Challenges of our Era Summit, Nesta


Date:            Thursday 4th December 2014

Venue:         House of Commons, Westminster  



This Nesta event was sponsored by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID and brought together the world's finest pioneers and experts from a huge rang of backgrounds to take stock and discuss what's been learned and where we go from here with practical priorities for the future.


"Together we hope to design a roadmap - shining a light on some of the most pressing challenges facing the world, and shaping the best ways to accelerate the discovery of the ground-breaking solutions. The stakes couldn't be higher" - Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta.


Geoff kicked things off by extending a traditional welcome to all participants and speakers at the summit before introducing the bright mind that is Lord Martin Rees to set the scene.


Lord Martin Rees is an Astronomer Royal and Chair of the Longitude Committee. He injected the summit with a shot of enthusiasm as encouraged participants to come alive and feed off of the positive energy in the room. He delivered current and relevant messages and explained the Longitude Prize; a challenge with a £10m prize fund to help tackle antibiotic resistance. It commemorates the 300th anniversary of the longitude act (1714), when the British Government challenged the public, with a prize of £20,000, to determine longitude at sea. Longitude Prize is now being developed and delivered by Nesta, with Innovative UK. The challenge is open to competitors across the world and the prize will be awarded for the development of a transformative point-of-care test that will identify when antibiotics are needed and, if they are, which ones.


Next onto the stage was Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Naveen Jain. Naveen is an absolute powerhouse and is driven towards solving the world's biggest challenges through innovation. As Founder of Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, iNome, TalentWise, Intelius and Infospace, Naveen was a real inspiration to the summit as he urged the participants to 'get out there and solve the problems', rather than just sitting there listening to the negative messages.


Naveen was later joined by global superstar that is, who shared his own person journey that lead him to create his Foundation. His Foundation operates (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), an initiative for schools that 'provides underserved students with learning and interaction opportunities beyond the classroom in collaboration with Discovery Education'.  It was a great privilege to be in the room when Will was speaking, his quirky eloquence and positively emotive language enforced his passionate commitment to change, and you could see the inner drive within him that has brought about his success within moments of listening to him.  


Following Will's unmissable talk, came another motivation for change from a panel of collaborative minds that came together and shared anecdotes of their own endeavours towards tackling the world's major problems. The panel discussed the powerful potential of developing frameworks that can use evaluation of data to make real and influential changes in society. The panel used the following example to emphasise the resources and capabilities that are sitting around us right now, "if you offer £10m dollars as a prize, it is believed that over £100m will be spent on research trying to find the solution by people aiming to win the prize".


A keynote presentation from world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development John Elkington, before a collection of workshops to explore the main themes of change of the summit: Empowering Women and Girls, Access to a Connected World, Reducing the risk of developing cancer and The survival of the oceans.

What an incredible event to have been part of, it was absolutely inspired and I am completely convinced that everybody who attended this summit would have left The Royal Society feeling, energised, enthused and motivated for change. Actions, not words, is an instruction that will transcend this event through each participant that now transfers the key messages we discussed into real actions within their own lives.