Our now alumnus Amar Nath Shaw got the unique chance to participate in UNLEASH 2017 this summer, which took place in Denmark this year. We managed to question him a bit about his experience and on what he took away from the event.
- What was the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 conference about?
UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 was a global innovation lab that brought together 1000 young talents from 129 countries to transform 1,000 personal insights into hundreds of ideas, and build lasting global networks around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The event took place in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark from 13-21 August 2017.
This was the first of this type of talent program (of this scale) and the goal is to create a global lab and platform fully dedicated to work on the new SDG’s created by the UN on 2015. UNLEASH is a non-profit initiative developed by a number of core partners from different countries and sectors, with over 200 partners. Here is the link of the website for more information – www.unleash.org
- How did you manage to join this conference?
During April 2017, I had noticed the Unleash application link on the Aalto Creative Sustainability Master’s program Facebook page and instantly decided to apply for it. Since one of the requirements in the application process was to share an idea that is matching with the SDG goals, I felt that my thesis work (Low cost Portable Delivery Stool) could be an interesting idea to share. Within a month after sending the application, I was invited to join the conference. The travel, visa and accommodation for 9 days were covered by Unleash, with one condition – that I should be available for all 9 days.
- What were your highlights during those 9 days?
The 9 days event was broadly categorized into three stages:
- Introduction and Kick off in Copenhagen – The first 2 days were mostly an introduction to the event and about getting to know Copenhagen. Also, based on the chosen SDG’s (such as HEALTH, WATER, SUSTAINABILITY etc.) there were visits organized to local companies and organizations in the city.
- Team formation and work in (different) Folk school – Based on the selected SGD’s, the participants were divided into 7 groups and each group was taken to a different Folk school across Denmark. The next 5 days were spent working in smaller groups and developing new ideas to be pitched during the final presentations. During that week, I had worked on ideas related to disability among girls in India. On a personal level, these 5 days at the folk school were great fun and I enjoyed them the most. The innovation lab was facilitated by Deloitte.
- Idea – Presentation and Final Ceremony – The final presentation took place in Aarhus (second largest city in Denmark and a University town). In total, around 200 ideas were presented out of which 76 were shortlisted and finally narrowed down to 14 ideas for the final presentation. During these phases, several experts were available to mentor the groups to pitch their ideas in front of Dragon’s den. Finally, two winners were selected from each theme / category.
- What did you take away from the event and work there?
Overall, it was a good learning experience; I got to meet many young talented people from different countries and got to know about their cultures and country-specific problems. Although the whole program and event was lots of hard work, it was fun to visit many places in Denmark and I was able to make several friends from all over the world.
Lastly, I also learned that it’s very essential to pitch and present your ideas properly to convince investors / jury, since coming up with an idea is essential, but having a proper business plan to execute it is equally important.
- Would you recommend this event to other CoID students?
Sure!! – if there is an interest and desire to work in SGD relevant areas. Also since Aalto University was one of the innovation partners (among other universities), there were around 6 CS master’s students that were invited to participate. Lastly, I heard that the next UNLEASH event in 2018 is going to happen in Singapore, so it might be fun to apply and join!
- Anything else important to know about it?
Some practical information: There was an application fee of 145 USD, and there was a limitation on flight ticket reimbursement (for example, if coming from Finland the maximum reimbursement was 130 USD). Also, since this was the first UNLEASH event, the application confirmation / reimbursement took a long time. All in all, it was a good event and the most interesting part was the ending party – you could drink as much beer as you wanted, since Carlsberg was the main sponsor.