Innovating the Future

Tasked with imagining the world 50 years from now and coming up with new business ideas to meet our future world’s needs, the 1,000 plus students who took part in this year’s ILTG Young Innovators’ event in April did not disappoint the judges.

More than 60 teams of second level students from schools nationwide touched down in Shannon Airport to compete for this prestigious second ITLG award. Across six categories – how we Live, Work, Play, Shop, Learn and Travel, there were many varied and clever business ideas, including self-drive cars with workstations being imagined for our world in 50 years’ time. The short list of six schools chosen on competition day to pitch ’Dragon’s Den’ style to the judges were St Patrick’s Comprehensive School, Shannon (Work category); Mary Immaculate, Lisdoonvarna (Play category); Patrician Academy, Mallow (Shop category); Salesian College, Limerick (Travel category); Castletroy College (Learn category); and Presentation Secondary School, Thurles (Live category). However, it was the students from St Patrick’s Comprehensive and their imagined concept of microchips being implanted at birth to predict health problems which caught the judges’ attention.

Winning the top prize at this year’s ILTG Young Innovators event, the seven students will be jetting off to San Francisco and Silicon Valley for the trip of a lifetime to see at first-hand leading tech companies in action - all courtesy of Aer Lingus. As winners, they also received devices sponsored by Dell and the runners-up received Ultimate Ears boomboxes courtesy of Logitech. Mary Immaculate, Lisdoonvarna was placed in second place while Patrician Academy, Mallow came third. St Patrick’s Comprehensive team member Sophie Petticrew, speaking after winning the ITLG Young Innovators award, explained that one of the reasons they entered was because of the “amazing prize”. “We really wanted it. We just came up with an idea and tried our best. To see Silicon Valley will be fantastic as it is one of the mos influential places in the world,” she said, “This is incredible. We just came here with a load of ideas in our heads but certainly didn’t think that we’d be looking forward to a trip to Silicon Valley. I’m not sure when we will wake up and realize it’s a dream.” ITLG founder John Hartnett reflected on the ITLG Young Innovators event 2016 as having been “an incredible day”.

“If what we have seen here in terms of the ideas put forward is anything to go by, we have an extremely exciting future. The whole idea of the event was that we would encourage innovation and entrepreneurship and the creative senses were certainly in full flow here (at the ITLG Young Innovators 2016),” said Mr. Hartnett.

Many of the very smart companies at LIT’s extensive network of incubation and enterprise centers would be quite proud of some of the ideas generated at the Young Innovators event, said Vice-President Research, Enterprise and Development at LIT Liam Brown. “There was no shortage of inspiration and I won’t be surprised if we see some of these teenagers on campus in years to come with their own start-up businesses,” said Mr. Brown. Chairman of hosts Shannon Group plc, Rose Hynes was also fulsome in her praise of the event which showcased young people’s imagination of the possibilities and solutions for the future. “We need more initiatives like this to encourage free-thinking and even entrepreneurship at second level so that we make sure Ireland continues to foster companies that are making global impacts,” urged Ms. Hynes. The ITLG event, in association with LIT, saw the students mentored by representatives from some of the world’s leading companies including Dell, Intel, Analog, Johnson and Johnson, Cook Medical, Zagg and Logitech ahead of submitting their project. The event was also supported by Shannon Airport, Enterprise Ireland, Aer Lingus, Carambola kids and Innovate Limerick.

The success of this year’s event and making it such an inspiring and memorable day for all the students was due, in no small part, to the significant contribution made by ITLG’s event partner Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and event host Shannon Airport for organizing and running this event. Special thanks must also be given to the hundreds of mentors, judges, speakers, sponsors and volunteers who participated in the event. In 2013, the Global Irish Economic Forum, called together by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, made a recommendation ’to plan out how to help re-align the education system to develop “ready to work graduates” to meet the requirements of a competitive, innovative and entrepreneurial economy.’

In the weeks following the recommendation, The ITLG, responding to this call, worked together with LIT and its partners in Limerick and Clare and launched the inaugural ITLG Young Innovators competition which took place in January 2014 hosting 700 students and over 400 people from tech companies, R&D and academia and support organizations like Coder Dojo, NFTE/Foroige and Junior Achievement as well as third level students supporting the event on the day. LIT’s involvement in this year’s event was borne out of a sense of commitment to economic growth and development. LIT have created an ecosystem for innovation that brings together the resources and relationships across all its campuses, innovation and enterprise incubation centers to inspire the development and commercialization of ideas.

LIT is committed to a vision of innovation and entrepreneurship that connects with the community, advances the economy, and creates prosperity. On the day of the competition, each school team was pre-allocated a category by the ITLG Young Innovators team. During the allocated four hours, the judges asked each team to present their vision from an allocated pitch section. The students were judged on their innovativeness in their vision, concept and solution; their ability to carry out research; the feasibility of their solution; their target audience and the key activities used to find solution. Then each category winner presented in the Final to the ITLG Dragons. While there could be only one overall winner, the many hundreds of secondary school students from across the island of Ireland, aged 13 to 17, left Shannon Airport after ITLG Young Innovators 2016 with a problem solving and opportunity mapping toolkit. The 2016 ITLG Young Innovators event afforded students the invaluable opportunity to meet experts across STEM roles in business, research and academia and to see and experience some of the incredible technologies and application of sciences in business and research today.

Experts with a wealth of experience in innovation, future technology development and new business start-up were available to the students to probe with questions while researching their vision of the future. “The technological age and what we do in the future will be driven largely by the young people of today. This event may well light a flame for some of the technology innovators and entrepreneurs of the future,” said ITLG founder, John Hartnett. “We were delighted to be back at Shannon Airport this year; it really is an ideal location as so much in a business sense is enabled by and takes flight from Shannon.” Recalling the fantastic success of the inaugural Young Innovators event in Shannon in 2014, Shannon Airport operations director Niall Maloney commented on this year’s event: “There was such a buzz of excitement here and the level of innovation and ingenuity of the students was really encouraging and certainly gave a sense that whatever the future holds, it will be exciting”. Explaining the added significant of this year’s ITLG Young Innovators event, LIT vice president Liam Brown said: “It’s an historic year for our nation and we felt it all the more important that we honor that history this year by building for the future and having the Young Innovators event again did exactly that.”