First Innovation Summit throws open the doors to new ideas

Graphic of 3-D field

Innovation knows no boundaries, which is why organizers of the UO’s Innovation Summit have opened up the door to students, faculty, alumni and community members representing a range of disciplines — from the arts and humanities to the sciences, media, law, business, education and beyond.

“You don’t have to be a businessperson to be innovative,” said Corina Pigg, one of the student organizers of the inaugural festival scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27, which UO President Michael H. Schill has declared UO Innovators’ Day.

The idea for a campuswide festival grew out of an undergraduate entrepreneurship class in which students were challenged to inspire their peers to take on more entrepreneurial pursuits. Likened to an interdisciplinary cultural festival, the Innovation Summit will highlight the latest trends and thought leadership across a spectrum of ideas.

“It’s all about getting people excited to develop their own entrepreneurial mindsets,” said Kate Harmon, undergraduate program manager for the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship and a lead organizer of the festival. “Every single college is participating with at least some activity or session in which they will showcase their academic discipline.”

In the case of the College of Arts and Sciences, more than a dozen open houses are happening in science labs and humanities spaces over the course of the day, including at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston on the Oregon Coast.

Many events — including speaker presentations, interactive exhibits, skill-building workshops, pitch competitions, hackathons and exhibitions — will take place in the Erb Memorial Union and Straub Hall auditorium, but sessions are spread across campus. To help attendees sort through sessions, there’s an Innovation Summit web app designed by Ken Kato, director of geographic information systems and mapping. Users can read session descriptions, view a map of session locations and build a list of favorites to create a customized schedule.

Coinciding with Homecoming Weekend and Fall Family Weekend, the Innovation Summit features more than 80 activities on subjects ranging from fine arts to fitness to fake news. At 10 a.m. in Room 156, Straub Hall a session will focus on how the electric car is changing cities, at 3 p.m. in the EMU Cedar Room an event is devoted to innovation in the food and beverage sector,  and at 1:30 p.m. in the EMU Redwood Room a “minihackathon” will challenge students to re-engineer their undergraduate curriculum under tight deadline pressure. In just 90 minutes, students will reimagine the undergraduate experience, using human-centered design processes to think about ways to recreate the core curriculum.

Attendees will be able to select different themed tracks to follow throughout the day that will combine workshops and activities with speaker presentations and networking opportunities.

Not every event is happening Oct. 27. Darren Johnson, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will be giving a Quack Chats community science talk with an innovation focus at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25. The free public talk, “The Story of SupraSensor — How a Basic Science Discovery Led to an Innovation in Precision Agriculture,” takes place at the Ax Billy Grill in the Downtown Athletic Club, 999 Willamette St.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, the UO’s Run with a Researcher program will host an innovation-themed run featuring Troy Campbell, assistant professor of marketing, and other UO faculty members, leaving from the EMU “O” Desk.

Deb Morrison, Chambers Distinguished Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication, believes the Innovation Summit will give rise to new ideas and expose ideas that are already there.

“I anticipate some really compelling ideas hidden in places we might not expect,” said Morrison, who is hosting a session entitled “Are You Climate Ready? An Idea for Adapting to Climate Change in Your Community” at 3 p.m. in the EMU Swindells Room.

Additionally, Morrison helped put together an all-day exhibition in Allen Hall from the Science & Memory program, an experiential learning program that challenges journalism students to develop multimedia stories that explain climate-change research and how it affects local communities.

One session expected to draw a wide audience is a “meetup” event sponsored by the Technology Association of Oregon inspired by the startup company Product Hunt, founded by UO alum Ryan Hoover. Since its start in 2014 the Silicon Valley firm has become one of the most talked-about startups for its ability to connect the tech community.

The company’s website offers a curated collection of the best new apps and products and has become a go-to destination for early-stage companies looking to capture the attention of venture capitalists, consumers and journalists. Hoover, who is known as one of the humblest entrepreneurs in San Francisco, will be videoconferencing in for the session, which takes place at 5 p.m. in the EMU Redwood Room.

“The Innovation Summit really shows how we innovate things and make them useful,” said Matt Roberts, senior director of community relations. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the University of Oregon to showcase our academic excellence with a forward-looking lens.”

Roberts worked with Harmon and Andrew Nelson, associate professor of management and associate vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, to develop the Innovation Summit. The inaugural Innovation Summit may not have happened yet, but Harmon, ever the innovator, is already looking for ways to improve next year’s event.

“I think we will have a solid proof of concept this year and it will only get bigger and better in future years,” Harmon said.  

To view a full schedule of activities, visit the Innovation Summit website.

By Lewis Taylor, University Communications