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A Young Consultant Explores Disruptive Innovation

Focus on a young consultant, Benjamin Blandin, living in Luxembourg and who will experience a second Tech Tour in 2015. The purpose of this tour is to visit the facilities all around the world, meet entrepreneurs and learn more about the evolution of technologies. You can also support Benjamin Blandin thanks to a funding campaign he published on a crowdfunding platform!

Benjamin, you will experience your second Tech Tour from January, what is your program?

This Tech Tour will take place in the US with five, maybe six states, Australia and Western Europe. The start is expected for end of January with the first step in San Francisco and should end in Hamburg, Germany by mid-March.

To have the broader view possible, I organized this tour in a way that it is balanced between a training aspect with the Executive Program of Singularity University and then site visits, conferences and also meeting and interviews with actors of the innovation ecosystem such as engineers, researchers, managers, startup founders and high tech thinkers and evangelists.

What is the purpose of your Tech Tour?

The evolution of technologies is growing exponentially and it has become increasingly difficult for both individuals and businesses, and even states to understand the resulting changes, both in terms of risk opportunities.

Moreover, this phenomenon that is spreading worldwide can also be observed in the Grand Duchy, sometimes described as conservative but who has demonstrated during the past decade a sharp transition in the structure of its economy.  The path taken by Luxembourg that leads to a more balanced model that makes space for non-banking or finance services seems very positive to me.

The idea behind this trip is to study and give a closer look to the evolution at stake, by visiting the facilities and meeting the very actors that run it and to try drawing guidelines on a number of topics.

What did you discover and who did you meet during your first Tech Tour?

My previous Tech Tour was held between the United States and Singapore and was mainly intended to clear the land but through the 45 facilities visited and the many people I had the chance to meet, this trip has proven very exciting and allowed me to better understand how innovation hubs are functioning.

American dynamism and ability to raise funds on a long-term perspective is still a major asset in the race although poor infrastructure can be a big surprise. The very model of Silicon Valley could also soon become its main problem given the speed at which it is replicated in the US itself and worldwide. Indeed, tech hubs have now reached world recognition in cities such as Tel Aviv, Moscow and Nairobi to name a few.

In Singapore however, the model is completely different with a very active state, either in terms of defining the strategy or by allocating resources, but the search for fast return on investment encourages incubators and accelerators to support mature projects that already have customer and revenues. Ultimately, this approach discourage local innovation as demonstrated by the case of The HUB incubator where most of the project are managed by strangers, not to say Westerners.

You are joining the Executive Program of Singularity University, what is it about?

The Executive program is a one week workshop that provides senior executives and entrepreneurs a real immersion in the most advanced technologies and gives them the tools to predict and assess how new emerging technologies may help transform their industries, companies and even their careers.

This program explores a number of themes that many could pass for science fiction but are nevertheless about to become part of our daily life in the years to come.

Below are a few examples of typical subjects studied at SU:

  • Automation and labor market
  • Unmanned automotive and the cities of tomorrow
  • E-learning and MOOC- Intellectual property of DNA regarding organ and blood manufacturing
  • Democratization of embedded medical sensors and drones.

You are currently looking for sponsors and financial partners, how may they help you?

The cost of such a trip is always very high but I think that the return on investment largely covers the cost. In any case, I would be very happy to consider any possibility of sponsorship and the different ways to monetize such an approach can be considered.

You can either help me through a funding campaign I posted on GoFundMe : http://www.gofundme.com/ehzc0w

What do you think about the Luxembourg Tech environment?

I was very surprised by the variety of actors as well as public and private initiatives in the Grand Duchy and it is unfortunate that it still conveys an image of conservative country, there may be benefit to communicate more on the recent year’s significant achievements of the country.

The state on the one hand has invested significant amounts in the university and in the CRPs as well as in the arrival of the Max Plank Institute, in the establishment of the Luxinnovation GIE and the innovation clusters.  There are also many quality structures such as the various incubators and coworking offices, as well as the accelerator, the FabLab and the hackerspace.

In the private sector, companies active in the Data Center industry, logistic and various industrial sectors including airspace and automotive as well as several private research centers constitute a major asset for the Great Duchy and the sum of all these initiatives succeeded in making Luxembourg a great ecosystem for innovation and research.

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