Posts Tagged ‘global challenges’

4Rob Moore

Rob MooreFebruary 21, 2014

An Introduction to Crowdsourcing (Part Two): Crowdsourcing Platforms for Global Challenges

An Introduction to Crowdsourcing (Part Two): Crowdsourcing Platforms for Global Challenges

Last time, we discussed the history of crowdsourcing and its emergence as a tool for innovation in the 21st century. Today, we look at some of the major platforms used by crowdsourcers to bring people together to tackle innovation challenges.

Using web-based platforms, Innocentive and OpenIDEO offer to match research problems with a worldwide network of potential solvers.

Innocentive provides an outlet for research and development companies to offer bounties for scientific innovation by members of its community. The idea is that by sharing problems previously confined to a closed research department, companies are able to efficiently and economically find innovative solutions to research problems that are impeding development.

The challenges posed on Innocentive are diverse, and successful proposals have ranged from facilitating clean up of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill to the identification of a biomarker which helps trace the development of ALS, a degenerative disease characterized by loss of motor function. The potential for the Innocentive model to overcome disciplinary boundaries has been well illustrated in a study conducted by Karim Lakhani and his research partners. They investigated the outcomes of 166 Innocentive challenges and found that community members working in fields not directly associated with the challenge were more likely to offer successful solutions than those already working in the same discipline. Also, more than half of the successful solvers reported that they had reached their solution by modifying previous work, either of their own or of others. This implies that solutions that already exist in the sprawling pool of modern research are being disregarded because they do not happen to exist within the realm of interest of organisations.The winning solver of Innocentive’s Exxon-Valdez clean up challenge was John Davis, a serial problem-solver who applied principles used in concrete pouring to devise a system for separating oil and water. This was after years of stagnation and failed innovation from the oil clean up industry.

Significantly smaller than Innocentive, OpenIDEO offers a user-friendly platform that aims to tackle broad social challenges through community participation. Its 58,500 members tackle diverse challenges in social, environmental and economic fields through collaborative learning and design principles. Its outcomes have included potentially life-saving increases in the number of individuals registering for bone marrow donation, the on-going creation of an app for political activists to covertly raise the alarm if they are taken into custody, and improved facilities for pregnant women in impoverished neighbourhoods of Colombia.

Whilst Innocentive and OpenIDEO offer explicit crowdsourcing platforms for educated users, crowdsourcing technology has also been used far more discretely to channel the time and energy of non-specialist crowds for social benefit. Cancer Research UK have tapped in to the growing appetite for simple mobile gaming by developing Genes in Space, a game which allows users to conduct simple but time consuming research into cancer genetics whilst appearing to collect a fictional substance known as ‘Element Alpha’. The disguised coding of the game creates an army of casual cancer researchers, freeing up time for professionals to get to work on more complex tasks.

Whilst the complex nature of modern science means that some sub-division of expertise is necessary – Trondheim’s own NTNU, for example, has over 90 research divisions, each with a designated focus – crowdsourcing enables expertise to pass through the walls of these divisions without interrupting their function. In an increasingly complex world, crowdsourcing creates a new ecology of knowledge. There is a saying in English that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.  Today’s solvers create novelty out of nothing, simply by looking in the right direction and adding a little twist of imagination.

EU Innovation Funding
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 8, 2014

EU Launches Horizon 2020 Innovation Fund

The European Commission has presented calls for projects under Horizon 2020 – a €15 billion fund aimed at building Europe’s knowledge-driven economy and tackling issues that will make a difference to people’s lives.

A grand plan indeed.

Substantial support will be provided for innovation activities directly aiming at producing plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services. There are three initial channels of funding for 2014:

Excellent Science

Around €3 billion, including €1.7 billion for grants from the European Research Council for top scientists and €800 million for Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships for younger researchers.

Industrial Leadership

€1.8 billion to support Europe’s industrial leadership in areas like ICT, nanotechnologies, advanced manufacturing, robotics, biotechnologies and space. Examples of the rising importance of biotechnology are in industrial applications including biopharmaceuticals, food and feed production and bio-chemicals, of which the market share of the latter is estimated to increase by up to 12% – 20% of chemical production by 2015.

Societal Challenges

€2.8 billion for innovative projects addressing Horizon 2020’s seven societal challenges, broadly: health; agriculture, maritime and bioeconomy; energy; transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; reflective societies; and security. I imagine energy projects will be particularly welcome, with the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 still in play.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, introduces the program:

“The European Commission’s proposal for Horizon 2020 is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe. It’s an investment in research and innovation to support three major objectives: excellent science, competitive industries, and a better society. Horizon 2020 focuses more than ever on bringing great ideas to the market. It provides opportunities for business and it changes peoples lives for the better.”

“For the first time Horizon 2020 is bringing together all of the EU funding for research in innovation under one single program, and at the same time it’s drastically cutting the red tape so it’s attracting more top researchers and enterprises. I’ve said many times we have an innovation emergency in Europe and Horizon 2020 is our response to that emergency.”

Those words are all well and good, but will the money be spent in existing research environments, or will it be used to boost small businesses who are taking the biggest risks? I hope to see the latter, and Horizon 2020 promises at least €3 billion will be allocated to SMEs, particularly in the Societal Challenges fund, although the focus is very much on collaborative projects.

Read all about how to get funding from Horizon 2020.

Photo credit: Giampaolo Squarcina

Ocean Forrest
11Annette Hovdal

Annette HovdalSeptember 16, 2013

Future prospects in aquaculture: the challenges in making aqaculture sustainable

15 August, Technoport visited Aqua Nor at Trondheim Spektrum, the world’s biggest aquaculture exhibition. Our day at Aqua Nor were exciting, and we learned about the future prospects in aquaculture, the challenges in making aquaculture sustainable, but also on how to solve these challenges.

Future prospects in Aquaculture
- Expressed in human consumption, we obtain 98 % from land-based production, and only 2 % from the sea, and there lies great business opportunities in the bio marine sector, said Karl A. Almås (CEO, SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture), when welcoming to the SINTEF seminar, “Future Prospects in Aquaculture Technology”. The seminar, happening during Aqua Nor, gathered industrial leaders in the Norwegian aquaculture industry, to speak about the possibilities and limitations for future growth in aquaculture.

Karl A. Almås, CEO at SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, says there are great business opportunities in the bio marine sector Photo by: Thor Nielsen

The industrial leaders agreed that there are great possibilities for future growth in aquaculture; the carbon footprint of salmon is 8 times less than of beef, and is therefore more sustainable. However, the industry is also facing challenges. The speakers pointed to different challenges, saying that one for example needs to solve the sustainability issues.

One of the sustainability challenges is linked to the fish meal for farmed salmon. For the salmon to be a healthy product, it has to contain omega-3 fatty acids, in other words; fish oil. The problem is that the price and demand for fish oil increases, but the access of fish oil is not growing. Einar Wathne (CEO, EWOS), said there is a need to find alternatives to the fish oil in the fish meal. Another sustainability problem is sea lice. Farmed salmon with sea lice that runs away is a threat for the wild fish. Diseases the farmed salmon get is also a problem, and means production loss. Development of new vaccination is important here, Edel Anne Norderhuus, Research director in Pharmaq, said.

Trond Giske, the Minister of Trade and Industry, held a speech about Norway’s interests in the marin- and maritim sector under the seminar. Photo by: Thor Nielsen

To realise the possibilities in Aquaculture, one needs to solve the challenges, said Alf-Helge Aarskog (CEO, Marine Harvest). Several elements were mentioned to solve the problems, for example new technology, a closer tie between the operators and the technologists,  development of new vaccination, more researchers from Europe working on the challenges, and more recruitment of people to the aquaculture industry. The leaders also called for more agriculture area around the coast of Norway.

Ocean Forest – a project to make aquaculture sustainable

At Aqua Nor the environmental foundation, Bellona, and the fish farming company, Lerøy Seafood Group, presented the new company, Ocean Forest.  Later this fall, the new company will establish a test facility at Sotra in Hordaland, to test integrated aquaculture on a large scale.

Ocean Forest med vindmøller

An illustration of how Ocean Forrest might look like. Photo: Bellona

-The goal with Ocean Forest is to address aquaculture environmental challenges, help removing CO2 from the atmosphere, at the same time as creating economic value, said Fredric Hauge (president, Bellona) in a press release, during Aqua Nor. The company will do research on how ecological interactions between species can help to solve the environmental problems that farming operations create, and at the same time seek economic value by being in the driver’s seat when it comes to finding new sources of biomass and bioenergy.

Technoport is confident that aquaculture is one of the solutions to the worlds growing need for food, provided it is done in a sustainable way. Ocean Forest is an exciting initiative. We hope the collaboration between Bellona and Lerøy will contribute to solve the sustainability challenges that the aquaculture industry is facing, and make fish farming a green alternative to meat.

There were 480 different exhibitors at Aqua Nor, and 18 500 visitors, from 65 countries visited Aqua Nor 2013.

Photo by: Bellona (illustration of how the Ocean Forrest facilities migh look like)

Global Water Partnership (CC)
5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenSeptember 11, 2013

Cleaning the ocean of plastic in 5 years

19 year old Boyan Slat may have developed a plan to clean the world’s oceans of plastic in just 5 years – with profit.

No one knows exactly how much plastic that floats around in the ocean, but it’s a lot. And it is a huge problem, causing damage to both ships, and of course the marine life. Part of the problem is also that the plastic is not static, it moves around, and gathers in so-called gyres.

The traditional way for removing plastic is by attaching a giant mesh to a ship. The problem with using a mesh is that it results in a lot of by-catch due to the varying size of debris, plus it takes time and would generate a lot of emissions.

Instead, Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup Foundation are working on a more elegant solution. They suggest using floating booms instead of nets, able to cover a much larger area. These giant booms will float around at low speed – following the ocean currents exactly like the plastic itself. What makes the idea so brilliant, is that virtually no piece of plastic is too small to be gathered by the booms, and due to the low speed, it is very unlikely that the vessel will cause any damage to planktonic species.

And unlike ships using a mesh, the booms will generate no emissions, as they are solar and hydro power based. Slat and his colleagues have estimated the surface-floating plastic in the ocean to be about 7.25 million tons, and all this, he says, can be cleaned up in only 5 years by using 5 vessels.

And best of all: the plan costs less to execute than the income they are likely to receive only by recycling the plastic. “In other words, it’s profitable”, he says.

Though the solution has yet to be tested before we know whether it’s feasible, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation is optimistic. They are currently working on a feasibility study to be published within the coming months, and at the same time expanding their staff.

What do you think, is this the solution to one of our main environmental problems?

Photo by: Global Water Partnership (CC)

14Hermann Ørn Vidarsson

Hermann Ørn VidarssonJuly 11, 2013

Flat packed refugee homes from IKEA

How do you make a house to a family of 5 that you can fit in a station wagon?

It is IKEA’s philanthropic branch, the IKEA foundation, that is developing flat packed housing solutions to refugee camps in cooperation with the UN refugee program. The quality and design of housing in refugee camps haven’t changed much for the last 100 years and are still almost exclusively made up of tents. Understandable; as both the production and logistics of shipping and assembly tents are simple. How ever flat packed houses will keep those advantages to some degree. IKEA is hoping that when those houses reaches mass production the cost of producing one unit will be around $1000, twice as much as a tent costs today, but with an estimated lifetime of 3 years. 6 times as long as the tents used to day. The houses are also twice as big in terms of areal.

In addition the houses will be better isolated. Both by thicker materials in walls and roof (It is a specially made polymer called Rhulite), but also by the novelty “shade nett” that is mounted with approximately 15 cm from the houses roofs. They reflect sunlight during the day as well as reflect heat from the roof, keeping the living space warmer during nighttime.

The houses include a small solar panel and LED lamp, making activities like studying and cooking possible inside, even after sunset. This was an easy upgrades to the existing tents, but the light blocking material in walls of the houses makes lit evenings possible with out compromising privacy. Turning on the light inside a canvas tent cast shadows on the walls.This infringement on privacy is so strong that many people prefer to live in the darkness. All ready close to 50 pilot homes are being tested in camps in Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia.According to Johan Karlson, a project manager at The Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), “This is a very challenging field, we are only tapping the surface of what could be done in the future.”

What other applications could one build into such a house that would increase the living quality its inhabitants with out compromising price and logistics.
Technoport looks forward to seeing the final assemble manual that will follow this flat pack and are curious whether it will get a Nordic IKEA’esque name like “Kåk” or “Sommerstugan”.


Photo by the IKEA foundation