With a crowd of 10,000 of the world’s most innovative minds, and more than 250 businesses talking, pitching and sharing their knowledge, Oslo Innovation Week always promises to be a hotbed of innovation and new ideas. And 2018 didn’t disappoint. Here’s an Ethos eight of eye-catching innovation…
I devote a lot of time to trying to keep potted herbs from the supermarket alive. One billion potted herbs are sold every year, mainly because they don’t survive very long. Planted in peat soil, which goes into the rubbish, peat excavation is notorious for creating greenhouse gases. But within three days, your herb is usually dead. Brønn is crowdfunding the launch of its ‘herb furniture’ pots, allowing the herbs to grow for weeks and months; you can also remove the grow light so that it’s a self-watering pot. ‘Herb furniture’ has a “growing indoor gardening market,” says CEO Jonas Lunde, “because of our increased awareness of throw-away food.”
2. Jasberry rice
This social enterprise from Thailand has already increased the income of farmers in Thailand by up to 14 times. Traditionally earning only $12.40 per month, rice farming has become an unsustainable, ageing profession, with younger people in farming families moving to the cities. Partnering with cooperatives to grow, mill and package the ‘world’s healthiest’ rice, and handling the marketing, production and R&D, alongside training, Jasberry rice – a new non-GMO, organic and high in anti-oxidants variety – is paying farmers up to 200% more, and already working with 2,500 farmers in the region.
3. Good Shipping Programme
The shipping industry carries 90% of all world trade, leaving a carbon footprint as big as a country the size of Germany. Shipping burns heavy fuel that is cheap, polluting, sticky; and, with no stake in the Paris Climate Agreement, has no incentive to change. The Good Shipping Programme is the world’s first initiative to decarbonise shipping freight by changing the fuel mix. Offering the fuel straight to the cargo owners, who pay, and therefore decide on the fuel, GSP has just bought biofuels on behalf of its first customer.
A crowdfunding idea for large capital projects, SwitchR is working first in solar, where the team behind it has plenty of experience. Designed to democratise large scale assets, it makes it easy for people to become owners and power producers. Investors buy a solar panel, becoming an energy producer in the process. Multiple owners make large scale solar power plants possible, and platform users receive a 6% return on their investment, while the platform takes 2%.
Winners of the Nordic Edtech Award 2018, Swedish company Strawbees emphasises play in letting children explore design, construction, electronics and programming in a hands-on way. Sets of straws and connectors take you to the ends of your imagination – whilst adding circuit board electronics develops a programming platform, bagging Strawbees a Forbes and Fast Company “educational toy for the problem solvers of the future” award along the way.
Grin is the world’s first reusable redeposit bag system, creating a circular rental model for shopping bags. If you own about 47 Bags for Life, but never have one on you when you need it, take note… Scan a code to register a bag as you borrow it, and scan again as you return it, to get your deposit back. ‘Why recycle when you can reduce and reuse?’ ask its inventors.
7. Ask the right question
MIT professor Andrew McAfee tells us that the optimal division of labour between minds and machines is really shifting fast. Traditionally, in corporations the world over, decision making has come down to the HiPPO – the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. But that ‘gut instinct’ style of management is shifting fast. The geek is the mortal enemy of the HiPPO, he argues, going where the evidence takes them, and leading to better-informed decision making. But – while artificial intelligence didn’t perform for a while – machines are now acquiring knowledge at an insane rate. The ability to ask the correct question is what makes us humans unique, he says. “Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers,” said Voltaire. But possibly even more relevant now, 300 years later.
8. Look beyond the four corners of your balance sheet
“To sustain the good of globalisation and efficiencies of technology we need to compensate for the harshness by creating stabilisers through our economic and political and social arrangements… If we don’t do that, these imbalances over time will break the system. That is the challenge for any business leader thinking about profits, shareholders and expanding their markets. It’s not an entrepreneur’s job by themselves to solve these social problems, but there is a narrowness of how many businesses think about their missions – they forget that it depends on a society that is functioning well.
“My frustration with US business organisations who are interested in cutting their own taxes and reducing regulatory constraints is that they’re less interested in exerting influence to make sure that society is operating in a more just fashion. Failure to do that ultimately will be bad for business. But for many young entrepreneurs – already in their mind they’re recognising that they have to pay attention to what is happening outside the four corners of their balance sheet.”