Solve at MIT 2019 (May 7-9) is nearly upon us. The annual flagship event will bring together more than 500 leaders and 33 entrepreneurs to tackle some the world's big challenges through open innovation. In an exclusive interview for Inc., I caught up with Alex Amouyel who is the executive director of MIT Solve and on a mission to turn talk into action.
Here were the biggest talking points.
1. Age of Wonder.
We live in an age of wonder. Automation, machine learning, biotech and robotics are just some of the exponential technologies changing every facet of our lives and no industry or person will be left untouched from this age. And yet despite these tremendous advances in technology it seems to be at the expense of the planet and all of its natural resources. Last year was the hottest year on record with record global levels of carbon emissions and there are still over 1 billion people living without access to affordable, reliable energy. Amouyel says: "We cannot solve these challenges by relying on yesterday's thinking, technology and processes. The pace of change continues to accelerate and new technologies -; Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are upending our ways of working, communicating and interacting. For today's global challenges, we need a completely new way to innovate and that's how Solve can help. It's open innovation at scale."
2. Purpose Driven.
Solve was born out of MIT in 2015, a natural offshoot of MIT's commitment to open innovation and MIT President L.Rafael Reif’s vision to do more than talk about the greatest problems facing us. Each year Solve seeks solutions from tech innovators around the world for its Global Challenges, and anyone can submit a solution by July 1, 2019. Amouyel says: "To truly realise the potential of open innovation, you need to start by asking the right questions, in an open way. What are the key challenges that communities face globally and locally? How can technological innovation address these challenges?" On March 1 2019, Solve launched its four open Challenges: Circular Economy, Community-Driven Innovation, Early Childhood Development and Healthy Cities. For each Global Challenge, Solve selects the most promising Solver teams who will drive transformational change and receive access to more than $1.5 million in prize funding.
3. Scale Diversity.
The tech industry vaunts itself as a meritocracy. Yet the statistics on women in tech tell a woeful story. In America, women hold just 25% of jobs in computing, and leave the tech and engineering sectors at twice the rate of men. The situation is worse for women of colour: black women hold only 3% of jobs among women in tech, and Latina women just 1% in America. A McKinsey Global Institute report finds that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Amouyel says: “If you can't find women innovators, you're not looking hard enough. It’s time for investors to open their eyes and their minds to provide these entrepreneurs with the resources they deserve."
4. Solver Spotlight.
Last year, a Solver class of 33 tech entrepreneurs was chosen from nearly 1,000 submissions, representing 100 countries. 52 percent of these teams are women-led, and the newest Solver Class is 61 percent women-led. These women are using all sorts of technologies-;like AI, machine learning, and blockchain-;to build and scale cutting-edge solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges. One example is Temie Giwa-Tubosun, who founded and leads LifeBank. Her solution combines data, logistics, and technology to deliver life-saving medical products like blood and oxygen to patients in Nigeria, where essential medical supplies can sometimes not be found on time.
5. Final Word.
How do you change before a crisis forces you to? The truth is there’s no planet B. Amouyel says: We need to be far more inclusive -; we have over 7.3 billion people in the world today, but we only use the brains, talent, and ingenuity of the very few to tackle today's challenges." You can watch the livestream of Solve at MIT 2019 and participate using the hashtag #SolveAtMIT. Applications to Solve’s 2019 Global Challenges are open through July 1, 2019.