did virologist Nathan Wolfe in his 2011 tome The Viral Storm, scientists will continue to warn us of the threats their data suggests lays ahead, but, whether or not those warnings are heeded will not be a matter of objectivity, but of subjectivity - of how and why individuals interpret the world about them, thus the relative significance, and in some instances validity, of what they think they ‘see’ before them.

Some imagine “We are the Gods”, and in some ways we are, in that our actions are placing not mere species, but whole taxonomic genera, and in some instances families, at risk of near-future extinction. All the while we continue to pollute this, our home, in ways so very pervasive that not merely is the legacy thereof geological in its proportions, but truly global in its expanse, i.e. that which extends from the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches all the way, and possibly even beyond, the Stratosphere, across all continents, and in ways that will last for not years or centuries, but millennia or more. Yet, despite the ecological and wider devastation our species is creating - and creating by the minute - awareness of the extent of our collective ecological footprint and its implications remains highly fragmented.

A ‘little knowledge is a dangerous thing’, so wrote the 17th century poet and satirist Alexander Pope. We can but imagine what he would think of the now numerous social media banners that share ‘pearls of wisdom’, in 200 characters or less, on issues as diverse as matters personal, professional and even political [i.e. attainment of happiness, success, and even world peace!]. One might speculate that, were Pope witness to the present he would pontificate a phenomenon which, cyclically repeated throughout history, could be dubbed the ‘Dorian Gray Effect’, wherein the worse the socio-ecological outlook the more idealised the ways in which some present both themselves and their visions of and for the world. Put another way, the more dystopian the tangible world becomes, the more utopian some flights of imagination, be they of the self [i.e. augmented selfies] or of the society some hope to build [i.e. future cities].

How then, might we reconcile the increasingly stark reality of our current and likely near-future situation with fast-ascending expectations at both the individual and societal level? These are questions that not merely philosophers and historians, and others working in the Humanities need to consider, for they lie at the heart of how and why we make the commercial decisions we do. Contemplating such questions can ensure that we don’t become ‘gods’, but only in our own lunchtime. Within futures narratives, so dominant is the technocratic worldview - the idea that ‘technology will save us’, that it can be hard for some to imagine the alternatives, and especially they for whom ‘seeing is believing’, even if their view is of seemingly glossy proposals built on dubious financial speculations of the possible return-on-investment that an idea may present.

Innovation Against All Odds


Summary Though, experientially, it’s typically easier for founding directors and other senior-most executives to surround themselves with ‘yes’ men and women - with people that think, therein evaluate the validity of ideas, just as they do - doing so is one sure-fire way to bring vulnerability to a business and particularly to its innovation process. Developing ideas of which the potential extends beyond the short-term, and more importantly, potential that can be harnessed without mounting yet greater pressure on already stressed ecological and other Earth systems, requires realism. More particularly, working within real, not imagined parameters. Those parameters are manifold, they are moving, and by the day. Hence, it’s not just the ‘moment’ that needs be ‘read’, it’s as many of the possible moments that may follow, and in understanding of the fact that how individuals, and in turn communities respond to innovative ideas changes over time and space.

However, when we think to how innovations and other ideas may be received, we need think beyond our own species, and to the many other species with which we share this planet. It’s not all about us, no matter how important some may imagine themselves and their priorities to be. Achieving that goal is easier said than done, because our understanding of the non-human world is evolving, and assumptions made today may be undone, as new findings emerge tomorrow. Which is where diversity can help us, more specifically, bringing diversity of expertise to the innovation process, because, one person’s blindspot is another’s line of vision.

Businesses that seek to scale their innovation responsibility need seek to scale the community of expertise they involve in the day-to-day development of that innovation - to engage many, not few minds, and multiple neurological variants thereof. Of course, the extent to which, in practice, businesses do so will be both a consequence of their budgetary and wider resource capacity, and the depth of their executives’ commitment to building a better future for the many not few.

Abundant data makes clear that businesses that embrace not reject diversity perform better than they that don’t. It’s a pattern mirrored at the level of whole economies. But, by not few, but many standards many businesses in many sectors consistently fail to deliver equality on their boards, on their pay, and on most measurable metrics. A systemic issue of no incremental consequence, in failing to build equality into the DNA of their operations these businesses create weaknesses that can become magnified during periods of uncertainty and market disruption, such as that we’re experiencing now. When studies show that a little humility goes a long way in the board decision-making process, this being a quality that, among others, female executives often show, we can only hope that the post-usual business landscape sees improvements on the arguably woeful past and present equality-performance standards.

We already have a large share of the scientific and technological ‘gear’ to enable leaps of innovation that our forebears could only imagine. But, if we’re to have the right idea it’s imperative that we ensure the programming of that gear is as impartial as possible, and to do that we need actively avoid the sort of cake and eatism that emerges when too few perspectives are at the research and development table.

The signals of change abound, but, their interpretation is highly subjective. Businesses seeking to mitigate the risks and harness the opportunities to which those signals relate need be aware that in the absence of critical thinking and of other means of illuminating their intellectual biases, those signals may send them in entirely the wrong direction. Though change more generally can be challenging to navigate, in this, a Golden Age of scientific discovery and technological breakthroughs, that task is harder still. It’s one thing to speak to ‘paradigm shifts’, to working beyond ‘silos’, to adopting a ‘transdisciplinary’ approach, to being ‘resilient’, to ‘futures thinking’ and umpteen other terms, but another to enact them. The process of moving from one way of thinking and of doing to another involves learning, which in turn involves trial and error, thus experimentation.

Innovation Against All Odds


Summary A popular mantra in the enterprise world is ‘fail fast’. Like most such soundbites it’s short-termist and overly simplistic, in that genuinely pioneering research typically involves a lot of failures of which the periodicity is relative to the time it takes to conduct the experiments as are to hand. As the critical thinkers among you will have already spotted, the term ‘fast’ is subjective in its interpretation, thus unreliable as a means of quantification. The upshot: innovating against the odds may involve working in ways that necessitate the coining and the use of new terminology, but developing new methodology is where the focus needs to be: walking the talking.

Many of the most radical innovations come from the edges, not centres of industries - from both start-ups and other emerging initiatives. Projects often populated, sometimes heavily, by career nomads, i.e. those of whom the past career activity was working in one or more other sectors, and that migrate the knowledge and skills they developed in those sectors to the new commercial loci of their attention, these are places where the innate nature of the working environment ensures that boundaries are pushed. Nonetheless, even in fledgling businesses, the limits of innovation are relative to the extent to which the founding directors and other executives are open to the exploration of new ideas in new ways.

Some of the most profound shifts occurring in the wider business world revolve around the relationship between employer and employee. Whereas, for the better part of modern history, be they housed in factories, offices, or other premises, most businesses adopted a top-down hierarchy reliant on surveillance of employees’ activities, i.e. many employers dictated set hours and employees checked-in and checked-out with the regularity of an atomic clock. In this set-up, many employees worked to live, and worked at whatsoever the going rate for their chosen, typically life-long trade. In the fashion of The Two Ronnies Class sketch, every employee knew ‘their place’.

But, that was then, and this is now. Long before the current pandemic, the most innovative businesses had embraced remote working as and where possible and appropriate. They were already using copious digital and other tools to enable their staff to work from home, from a hotel, or from wherever in the world they needed to be. They knew that it’s not panopticon-style monitoring that boosts employee productivity, but showing employees that you seek to understand their wants and needs, to reward their efforts and endeavours in meaningful and tangible ways, to be open-minded not pedantic, and to understand you’re buying their time, not their soul. Doing that involves trust. Copious trust. It also involves respect - respect for the fact that people deserve to be treated as just that, people, and not machines. The task sounds simple enough, and yet, some laggards of the business world still show a distinct tendency towards micro-management. “You can take the horse to water, but…”, as the well-known saying goes. We can only imagine how much more productive some employees could be if their employers choose to prioritise investment in training and other means of scaling their skills, knowledge, sense of purpose and happiness, as opposed to purchasing digital ‘timekeeping’ software.

However, ‘Big Brother’ does have some virtues. More particularly, when applied to monitoring of social and environmental issues. Both at the individual and organisational level umpteen are the means by which tabs can now be kept on the state of socio-ecological affairs, and though many are the means by which those with vested interests can potentially distort at least some of that data, among other things, artificial intelligence systems can help us to turn the mis-information tide. However, no matter how sophisticated they may be, such technologies are, as were the flint and the spear, simply tools, thus their potential is coupled, and entirely, to how we choose to use them. We might wonder if, as suggested by multiple scientific enquiries, wide-ranging environmental problems continue to worsen, such systems might be used in the assessment of the potential future impacts of innovations under development? Whereas, today, it’s commonplace that businesses, and in turn industries, prioritise their use of this or that resource over that of other businesses and industries - might, in the not distant future, businesses and Innovation Against All Odds


Summary industries consider if their products and services, real and imagined, really are the best use of Earth’s resources, i.e. go beyond aspirations of ‘resource efficiency’, such as recycling, to redesigning whole sectors to work in ways that increase the still worsening odds that we’ll deliver on our ambition to build a ‘sustainable future’ for our descendants? Or, will many businesses, industries, and nations continue to put the ‘me’ before ‘we’, and descend, as occurred countless times past, into a bun-fight over resources, be that enabled fiscally [i.e. the price of commodities] or militarily [i.e. conflicts]? Or, as more generally, is the outlook mixed? As is, though some industry organisations and some nations are undertaking efforts to lower their environmental impacts and to increase citizenry health and general wellbeing, the modus operandi is that of aiming to make things ‘better’, as opposed to replacing or, if arguably superfluous to humanity’s needs not whims, eradicating them altogether. In other words, though many talk of paradigm shifts, they walk incremental steps, and at speeds unable to keep pace with that of climate change, among other now fast-changing things.

The pandemic has made clear that, shift a few parameters and, not merely do some businesses become untenable, but whole industries. This time around the likes of government support schemes and insurance claims have saved some from going under. But, if the outlook for the coming decades is anywhere as challenging as the sum of science suggests, Covid-19 isn’t the main act, it’s the warm-up, and every lesson we can learn from this still unfolding event is a valuable one. Certainly, data can go a long way to illuminating those lessons, such for example as shining a light on which areas in which sectors were most resilient to the disruption, and vice versa. Likewise, anecdotal experiences on the part of individuals and groups are invaluable in building a big - and unbiased - picture. However, if we’re to understand this event and its implications in granular detail we need allow time for reflection: the space to think. When, for many, ‘time is money’ and success is measured by how much an individual or an organisation has on paper, reflection is an all too rare commodity.

Though time is of the utmost essence to innovation-led start-ups and other ventures, and particularly with respect to placing their first-to-market flags in their respective market moons, some things are better not rushed. Understanding the commercial and wider potential of a novel idea takes time, and more so when conditions are complex. Rush the R&D process, and especially in the early phases of development, and it’s not just risks that can be missed, but opportunities - potential markets. Under-estimating the scale and speed at which external factors can change can be fatal, as all too many businesses have recently discovered. Much as the start-up hare still tends grab all the glory, be that the front page, the award, other accolade, or investment, hares sometimes burn themselves out. Whereas, though often overlooked, the slow, steady, highly diligent, and often humble start-up tortoise can, and often does, win the innovation race, and usually when this happens it’s because that tortoise allowed itself the time to plot a careful route from start to IPO, or other desired finish.

Taking the time to see the situational wood for the trees enables innovation-led businesses to finely calibrate their market propositions to emerging social and environmental conditions. In doing so those businesses ensure that whichsoever goods and/or services they are researching and developing are aligned to rising not descending demands, thus financially viable. They also save themselves a lot marketing and communications headaches down the line, because that which is out of sync with the zeitgeist will invariably attract critique, be that bad publicity, consumer lobbying, or more. Looking ahead, as technologies of various kinds collectively enable real and near-to-real time monitoring of the impacts of decisions made by businesses, and in turn industries, it’s likely that the implications for wrong-footed commercial decisions will increase in both scale and speed. Cosourcing is one means by which start-ups and SMEs can enhance their capacity to monitor external developments, while keeping their overheads low. However, the speed at which change is coming, and in many instances, the complexity of the way in which it is

Innovation Against All Odds


Summary manifesting, necessitates that ‘school’ is never out both in and beyond the most innovative businesses, be that online learning of information that’s central to business decisions, or acquisition of practical skills that enable employer and employee alike to become more flexible in their working methods.

Connectivity is a key theme of several of the trends discussed earlier, be that connecting the birth of a material, a product, or a service to its death, therein enabling circular design; connecting consumer data to producer to enable mass-to-measure; connecting hearts and/or minds through hybrid clubs, societies, institutes, and other professional and/or social institutions; connecting brand purpose with community issues; or more. In that sense, it’s not just relations between people [i.e. employers and employees] that are shifting, but relations between people and things, environments, systems, and processes. In some instances the road ahead leads to familiar places, such as the uptick of interest in analogue alternatives to mass one-size-fits-all production, and in this instance the trends are largely driven by emotive factors, such as the desire to personalise goods or experiences. Likewise, it’s not the certification of goods that’s new, but the need for new means of certification at a time when fake goods, news, media, and more is growing at a rate of knots. Whereas, some other trends are leading us to the unfamiliar, such as working beyond the climate and other environmental parameters to which we have become accustomed; to working with the processes, and in some instances, the creatures of the non-human living world; and to inhabiting hybrid spaces that merge the real and the imagined in ways we are only just starting to explore.

Unlike some trends of past, the above are driven by a wide, not narrow range of factors. None are merely the result of technological advances, nor of novelty for novelty’s sake - each one is a product of systemic socio-ecological shifts occurring at all scales. Hence, qualitatively, these trends are likely not fleeting, but lasting, and whereas of past, we might think of a trend as a transient event that was quickly surpassed, we now need think to - at the very least ecological - but ideally geological timescales: to cathedral thinking. In the throwaway age of old no-one cared if innovations came and went faster than the seasons. Indeed, for some, new gadgets and gizmos could barely come fast enough to keep up with their seemingly insatiable consumption habits. But, as awareness spreads of the speed at which already mountainous landfills are growing, as micro, and even nano plastic and other toxic particles infiltrate nigh every inch of the Earth, including ourselves, sentiments are shifting. Are those sentiments universal? No, but they are held by a very many of the individuals that craft that which greatly influences public opinion over time filmmakers, artists, designers, musicians, authors, and other seminal creators of cultural concepts.

The title of this publication is Innovating Against All Odds. The ‘all’ is not incremental, because though businesses of old were, largely, consumed only with the odds that they and their industries faced, today, responsible businesses consider the odds that we, all humanity, face. The most innovative of those businesses seek to understand those odds to the greatest extent possible, and to do all in their power to help not hinder collective efforts to swing the odds in our favour. In some respects, the tools by which we achieve that aim are irrelevant - low-tech, high-tech, any tech, so long as it’s sustainable tech, will do. As is, the odds that humanity will successfully shift the odds in not just our favour, but with us, that of the many species we share this planet with, are nowhere near as good as they could be. Here’s hoping those odds improve, and that the sometimes hard lessons of the pandemic go some way to helping with that process, for we may not be gods, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t move mountains if we really try.

Innovation Against All Odds



Lessons left unlearned from the past

Historical precedents heeded

Innovation informed only by neuro-typical perspectives

Innovation informed by neuro-diverse perspectives

Linear approaches to complex problems informed by few not many disciplines

Knowledge ecosystems spanning wideranginging expertise

Over-reliance on objectivity in absence of understanding of subjectivity

Critical thinking integrated into every research and development phase

Innovation that meets the needs of humans at the expense of other species

Innovation measured against the needs of both human and non-human kind

Top-down innovation hierarchies

Lateral innovation networks

Innovation Against All Odds


Summary Key questions innovators needs consider…

How can we scale our capacity to evaluate the credibility of innovative concepts?

How might our innovations impact upon other species in the now, and near and medium-future?

How do we overcome bias in both public and private innovation funding processes?

How can we create innovations that work to several possible global trajectories, not one?

How can we can reduce bias in press and media coverage of the innovation sector?

How do we ensure our innovations have relevance for decades, not just years to come?

How can we overcome loss in translation when working across disciplines and sectors?

How can we increase our ability to foresee unintended consequences of our innovations?

Innovation Against All Odds


Summary Key considerations when decision-making…

Currently, some studies suggest we are tracking the worst-case climate scenarios.

We are in the midst of a fast-accelerating humancaused Mass Extinction event.

Its current trajectory suggests that plastics production could double by 2050.

In 2020, loss of tropical primary forest alone equated to emissions from 570 million cars.

The worst-case scenario estimates the gender equality gap could take 135.6 years to close.

Currently, only 20% of the estimated 50 million tonnes of e-waste is recycled.

Steady growth is expected in the frequency and diversity of disease outbreaks.

Though the energy footprint of data storage is huge, 90% of that data isn’t used after 3 months.

Innovation Against All Odds


Scenarios “While smart, we humans are also prone to certain systematic glitches that can skew our thinking in potentially disastrous ways, particularly when it comes to predicting the future. A little training in critical thinking can make us more aware of, and so much less vulnerable to, these glitches and give us a better chance of believing what's true.” Dr. Stephen Law, Philosopher and author of Critical Thinking - An Upgrade For Your Mind; Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into An Intellectual Black Hole, and The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking.

Scenario #1 Non-Human Nature… Environmental and wider Earth systems changes unfolding apace, life in all its many forms is trying finding ‘a way’. As average land, sea, and air temperatures change, and with them precipitation patterns, myriad species are on the move, and at a faster pace than since the advent of the current, now ending geological age. In the process, many once ‘native’ species are becoming ‘invasive’, as they shift their territories in search of the environmental parameters to which they are physiologically and behaviourally adapted. Not all can move fast enough, and among those that can not all can overcome the many human boundaries that lie in their way - roads, train tracks, walls, cities, shipping lanes and much more. Millions of years of evolution disappearing at a seemingly exponential rate, debates on means of mitigation of the crisis continue.

Those that lack understanding of the fact that species are not merely the sum of their genetics, but of their cultures, push the ‘de-extinction’ agenda, without explaining how creatures grown in vitro will learn to live in the wild. Some even propose using virtual reality in the process, without understanding the difference in human and non-human neurology, cognition more generally, and sense-perception. Conservations that aspire to keeping ‘Nature’ in a state of perpetual stasis fight a losing battle as they try to keep the boundaries of biomes ‘in situ’, all the while climatic conditions in those biomes increasingly extend beyond that which their historic species populations can endure. Many others lament at the losses and pass every buck that comes their way. Others still attempt to ‘save Nature’ through its commodification and attach inherently contrived values to its various functions, or ‘services’ as they more commonly call them, and in the process reduce the natural world to a currency market of which parts are ‘traded’. Some argue that ‘Nature’ has always been commodified in one way or another.

But, amidst the unfolding chaos, a new human meets non-human order is, somewhat stochastically, emerging. R&D in biologically and ecologically-informed and inspired science, technology, engineering, and design having flourished in the early 21st century, biomaterials, biocomputing, biodesign, and related fields have propagated fast-growing markets which, collectively, underpin a transition to sustainable ways of not merely co-existing with other species, but of forming mutually beneficial ways of doing so. The workings of the most ambitious of these bio-innovations are materially, informationally, and temporally synced to the process of the natural world. Find an example of how this might work here.

Innovation Against All Odds


Scenario #2 Dot to Ad Infinitum Dot… A seemingly infinite number of data points are tracked in real and near-to-real time, as umpteen iota of the human and non-human world are monitored by the moment using wide-ranging land, sea, air, and space sensing and processing technologies. Digital’s environmental footprint has spiralled beyond even the worst-case scenarios predicated in the early 2020s and governments are exploring both policy and fiscal means of mitigating the issue, as environmentalists urge the end of cheap data, and activists target data centres and other digital processing and storage infrastructure. Modes of citizen surveillance have become omnipresent, but largely in the absence of impartiality in the programming and use thereof, and consequently public unrest is fast-rising. Several autocratic states have so abused the power that surveillance of their subjects has afforded them that state-wide civil wars have ensued. In the wider world debates rage over both the environmental and social pros vs. cons of mass surveillance.

Artificial intelligence software applications now enable rapid, accurate, and detailed predictions regarding the outcomes of events as diverse as disease outbreaks, floods, storms, wildfires, elections, and riots. Hence, many lives and properties are being saved thanks to advances in AI and related technologies. Paradoxically, many others are being lost, as malign states and terrorist groups utilise those same technologies to devastating effect. AI-enabled acts of environmental and other terrorism have led some governments to limit access to some machine learning technologies. Those same governments are working together in an effort to limit access to all such data as can be weaponised in ways that cause death and destruction en masse, be that removing select classes of data from the public and wider non-government domain, damaging or destroying comms and IT infrastructure in rogue hands, or more.

Through the eyes of many, the novelty of that which AI enables has worn off, be they members of the STEM community that are contemplating the many unintended consequences of its development, or members of the wider public that feel it’s often being used in ways that undermine their wellbeing. Nonetheless, both AI and data aggregation, processing, and storage advances more generally continue to power seminal scientific discoveries across healthcare and the Earth and planetary sciences, among other disciplines, and in the process help to illuminate solutions to the many, grave and still mounting problems faced by people and planet.

Innovation Against All Odds


Scenario #3 Modern Prometheus… A swathe of advances across the life sciences have left humanity facing a fate not unlike that of Mary Shelley’s character ‘Frankenstein’. Technologies including high-powered microscopy in concert with artificial intelligence have enabled once unseen workings of the human body to become visible. In particular, the systemic nature of the immune system has been revealed in such detail as makes clear how viruses, other pathogens, and microbes more generally influence human health over time, and how lifestyle factors including sleep patterns, diet, exercise, and stress management influence gene expression and ageing. Numerous companies now offer highly detailed, accurate, and fast prognosis of current and possible future individual health states, together with services that assist in preventing the onset of chronic conditions, while optimising general health and wellbeing.

Studies at the scale of cities, regions, and whole nations have increased understanding of how several classes of pollution, including air, noise, light, and nano and micro plastics, adversely impact on human health and wellbeing. The data from theses studies has been utilised by umpteen legal firms that have mounted cases against both public and private sector organisations on behalf of their clients. Climate change intensifying, so too are its many adverse health impacts, including an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, thus loss of life to heatwaves, storms, flooding, and wildfires; disruption to the global resource supply chain, including medicines; and an escalation in the emergence of novel pathogens. The fastest-evolving life-forms on Earth, microbes of many variants are mutating apace, including those that pose a lethal threat to humans. As in times past, the fallout from these and other issues is unevenly distributed and debates over means of reconciliation are heavily politicised.

Believing human physiology to be unfit for near-future times, some scientists seek to outpace evolution by modifying the human genome to create a new, so-say better adapted Homo species. They argue that the very survival of our genus depends upon it, and highlight how such modifications would be necessary if we are to colonise space, which in turn compels some investors to fund their experiments. Ethicists, anthropologists, and philosophers highlight the many and dire possible consequences of such experiments. All the while, people in their many millions are struggling to survive, as food and water security flounders, not just homes, but whole regions become uninhabitable, and famine and disease reach levels not witnessed in centuries. For many, the cost of life itself comes at a Promethean price.

Innovation Against All Odds


Further Insights “ We stand at the threshold of the Anthropocene, a geological epoch when future visions simply cannot overlook human impact on the world around us. Acknowledging this power also opens the doors to better choices. We cannot continue to extract mind-numbing quantities of materials to build our cities or lifestyles. But, learning to use regenerative materials, within the context of a circular economy could provide promising pathways for the future”. Kiran Pereira, Founder and Chief Storyteller,, and author Sand Stories: Surprising Truths About the Global Sand Crisis and the Quest for Sustainable Solutions

Further Insights

Liz Allen, How your smartphone may be destroying the deep ocean, and its valuable microbes, 2020. Raynold Wonder Alorse, The digital economy’s environmental footprint is threatening the planet, 2019. Neha Arora and Emma Farge, World’s e-waste ‘unsustainable’, says UN report citing China, India, and U.S., 2020. Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage: Why you should embrace it in your workforce, 2017. Gregory Barber, NFTs Are Hot. So Is Their Effect on the Earth’s Climate, 2021. Tom Bawden, Global Warming: Data Centres to consume three times as much energy in the next decade, experts warn, 2016. Mark Bergen, Microsoft and Apple Wage War on Gadget Right-to-Repair Laws, 2021. Lanisha Butterfield, How AI can help us save the planet, 2018. Damian Carrington, Climate Emissions Shrinking the Stratosphere, Scientists Reveal, 2021. Damian Carrington, Climate Crisis Has Shifted the Earth’s Axis, Study Shows, 2021. Ross Cooper, Katherine Hewlett, and Debra Kelly, Neurodiverse Voices: Good Practice in the Workplace, 2020. Nadia Drake, Our nights are getting brighter, and Earth is paying the price, 2019. Jan Dyer, Ready for the Next Pandemic (Spoiler Alert: It’s Coming), 2021. European Environment Agency, Noise pollution is a major problem, both for human health and the environment, 2020. Environmental Investigation Agency, Plastic Pollution, n.d.

Innovation Against All Odds


Further Insights

Environmental Protection Agency, Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste), 2021. European Space Agency, Ice sheet melt on track with ‘worst-case climate scenario’, 2020. Hayden Field, 98 Percent of VC Funding Goes to Men. Can Women Entrepreneurs Change a Sexist System?, 2018. Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, 2015 & The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World, 2019. Andrew Freedman, Major Satellite Program Launches to Hunt for Methane, Carbon “Super-Emitters”, 2021. Brianne Garrett, There’s Still a $189 Billion Gender Gap in Startup Funding - But Efforts to Move The Needle are Stronger than Ever, 2020. Kerry Roberts Gibson, Kate O’Leary, and Joseph R. Weintraub, The Little Things that Make Employees Feel Appreciated, 2020. Greenpeace, From Smart to Senseless: The Global Impact of 10 Years of Smartphones, 2017. Fiona Harvey, Climate crisis: our children face wars over food and water, EU deputy warns, 2021. Marlowe Hood, Climate change driving marine species poleward, 2021. Pippa Howard et al, An assessment of the risks and impacts of seabed mining on marine ecosystems, 2020. Owen Hughes, Right to repair moves forward for your broken devices. But campaigners want to go much further, 2021. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] assessment reports, 2021. Vanessa Kanbi, The World’s Biggest E-Waste Site, 2019. Siddharth Kara, Is your phone rained by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo’s mines, 2018.

Innovation Against All Odds


Further Insights

Anna Krzeminska et al, The advantages and challenges of neurodiversity employment in organisations, 2019. Jenna Kunze, Receding Glaciers Causing Rivers to Suddenly Disappear, 2021. Winnie Lau and Margaret Murphy, Microplastics Are a Big - and Growing - Part of Global Pollution, 2021. Stephen Leahy, Microplastics are raining down from the sky, 2019. Stuart R. Levine, Diversity Confirmed to Boost Innovation And Financial Results, 2020. Lewis Silkin Employment, Age Discrimination Statistics, 2021. Kelly MacNamara, Sharp increase in destruction of virgin forest in 2020, 2021. Maryn McKenna, Deadly Fungi Are the Newest Emerging Microbe Threat All Over The World, 2021. Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvellous Materials The Shape Our Man-Made World, 2014. McMaster University, Study shows smartphones harm the environment, 2018. Netflix, Explained: World’s Water Crisis, 2019. Fred Pearce, When the Rivers Run Dry: The Global Water Crisis and How to Solve it, 2018. Marisa Peyre et al, The keys to preventing future pandemics, 2021. Kiran Pereira, Sand Stories: Surprising Truths About The Global Sand Crisis and The Quest for Sustainable Solutions, 2020. Esther Perel, How the growing identity economy is reshaping the future of work, 2021.

Innovation Against All Odds


Further Insights

Sanjay Podder, How Green is Your Software?, 2020. Virginia Postrel, The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, 1998. Anna Powers, A Study Finds That Diverse Companies Produce 19% More Revenue, 2018. PreventionWeb, ‘Escaping the era of pandemics’: Experts warn worse crises to come, …’, 2020. Right to Repair campaign [Europe], 2021. Nadia Rousseau, Dyslexia: When Hidden Talents are Awakened, n.d. Victoria Schneider, As energy needs drive demand for minerals, forests face greater threats, 2020. Ellen Scott, Your Boss is already reading your emails. What happens when they can track your every move?, 2019. Michael Scott, Ancient History - modern lessons: Can a new wave of Classics scholars save the word?, 2019. Poliana Sepulveda, Dyslexia: Hidden talents in the workplace, 2018. Jackie Snow, How artificial intelligence can tackle climate change, 2019. Jackie Snow, Can artificial intelligence help save the natural world?, 2019. Chandra Steele, Cleaning Up the E-Waste Mess: Big Tech Needs to Do More, 2021. Melissa Sterry, Mind the Gap: Philosophical & Psychological Dichotomies, 2017. Melissa Sterry, Transdisciplinary research, 2018.

Innovation Against All Odds


Further Insights

Sheena Stolz and Sarah-Indra Jungblut, Our Digital Carbon Footprint: What’s the Environmental Impact of the Online World?, 2019. Peter Suciu, Do we need to worry that Zoom calls use too much energy?, 2021. United Nations, Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution - it’s time for change!, 2018. Adam Vaughan, A third of Antarctic ice shelves risk collapsing due to climate change, 2021. Verge Science, The Dark Side of Electronic Waste Recycling, 2019. John Vidal, ‘Tsunami of data’ could consume one fifth of global electricity by 2025, 2017. David-Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: the Story of the Future, 2019. Anna Whitelock, Studying History is the ultimate passport to the future, 2015. Nathan Wolfe, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of New Pandemic Era, 2011. World Economic Forum, The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming, 2019. World Health Organisation, Ageism is a global challenge: UN, 2021. WWF, Living Planet Report, 2020. WWF, Deforestation and Forest Degradation, 2021. WWF, In Too Deep: What We Know, And Don’t Know, About Deep SeaBed Mining, 2021. Peter Yeung, The Toxic Effects of Electronic Waste in Accra, Ghana, 2019.

Innovation Against All Odds


“From visual art to popular music, across film production and in theatre, striving for gender equality belongs to everyone who works within these industries. To ensure a truly culturally rich, more prosperous creative sector we must represent everyone. Through seizing the opportunity to embrace the possibilities of diversity in all of its forms, we will innovate, lead and ultimately provide the blueprint for inclusivity in arts and culture across the world.” Dr. Kirsty Fairclough, Reader, Research and Knowledge Exchange Lead, Research Degrees Coordinator, School of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University

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Acknowledgements Thank you to the following for kindly providing insights used in the creation of this report:

Prof. Peter Frankopan, Historian & Author

Oliver Heath, Founder, Oliver Heath Design

Anna Simpson Iles, Director, Flux Compass

Valerie Bounds, Chief Strategy Officer, Aurora

Soumaya Bhyer, Founder, Neuros

Jane McMillan, Fashion Designer & Start-up Coach

Prof. Andrew Adamatzky, University of the West of England

Nuno Silva, Chief Scientific Officer, UnifAI Technology

Dr. Kate Stone, Creative Scientist & Founder/CEO, Novalia

Marie-Claire Daly, Co-Founder, StreamGM

Dr. Robin Daniels, Managing Director, Red Pill Group

Anna Brettle, Founder/Business Development Director, Stellar

Nirav Patel, Chief Executive Officer, Framework

Prof. Andy Miah, University of Salford

Paul Taylor, Innovation Coach, Bromford Lab

Sam Bompas, Co-Founder, Bompas & Parr

Mike Barry, Founder, MikeBarryEco

Adj Prof, Dr. Teyhou Smyth LMFT #115137 Pepperdine University

Dr. Mark Hinnells, Snr. Consultant, Ricardo Energy & Environment

Dr. Chris Yapp, Technology Futurist & Author

Prof. Rachel Armstrong, University of Newcastle

Dr. Stephen Law, Philosopher & Author

Prof. Claudia Pasquero, UIBK/UCL & CoFounder ecoLogicStudio

Kiran Pereira, Founder & Chief Storyteller, SandStories

Kim Chandler McDonald, CEO FlatWorld Integration

Dr. Kirsty Fairclough, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr. Mike Pitts, Deputy Challenge Director, Innovate UK

Jacynth Basset, Founder The Bias Cut / Ageism is Never in Style®

Innovation Against All Odds


Acknowledgements cont. Thank you to Davor Tomic for feedback, to Jacob Ritchie and Gail Sterry for proofing, and to the South East Business Networks [SEBN] team at the City of Greater Dandenong, for commissioning the keynote lecture that inspired the creation of this series.

Image Credits The images used in this report are modified versions of originals sourced from Unsplash. Thank you to the following photographers for making their work available free of use on the platform: Mahdis Mousavi [cover and back]; Markus Winkler [p.6]; Riva Ferdian [p.9] ; Alexander Popov [p.16]; Nikolai Chernichenko [p.20]; David Hofmann [p.24]; Mathew Schwartz [p.28; Max Saeling [p.30]; Severin Candrian [p.31]; Dylann Hendricks [p.32]; Patricia Serna [p.33]; This is Engineering RA England [p.34]; Standsome Worklifestyle [p.35]; Major Tom Agency [p.36]; Raychan [p.37]; Dom Fou [p.x38; Charles Deluvio [p.39]; Joel Muniz [p.40]; Microsoft [p.41]; Barbara Zandoval [p.42]; Niklas Kickl [p.43]; Victor Garcia [p.54]; JJ Ying [p.55]; and National Cancer Institute [p.56].

Disclaimer No punches were pulled in the authoring of this work, nor elephants left standing in rooms.

Innovation Against All Odds


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“Diverse, intergenerational teams combine experience and knowledge, with fresh thinking, attitudes and approaches which, in turn, drives creativity, productivity and innovation. This enables businesses to unlock new opportunities and stay at the forefront of consumer behaviours and trends, ensuring they will succeed and thrive in the years to come.” Jacynth Bassett, CEO and Founder The Bias Cut and Ageism is Never in Style®

Image by Markus Winkler in Unsplash

Author | Dr. Melissa Sterry

Published | May 27th 2021