Kromann Reumert – as a key stakeholder in the HelloScience ecosystem – has created these handy guides for start-ups that are looking for insights into investments, intellectual property (IP) rights and personal data from a legal perspective – highlighting key areas to consider and pay attention to when running your business.
“We know that not all of the legal considerations that go into starting a business are always top of mind for entrepreneurs – so hopefully these guides can provide a helpful overview. “
Anne Cathrine Dahlgaard Hansen
Attorney, Kromann Reumert
Kromann Reumert Startup Guides
1. Startup guides introduction
Question: Please give us a brief introduction to the guides: How they can be valuable to startups in the HelloScience community?
Answer: We hope that the guides can provide some key thoughts and high level points that they should have in mind: From our experience the areas we have focused on are the areas where we often see start-ups experience some difficulties – or in some cases are simply just not aware of them. Of course, it should be noted that the lists are not exhaustive, but they should give an overall idea of the pit falls, and provide some useful insights, from a legal perspective.
2. Kromann Reumert and HelloScience relation and offering
Question: You have an important position in the HelloScience ecosystem serving as a leading ecosystem stakeholder around legal support – what do you aim to offer to the HelloScience community/startups?
Answer: HelloScience provides a unique platform for fostering collaborations between various stakeholders and parties who each contribute with their own core expertise. Where Kromann Reumert’s core expertise can come into play is by offering legal guidance to selected start-ups in the HelloScience ecosystem. In practical terms, this means providing insight on areas including market standards and best practices, with a view to getting the business ready and accelerating the most optimal way from a legal perspective. The aim is to try limit future or unwelcome surprises and issues going forward, and to focus on creating the conditions for success.
“We are delighted to continue to have the team from Kromann Remeurt as a valued member of the HelloScience Community and Ecosystem, helping add real value to our approach to collaborative innovation.“
Head of Sustainability Partnerships, Scouting & Ventures, Novozymes
Question: Do you have any thoughts for a start-up that is looking into legal issues and considering getting legal advice or support?
Answer: A business where issues such as governance, structuring and legal considerations like IP have been addressed early can become valuable later on – especially if you plan to seek additional finance or to take on external investors.
You can read more about Kromann Reumert and access the guides here: https://helloscience.io/partner/kromann-reumert/
From Blue Sky Thinking to Listening, Learning and Building with Communities
Richard is a bioengineer and entrepreneur focusing on making a positive impact on health and the environment. During his undergraduate studies in Biology at Emory University, he realized that his true passion is to enable other to solve their own challenges by designing new tools. He received a PhD in Bioengineering from University of California, Berkeley where he founded the nonprofit Future Scientist. He has led the Microengineering Team at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University for over 7 years, enabling rapid therapeutics development, disease diagnostics, and abatement of environmental contaminants. During the COVID-19 pandemic he co-founded Rhinostics to accelerate and automate diagnosis of respiratory illnesses. He is now spinning out of Harvard as CEO of the therapeutics company Unravel Biosciences he co-founded to develop treatments for orphan diseases.
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” –Albert Einstein
“What on Earth am I doing?” I mumble to myself as the white wings dance in the water-soaked sky. Mangroves. Grass. Tarmac. Luggage carousel. I can’t tell if I’m sweating because of the pervasive blanket of humidity or because of overwhelming self-doubt. I know nothing about the challenges we are about to see… and somehow try to help solve.
It’s 2011 and I’m in Panama City, Panama on behalf of Future Scientist to begin working with coastal communities to help them identify and solve the challenges they deem critical. What do I know about them as an outsider? And now, 10 years later, I can’t claim to understand the challenges any better. Why would I? In my day job, I’m an engineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. I lead a team that designs instrumentation to enable new therapeutics. When we started Future Scientist, I was working on single cell analysis for my PhD at UC Berkeley. I guess at most that makes me a tool builder and, frankly, clueless about the needs of the towns we support. It also means that I do not worry when we don’t yet understand everything, because scientists and engineers relish the not-fully-understood problems that make for new scientific discoveries and help patients get better.
Although I cannot claim to know much about anything, I can proudly argue, however, that we have focused our organization on being a dependable partner to those communities willing to work with us. Dependability goes hand in hand with sustainability, our ultimate goal for every project we support. We founded Future Scientist as an organization that would provide education, tools, and a product engineering-inspired framework, to enable people to solve their own problems no matter their educational background or available resources (or lack thereof). We provide the technical support. This is an example of how scientists and engineers the world over can apply their skills and have a direct, immediate impact on health, sustainable agriculture, and other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Communities provide the expertise around the problems. Our path is simple yet difficult: be available, listen, ask questions, listen, think big but act local, listen for feedback. Over time, dependability builds trust and trust empowers development, sustainably.
“Solving problems means listening.” –Richard Branson
Did I mention listening? Since we know nothing about a particular problem, involving those experiencing it is really the only way forward. And it goes well beyond asking questions. Part of what is required for dependably working with a community is to not work with a community as a whole but rather the individuals, stakeholders, within it. This is a long-term investment in a relationship between people with shared goals, a way to build buy-in in both directions.
We started by simply visiting villages along the Caribbean coast and asking questions. A little empathy and curiosity go a long way. It’s like being a kid, full of blue-sky questions and putting aside the adult tendency to shun awkwardness. We know nothing and so we must listen. With the right person, the “6 whys” (asking why 6 times, a classic method of digging into the root cause of a problem) take us deep into the daily lives of citizens of Portobelo or Nombre de Dios. We learn about the water reservoirs from 50 years ago that have fallen into disrepair, common health challenges and the resources to treat them… or not. We listen as the dynamics of local water committees, elected groups in charge of maintaining the town water infrastructure, impact everything from water quality to trust among neighbors. We listen to complaints about lack of trash collection, much less recycling, as the acrid smoke of burning soda bottles and other trash burns our nostrils, as if to make sure we remember what we hear. We listen some more, thinking about what it is that we can help with. We are not all that more knowledgeable, but we are getting a better idea of where we can focus. And we see better than ever that problems are hyper-local, sometimes to the level of a single street. We can’t extrapolate from one community to another. So we listen.
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” –Steve Jobs
Fast forward to 2020. The SARS-CoV2 pandemic is raging and Panama isn’t spared. The country is shut down with police enforcing curfews for months. For nearly 10 years, we have been partners with Wilfredo Aguilar at the Colegio Jacoba Urriola Solís in Portobelo, where he leads the sustainable agriculture program for high school students. We have consistently built the relationship through many projects in the area and with the school. Now we are faced with an obstacle yet again, but one that has upended life along the Caribbean coast. Wilfredo has been attempting to teach his students remotely, but between limited internet access and the minor challenge of teaching farming without a farm, he is wondering if there is a better way to help his students. The pandemic will run its course eventually, but the missed education could be a permanent misstep on our path to sustainability.
Out of several brainstorms comes an idea championed by Wilfredo: Greenhouses for Learning, a program where the farm comes to each student. We mobilize our donor base and develop a greenhouse design we can package and drop off to students along with seeds, seedlings, and the power of peer pressure of a WhatsApp group to share progress among them. Our team works with Wilfredo to distribute the supplies, and the group chat is lighting up: photos of greenhouses, planted seeds, troubleshooting, and lot of emojis and encouragement from all. A teaching rubric of sorts, along with creative ideas for composting, microbial smell remediation, and the joy of growing one’s own food, fuel the excitement. This is sustainable development. It comes from within, catalyzed by the global community who will sink or swim together.
“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” –Amelia Earhart
In parallel, Future Scientist is working on an even more scalable concept that arose out of many discussions around financial sustainability: connecting the unbanked community members to enable financial sustainability of their towns. We call it ConectaRoo. It tackles trust the old-fashioned way: by linking it to money. Our app enables water committees to collect and track funds from homes within their geographic area connected to the plumbing infrastructure they manage. In one town, they should be collecting $300 per month in payments (at $2/household, an affordable rate here). How much do they bring in? $24 per month. Why? Depends on whom you ask, but mistrust of both neighbors and the committee and the lack of general convenience top the list.
Convenience is easy: the entire tech industry was built around this. But it’s also hard: the tech industry relies on banks and credit cards when it comes to financial matters, all out of reach of the vast majority of people we work with. What do we do to unlock these benefits for the unbanked? Well, we just did it. We leveraged funds from our gracious donor network and hired a local software developer and a volunteer retiree who used to build banking databases. And we built ConectaRoo to provide the unbanked with the convenience of the internet by effectively deputizing local vendors to accept cash from homeowners and transfer it to the water committee.
Trust is hard: ConectaRoo requires community-level trust around money and shared expenses. But it’s also easy: we realized that we need to not just require trust but reward it as well. Our accounting is fully transparent, so everyone can see where their money is in the community and how it is being used. Geographic restriction, stemming from a committee deciding who is part of the network, rewards incremental trust within the app by enabling convenience and accountability and extends it to other transactions and interactions. Slowly, we are building communities that not only want to but are able to achieve their development goals and have the financial means to do so sustainably. We will go beyond water payments, but for now, it’s a sign that tools, implemented with learning and listening and being a dependable partner, can bring us closer together while moving us forward toward a sustainable future.
Future Scientist is a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 in the USA with the mission ofteaching design methods to improve the long-term health and well-being of developing communities.The organization works closely with communities over years, bringing science and engineering education and tools to enable partnering communities to solve their own challenges. The organization has been active primarily in Panama in the areas of clean water access, trash disposal, sustainable agriculture, and financial sustainability.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” –Jane Goodall
The SDGs all make sense: they are aimed at a long-term, dependable relationship between humans and the planet. We really do not have the luxury of failing, and yet the difficulty lies in how we achieve these goals. It would be hypocritical of me to say anything other than “I don’t know.” But we have countless tools at our disposal, as well as a global community of exceptionally motivated and skilled people eager to jump in. I believe we can replicate the lessons learned in locally-led development and scale that to a global community. The scientists and engineers are members of this community and are empowered to take a stand and apply their immense technical skills. But as in any community, everyone plays a role and everyone has a vested interested in the outcome, regardless of skillset. Listen, learn, assume nothing. Innovate around building trust and shared accountability; like a town, the global community will get there little by little despite the physical distances separating us. And let’s do it quickly! As in engineering, prototype. It’s ok to fail if there is trust that everyone is working toward shared goals. And let’s work together dependably, reliably to build that trust that will let us meet the SDGs.
HelloScience is happy to announce a new collaboration between 4Life Solutions (formerly known as SolarSack) and the International Red Cross in Kenya, to bring clean drinking water to people throughout the region.
“Our collaboration with the Red Cross is going to be fundamental for the way that we structure our company in the future. ”
CTO & Founder, 4Life
Alex Løcke, founder of 4Life Solutions shared his thoughts on the announcement:
“I’m very thankful for this collaboration that HelloScience has been able to set up for us together with the Red Cross. It’s going to be very fundamental for us to increase our worth as a company. Our collaboration with the Red Cross – handing out 10,000 products to the local families to see how they interact with it and seeing how it’s going to be part of this commercial setup – will be fundamental for the way that we structure our company in the future. It will also be important for determining who we get to work together with this set up in the future.”
He continued to share some of the details of the collaboration, mentioning: “We are able to hand out 10,000 bags to the locals. We’re going to do it through a for-profit system where we educate local women and health teams to go around and do social marketing around our products. And this way we create jobs. And we actually created an economic incentive for people to pick up our product and also to sell the product. And in this way, we test the business model of our company – as a way to prove that we can really scale between borders and scale without the help of bigger subsidized systems. And this is how we really want to create change.”
“The SaWa bag is to own a product that can address this market of about 2 billion people who currently don’t have access to safe drinking water. And that’s because at a sales price of about two dollars, we are actually available for the local economy. That means that people can buy locally, adopt it and in that way bring safe drinking water to their family for one year. In addition there is also the big environmental impact of saving around 500 kilos of CO2 for being emitted – because the only alternative is boiling the water with charcoal and that emits it smoke.”
Alex finished by sharing the continued international ambitions for 4Life, “The bag is developed in East Africa for East Africa and that is where we have the most traction right now. But we are slowly opening our borders and moving to India. And this is something that we have done together with the HelloScience network. And I think India is a great opportunity. There’s a lot of people, maybe a little higher economy. It’s a good distribution network. And I think that it’s really somewhere where we can prove our worth.”
Once described by a UN official as the “first couple” of business and social impact, Zahid and Yvette Torres-Rahman are the founders of Business Fights Poverty, an award-winning, business-led collaboration network that cuts across silos and boundaries to help all stakeholders deliver real-world outcomes.
Over the past 16 years, Business Fights Poverty has grown into the largest global community of its kind, bringing together over 30,000 strategists, professionals and partnership activists, all of whom are passionate about harnessing business collaboration to support the most vulnerable people.
COVID-19 and, more recently, climate justice, has seen Business Fights Poverty come into its own – harnessing its competences and approaches to rapid collaboration among the global community, unlocking insights, deepening relationships and driving collective action.
We caught up with Zahid and Yvette in between two global summits they are hosting this June – one on rebuilding better from the pandemic, and the other on supporting youth in the face of the seismic shifts in the future of work.
Can you share a bit about what has driven you and shaped your journey?
A: At the heart of Business Fights Poverty is a belief in the power of “purposeful collaboration” – the idea that when people come together with purpose, we can achieve amazing things. Given the urgency, scale and systemic nature of the challenges we face today, we all need to find better ways of working together.
In essence, Business Fights Poverty is an ever-evolving experiment in agile collaboration. We are constantly testing and learning about how to drive rapid collaboration that spans traditional divides to harness our global collective intelligence. With technology, we can make this a truly inclusive and global effort.
Our shared belief in the critical contribution of business to tackling social impact challenges – through core business, philanthropy and advocacy – comes from very different backgrounds: from working for businesses in developing countries (in the case of Yvette) and for governments on international development (Zahid).
One thing we have in common is a sense we had, as children and young adults, of disconnection and a search for belonging. Both our heritages span different nationalities. We have come to recognise that this feeling of not fitting in has fuelled our passion for building bridges and a sense of belonging for others.
“We are constantly testing and learning about how to drive rapid collaboration that spans traditional divides to harness our global collective intelligence. With technology, we can make this a truly inclusive and global effort.”
What are the biggest insights and learnings you’ve gained along the way?
For us, a key insight is that effective collaboration is based on deep relationships. In understanding how people were able to partner so rapidly in the face of the pandemic – including in our case – the common theme was the ability to harness trusted relationships. That is why, when we bring people together to share insights, we are very intentional in how we craft connections at a human level.
Our starting point to any collaboration is a clear “why” – a shared, pressing challenge expressed as a compelling and energising question. This enables us to be very focused in terms of who we convene, what we aim to do and by when. Most importantly, the process needs to be truly co-creative and authentic.
We’ve run this process over 40 times, typically over a few months, but sometimes in as little as 10 days. Each time it’s so rewarding to see how the inspiring people across the Business Fights Poverty community step up and generously share, and how they come to the challenge as themselves – not as their brands or job titles.
Another lesson is the importance of investing in your own resilience and that of your team. At a personal level, we start each day in nature focusing on our own health and wellbeing and end each day with quality time as a family. For our team, we’ve always encouraged them to decide when and where they work. That flexibility was a real source of resilience for the organisation during the pandemic.
As we ‘Rebuild Better’ from COVID-19, what are some innovative responses from your community that shine a light on the power of collaboration?
It’s been so impressive to see how members of the Business Fights Poverty community have stepped up to support the most vulnerable people, despite the immense stress that they have faced, themselves, during the pandemic.
There has been such a variety of business collaborations to support the lives, livelihoods and access to learning of those most impacted – initially focused on emergency response, then on recovery and, going forward, on rebuilding better.
This has ranged from a brewer repurposing its bottling plants to produce hand sanitiser and oxygen in Brazil, to a fast moving consumer goods company collaborating with its competitors on health and hygiene messaging in Kenya.
For our part, we have curated a range of rapid collaborations, from getting critical guidance to companies that wanted to tackle the spike in gender-based violence, to getting emergency oxygen-related supplies to India.
The pandemic has exacerbated many deep-seated inequalities – such as by gender and race – and highlighted weaknesses in our health, education and food systems (to name a few). These system-level challenges require system-level partnerships and thinking. Finding a way to make these agile and rapid must be a priority.
You’ve made “climate justice” another focus area for Business Fights Poverty. Can you tell us why and what you see as key opportunities for collaboration?
As with COVID, the most vulnerable people and communities are impacted most by climate change. We must put people at the centre of efforts to tackle climate change. The transition to a green economy also needs to be just – a transition that empowers and enables future economic prosperity via high quality jobs that take societal and environmental considerations and realities around the world into account.
One challenge is that efforts within companies to tackle climate change – for example by implementing net-zero carbon targets – are often not considered at a systems-level, in terms of thinking, partnerships, etc. Once this systems level approach is taken, climate change issues can then be connected to companies’ social impact teams and linked with issues like women’s empowerment and human rights. An immediate priority is to join the dots and take an integrated approach.
While government must lead – for example, agreeing and driving the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement – business is a critical partner alongside civil society. As with other issues, while philanthropy has a role to play, more important is how a business can harness its core – from product innovation and brand engagement to value chain relationships and employment practices – to drive change.
“System-level challenges require system-level partnerships and thinking. Finding a way to make these agile and rapid must be a priority.”
Through our climate justice programme, we will be mobilising a global conversation about what this means in practice, and curating new collaborations across a range of areas, from women’s empowerment through green technology to building smallholder farmer resilience.
What would be your closing thoughts for us?
HelloScience has been a shining example of a new approach to rapid collaboration, and we are proud to work together with you and support our shared vision for a more sustainable world. Like you, we are convinced that everyone has something important that they can bring to solving society’s greatest challenges – whether that is knowledge, resources or insights.
For organisations like ours, we have a responsibility to ensure that the process of problem-solving is truly inclusive and global – involving those most proximate to the challenges we are trying to address. We are on a journey, and keen to learn from others about how we can best harness our collective power to drive change.
For this month’s Startup profile, we highlight the work of Honai Beez Apiary in Jamaica. Honai Beez Apiary is part of UNLEASH, a global innovation program for the SDGs – and a collaboration and network partner of HelloScience.
What problem(s) or challenge(s) is Honai Beez Apiary working to solve? How are you innovating to solve those challenges?
Honai Beez Apiary is approaching the challenges of:
1. Bee foraging space reduction caused deforestation in two ways:
(a) replanting trees where and when it can in both urban and rural areas through the creation of greenspaces. (b) educating the Jamaican society about biodiversity and the roles of both pollinators (bees) and forestry whether it be urban or rural. This includes providing beekeeping training to young people.
2. Reducing timber and production time waste in the bee hive making process by:
(a) utilizing digitized beehive designs and CNC-Routers to precision cut the hives out of a single sheet of ply in a matter of hours where it would otherwise take a full 1-2 days and 2 plywoods sheets worth of timber.
(b) utilizing bamboo ply instead of timber due the 4-5 year maturity time of bamboo vs the 15-30 year maturity time based on the species being used. The added benefit is bamboo used from a managed plantation sequester twice the amount of carbon vs its counterpart in a managed timber forest and one does not kill the entire bamboo colm in the harvest, just the mature section vs cutting an entire tree which permanently stops its carbon sequestration due to the death of the tree and wasting and release of carbon due to discarding the unsuitable sections.
3. Jamaica’s youth unemployment rate has averaged around 33% over the past decade. Young people in Jamaica both qualified and unqualified are finding it harder to find jobs and thus have adopted unsustainable environmental practices similar to their parents. Which is why Honai Beez Apiary is creating a sustainable beekeeping training programme targeting young people ages 18-35 years old. Honai Beez Apiary was able to pilot the beekeeping training in partnership with 22 students at The Village Academy School of Agriculture who were from low income homes, young persons who may have come in conflict with the law and wards of the state in transition from state care.
Honai Beez Apiary works at a unique intersection of both social and environmental challenges – trying to create a holistic approach to respond to climate issues, that rejuvenates urban areas and engages youth in the process. How do you see the connection between the social and environmental aspects of innovating around climate issues? What is the importance of engaging youth in these processes and what change do you hope to see brought about through engaging youth in this way?
“The protection of the environment will alleviate the social ills associated with pests, diseases, and disasters such as pandemics, strife and famine. It is important to engage youth in environmental issues as it is the future of youth and children that will be lost if we do not address the environmental issues of today.”
Innovations that protect our ecosystems and our climate will protect our food systems ensuring food security, water security, and sanitation. The protection of the environment will alleviate the social ills associated with pests, diseases, and disasters such as pandemics, strife and famine. It is important to engage youth in environmental issues as it is the future of youth and children that will be lost if we do not address the environmental issues of today. The decision of each to bring each child into the world was made by their parents and it is up to the current generations to leave the next with a livable world to live in including the youth themselves.
I hope that by engaging youth today, that we have a higher degree of equitable access to social funding for young people and those who would employ youth (including those outside the scope of being youth) to start their own eco-business, a restoration of the earth’s biodiversity especially in SIDs countries and fragile ecosystems, a higher number of start-up social enterprises, a more realistic and equitable valuation of ecosystems and its contribution to maintaining society and attitude change in how we handle our natural resources.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for creating entrepreneurial collaborations at the intersections of biodiversity, climate and youth empowerment? Are there any specific areas where you are interested in exploring collaborations with Honai Beez Apiary that others in the HelloScience ecosystem (startups, researchers, corporations, etc) might be able to support you?
There are a few big areas that provide opportunities for creating entrepreneurial collaborations at the intersections of biodiversity, climate and youth empowerment. These include:
1. Possibly creating a sustainable development fund for social enterprises, eco-businesses and youth development programmes, which can use a results based financing approach to continually assess the efficacy of the fund.
2. Creating or assisting in the creation of makers-spaces or fablab type incubators spaces that targets micro, small,medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), Social Enterprises and Eco-businesses to help them prototype their products, build out their businesses.
3. Looking at sustainable consumption and production mechanisms to what currently exist today such as alternative climate smart materials that do not contribute to biodiversity loss. Example: replacing timber with bamboo for furniture, beehive and housing construction.
4. Creating environmental skills training programmes where the curriculum includes a similar methodology to the Unleash innovations lab process but with content around 4 main pillars, Biodiversity, Climate/Atmosphere, Earth and Oceans with an overall combined umbrella of conservation, sustainable consumption and production.
The type of collaboration with Hello Science that would enhance my work through Honai Beez Apiary that I am hoping is possible includes:
1. Accessing a FabLab/makerspace to help me create a digital design of a Langstroth Hive in .dxf format that can be used to produce hives here locally.
2. Creating other alternative types of beehives in the same .dxf format
3. Gaining access or being connected to funding where I can build out a local CNC-Router workshop that is fuelled by the power of the sun.
4. Further building out the beekeeping training into a training kit inclusive of a beekeeping work/resource book, powerpoint training/student interactive training manual/textbook and a ToT training manual that is based on scientific research.
5. Creating a communication plan which also details the brand and story of Honai Beez Apiary.
6. Being connected to an affordable supplier of bamboo ply as the Bamboo industry in Jamaica is just being developed in Jamaica, spearheaded by Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica.
7. I want to be able to design and protocol for safe urban beekeeping based on scientific data.
I would eventually be able to include science based research through Honai Beez Apiary as a beekeeping social enterprise at some point because research in the apiculture industry in Jamaica is extremely low.
The SDGs have a target of being reached by the year 2030. What would you like to see achieved by 2030, in terms of biodiversity, climate and the environment? What change are you aiming to create through Honai Beez Apiary by 2030?
“For Honai Beez Apiary’s role I would love to be able to eventually create a pollinator friendly eco-village that uses both contemporary technology and old school permaculture and agro-biodiversity/agro-forerstry techniques”
For Jamaica I would love to see an expansion of our forests stock island wide,a greening of our urban areas, reduction of flash floods and droughts, Jamaica and the world adopting ecosystem based adaptation approaches to disaster prevention and ecosystem based designing of our urban centers and rural spaces especially with regards to our infrastructures and building.
For Honai Beez Apiary’s role I would love to be able to eventually create a pollinator friendly eco-village that uses both contemporary technology and old school permaculture and agro-biodiversity/agro-forerstry techniques (good agricultural practices) that showcases sustainable living with beekeeping at the heart of rebuilding biodiversity and reducing climate impact.
Meet Pedro, Data Scientist, Entrepreneur and Startup Founder
HelloScience is constantly working to increase the ways in which we can support collaborations across ecosystems. To that end, we’re putting a major focus around how we can leverage the power of artificial intelligence and data infrastructure to help support and drive collaborations further. This month, we sit down with data scientist Pedro Parraguez to learn more about his background and vision for building stronger data and A.I. tools into the HelloScience platform in the months ahead.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and interests?
I always live in a duality between being a data researcher and applying research in society.
As a researcher, I seek to answer interesting and open-ended questions that push the boundaries of what we know. That’s what I did for quite a few years in the areas of engineering systems – analyzing things like research and development ecosystems. In these areas, I ask things like – what we can learn from the dynamics of these complex networks? Then, at the other end of the spectrum, I work trying to translate this research into tools that can be applied more directly in society and in businesses. This should also enable us to better understand how researchers work and engineers so that we can support better feedback loops.
Data Natives, Conference. 2018
Now, as an entrepreneur and start-up founder, I’m now focusing on what I call capability mapping and matchmaking. This essentially means trying to better understand what we are able to do as groups of people. In this case this means to map what scientists and engineers are working on and how we can use the building blocks they create in the past to build new things together.
For example, with HelloScience, we are building out the infrastructure that the platform is built on to add in more features that seek to use capability mapping and matchmaking elements to enhance collaboration. This is currently “work in progress” and we hope to have some great results later in the year.
How are you applying this work and research with HelloScience?
The problem that we always face is that as science and technology gets more and more complex, we increasingly end up – often building without first realizing– information or knowledge “silos” in order to manage that complexity. But we also need mechanisms to be able to see across those silos, and to do so in a smart way that helps makes the right connections between them.
The great and unique nature of HelloScience is that it naturally brings together companies and researchers with an impact first mentality. To have such an interface between the private sector, academia and NGOs is not so common, and the more you can be that interface, the more things can happen that are hard to replicate elsewhere.
“The question for us, working on behalf of the HelloScience Community, is how can we take advantage of all of the knowledge, insights and add value using data that is otherwise is dormant or that is not necessarily connected to other parts of the platform or larger R&D ecosystem.“
Working with Alfred and the HelloScience Team, we have been thinking about ways of making HelloScience smarter through what we call the ‘engine room’ or the backend infrastructure of the platform. The question for us, working on behalf of the HelloScience Community, is how can we take advantage of all of the knowledge, insights and value using data that is otherwise is dormant or is not necessarily connected to other parts of the platform or larger R&D ecosystem?
This is why we are focusing our work on capability mapping and matchmaking – so that we can build on top of the HelloScience ecosystem and make better connections both inside and outside of the platform.
What are you hoping to achieve through these collaborations?
Well, I certainly hope that we can show with the HelloScience platform that you can transform the way a company or an organization works, and how a community works, when they collaborate on very big and crucial sustainability challenges.
We believe that by getting the right combination of the current qualitative work behind the platform – the people on the ground that know how to facilitate collaborations – with a process for building more effective analytics and use data for good – we can get far more impact faster, and with the same or maybe less resources.
How will these developments change the way people engage on the HelloScience platform?
In the beginning, the work we’re doing with data and analytics will show up as relatively subtle nudges and cues like recommendations on projects you might be interested in, that will become smarter over time. All of these things are part of a gradual process, but as we go further this year and next year, we should be able to see that the recommendations become increasingly more effective in fostering meaningful insights, relationships and collaborations.
And from there, we should also start bringing in more people, projects, and knowledge from outside the core of the existing HelloScience community – for example: research outputs or mentorship connections that are highly relevant for what a user within the platform is looking at, just at the right the moment to give new perspectives and insights.
That is definitely something I’m very much looking forward to seeing play a role on the platform – because it’s not about quantity, really, it’s about quality. And that focus on the quality of the interactions and concrete real-world impact is at the heart of HelloScience.
The United States Council for International Businesses (USCIB) is a key global leadership and advocacy organization, comprising a membership of 300+ multinational businesses and representing around a third of all Fortune 500 companies. It is a key voice in international sustainability and policy. This month, we spoke with Norine Kennedy – Senior Vice President, Policy and Global Strategy, at the USCIB – where she is the lead environment, energy and climate change expert for the organization, promoting U.S. business participation in international environmental policy.
You’ve been working at the forefront of sustainability and business innovation for over 20 years – could you share a bit about what has driven and inspired you and shaped your journey? What are the biggest insights and learnings you’ve gained along the way? What do you foresee as the biggest opportunities and challenges for business innovation around issues of sustainability and climate – currently and moving into the future?
Norine: There is a tongue in cheek turn of phrase that probably applies to almost anyone who spends their time in New York where I’m based: “The journey of 1,000 steps actually begins with the words – I know a shortcut.” Well, I learned early on in my career that there is no shortcut when it comes to advancing sustainability. And I also realized you should never be discouraged by political headwinds, by slow decision-making, or by setbacks or roadblocks. Even more than the passion to make a difference, the pursuit of sustainability requires you to make a double commitment: to innovation and to perseverance.
For me, sustainable development is the ultimate expression of international relations, which was the focus of my studies in university. While much of that academic coursework seemed primarily concerned with conflict and hegemony, what really fascinated me were the much rarer possibilities for progress when 190+ countries succeeded in working together. And I think that’s one of the reasons that the UN’s 2030 Agenda – which was agreed by all UN Member States and includes the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and Financing for Development – is so important. I have long paid close attention to opportunities for collective ingenuity and problem solving – even among diverse and disparate actors — directed at making the world better for everyone. This is my vision of what multilateralism should aim for, because without it, advancing the sustainability agenda is simply impossible.
“Even more than the passion to make a difference, the pursuit of sustainability requires you to make a double commitment: to innovation and to perseverance.”
And the rapid speed of change in the space, the levels of complexity involved have shown me time and again the importance of taking a step back to see the big picture of sustainable development. Different viewers see different elements, and each time we look, we notice something else that wasn’t visible before: and especially as science progresses, and as big data becomes widely accessible, the international community is developing a clearer understanding of what it needs to focus on, and how it can make a positive contribution – for example to the fabric of biodiversity, or to addressing the impacts of a changing climate.
Having spent a lot of time with leaders and colleagues from some of the World’s largest businesses, who have often travelled long distances and given up weekends to participate in some of the key processes and negotiations that have shaped the Sustainability landscape we now have in front of us, I am convinced that business is a central and under-appreciated agent for sustainability in society and in the multilateral system. While some assert that business is concerned only with the short term, my experience is just the opposite. A business cannot simply embrace the status quo and expect to be successful for very long – insights, innovation, and investment are required, across all of the economy, as well as all of society.
I feel fortunate to have worked and to be able to continue to work with business visionaries in every sector, not just in the United States where I am based, but also through the global business organizations that USCIB is linked with – the International Chamber of Commerce, Business at OECD and the International Organization of Employers. Between us we represent over 50 million businesses of all sizes, and over 1 billion employees, which gives you some idea of the impact – and responsibility – these organizations have to engage with Sustainability issues.
“Between us we represent over 50 million businesses of all sizes, and over 1 billion employees, which gives you some idea of the impact – and responsibility – these organizations have to engage with Sustainability issues.”
Starting from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and onward through further UN sustainability conferences in Johannesburg and then back in Rio, a small but ever growing community of what I would describe as “business diplomats” has emerged. Each of them of course represents and supports their own organization but they also work collectively – as they are innovators, solutions providers, and partners to deliver sustainable development. It is this diversity of sector, perspective and expertise, as well as the approach to inclusiveness and balanced representation that makes this community special, and especially capable of appreciating and tackling multi-faceted sustainability challenges, such as those set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I have also observed – and I hope, helped inform — the change in attitude and practice towards business that we see in those international institutions across the United Nations system. In the early days of the UN climate negotiations in the early 90s, participation by business groups and many individual businesses was not viewed or perceived positively. Through a long process of dialogue, and ongoing efforts that continue to today, and as a direct result of businesses increasing their understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in this space, it is now pro-active businesses, including many USCIB members, who are leading the charge for market-based approaches to climate change and calling for ambitious net-zero targets.
The UN recently convened the annual Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum for the SDGs – what were your key takeaways from the gathering? What do you see as the most promising opportunities around Science, Technology and Innovation in building resilient, sustainable futures as we build back beyond the pandemic?
This year’s UN STI Forum put a spotlight on the imperative of strengthening the interface across science and policymaking with business and society, especially as the international community both addresses the pandemic and its impacts and plans for a sustainable recovery. A takeaway was that the international community needs to broaden its cooperation with the private sector to deploy innovations in healthcare, the digital economy, and across all 17 SDGs.
Simply put, the extraordinary potential of private sector innovation for sustainable development calls for extraordinary international cooperation.
“Simply put, the extraordinary potential of private sector innovation for sustainable development calls for extraordinary international cooperation.”
While private sector innovation and engagement has leapt ahead, for example during the pandemic with vaccines and treatments, or with new approaches to make work and education accessible for many during lockdowns, public-private-research partnerships are in the spotlight as never before, including several within the UN system.
As we continue to build understanding and approaches towards Sustainability in a post-Covid context, I would suggest that multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) point the way to leveraging scientific innovation and understanding, wherever it is found, across academia, in the business community or in connection with citizen science.
How do you see the role of business innovation in working toward the SDGs? How has business innovation contributed thus far? How might we continue to improve and expand the role of business innovation in achieving the SDGs as we work toward the 2030 deadline?
Multilateralism continues to be a must in today’s society and global marketplace. It continues to deliver important benefits to people all over the world, and to business. However, the current approach to multilateralism is not living up to its full potential, and the pandemic has raised the difficulty level significantly, requiring even more so an all hands on deck approach, especially for the private sector.
“The current approach to multilateralism is not living up to its full potential, and the pandemic has raised the difficulty level significantly, requiring even more so an all hands on deck approach, especially for the private sector.”
A recent report by the UN Secretary General, “Progress Towards the SDGs” shows that efforts towards the SDGs have been knocked off track, and that hard won progress in key development areas has lost ground in many parts of the world: poverty eradication, access to education and gender equality, among others. And these issues aren’t just important for political leaders – they go to the heart of empowering our economies as well.
Recovering sustainably in the Decade of Action and Delivery will require a stronger than ever business commitment and enhanced meaningful engagement. The private sector has to be seen, fully accepted and recognized as an essential partner in building back better – a source not only of funding, but also of innovation and its deployment, expertise, technology, fresh ideas, and diverse perspectives of business and employers. It has earned the right to be part of those conversations, with actions to back up words. But now it can, must and will do more.
With less than ten years until 2030 climate and sustainability targets are due, driving the SDGs forward and building back stronger together must now go hand in hand. We have seen what innovative business is capable of when confronted by what seem to be unsurmountable challenges, such as climate change, or the COVID-19 crisis. The private sector has been at the forefront of tackling the pandemic through innovation and stepping forward – from the historic race to develop vaccines through Project Warp Speed, to opening up business premises to production of personal protection equipment (PPE) and vaccination campaigns, to training and educating employees on public health and safety, for example through USCIB’s Business Partners to Convince initiative.
“With less than ten years until 2030 climate and sustainability targets are due, driving the SDGs forward and building back stronger together must now go hand in hand. “
What perhaps excites and energizes me the most is that over the past few years in particular multilateral organizations such as the UN and its agencies have realized and an initiated a process of institutional evolution that will enable them to work more closely with business and other stakeholders. If we are to really “leave no one behind,” the UN must now accelerate opportunities and channels to bring business and other important societal actors to the table. Now is the time for inclusive “hands on” multilateralism, to engage all sectors of business, and to inform decision making, innovation and investments for the decades to come.
The need for business to be involved and to make a positive contribution was true nearly 30 years ago at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio, and it is true today as we look ahead to COP26 in Glasgow. We must tackle all of society’s challenges using best private sector systems-thinking, as well as doing, which simply put means putting business purpose and innovation into action. Looking ahead, I will continue championing private sector innovation as the catalyst for sustainability and to make the case for inclusive multilateralism for scale and impact. And while there is (still) no shortcut, the steps forward to make the world more sustainable are as vital as ever, and I am looking forward to continuing the journey.
About Norine Kennedy
With over 20 years’ experience as USCIB’s lead environment, energy and climate change expert, Norine Kennedy promotes U.S. business participation in international environmental policy and management initiatives, and works closely with industry, government and NGOs to promote sustainable development and green growth. She also spearheads USCIB’s strategic international engagement initiative, which seeks to advance meaningful business participation and regulatory diplomacy in inter-governmental organizations, and focuses on increasing accountability of international institutions regarding business interests.
In addition to staffing USCIB’s 120 company Environment Committee, Kennedy represents business in environmental discussions at the UN and OECD. She was a business observer at the UN’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and served on the U.S. delegation to the Rio+20 summit in 2012. She regularly participates in meetings of the UN Environment Programme and UN deliberations on the Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda, and in negotiating sessions for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Kennedy joined USCIB in 1991, having served at the World Environment Center as project manager in its corporate programs department. She holds a master’s degree in international environmental policy from Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Wellesley College.