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Biology as a Tool to Innovate

What are the possibilities of what we can achieve when we start using biology as a tool to innovate? This was at the heart of my recent TEDMED talk ( which now you can watch online) and the follow up Q&A I had for TEDMED Blog. As innovators, thinkers and multidisciplinary explorers, we should all embrace and be curious about biology —it’s no longer a tool just for scientists. Biology is breathing life into the lives of so many people and changing the way we think about art, sustainable energy, architecture, clothing, food industry and many more fields. I hope that people realize that there is a huge potential to meet sustainability challenges by viewing biology as a technology partner. We need to take biology off its miraculous pedestal, and ask how it might be possible to utilize it in our work. That’s a powerful question that so many people are beginning to ask, from the most unexpected fields. I want people to realize that biology is breathing into their lives. People should walk around thinking “I might not be a biologist, but I should be because my field is about to be disrupted by it.”

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Educate to Innovate

Back in late 2013, Krisztina “Z” Holly, the “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the LA Mayor’s office, invited me to participate in an interesting study being conducted by the National Academy of Engineering β€” the topic? Facing America’s innovation challenges. We discussed new educational paradigms, compared notes in our diverse fields.

Themes revolved around the important role universities should play in driving innovation, and, within industry, the importance of corporate culture, inclusiveness, and, not surprisingly, new models of partnerships with local schools and universities.

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Bio Is the New Techonomy

I’ve spent years as a biotech cheerleader, trumpeting the idea that biology can power innovation across diverse industries. Lately, I’m getting the feeling that experts in lots of other fields are also taking up the cheer.

Case in point: Techonomy, the annual conference in Palo Alto that explores how technology is integral to the economy in which we live. At this spring’s conference (where I had the pleasure of presenting) organizers added a nice suffix to the event name: Techonomy BIO!

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