Global Innovation Summit: embracing change is key to growth

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The busy crowds at registration were indicative of what was ahead. (Image via Global Innovation Summit)

The Global Innovation Summit 2015, held on September 1st at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, was first and foremost a celebration of innovation and its immense impact on people’s lives.

GIS brought together reknowned regional and international speakers to explore the role innovation plays in improving our daily lives and help companies incorporate principles of innovation into their culture. Organizers focused on the role of disruptive technology in driving change.

The definition of innovation can be difficult to pinpoint, as the event proved. Shantanu Phansalkar, CEO of SPI Group was quick to point out that the terms “innovation” and “invention” can be contradictory, and are often used interchangeably. Innovation requires cleverness in using your product or service efficiently and modifying it to meet the market needs, he said.

“From a corporate point of view, innovation means finding new markets, new flows of revenue and progressing beyond your scope of experience,” said Anthony Butler, Chief Technologist and Lead Cloud Advisor at IBM MEA.


The panel entitled “How to make smart cities, even smarter?” was moderated by Mohammed A. Omar, Department Chair of the Engineering Systems and Management department atMasdar Institute of Science Technology. See below for a list of panelists. 

Rania Rostom, chief innovation & communications officer at GE MENAT, believes innovation is “the adding of value. It doesn’t matter whether you use ‘invention’ or ‘innovation’ or any other term; the important thing is to make change." 

Though interpretations of what, exactly, defines these words, both are catalysts for changing the status quo. How can we benefit?

Embrace change

While change might be feared by many as an impediment to survival and sustainability, Haidar Salloum, channel manager at Microsoft Gulf believes that change is everywhere.

He noted that 89 percent of companies on the S&P 500 stock index in 1955 no longer exist because they didn’t view change as avenues of survival and growth.

“If the innovation in the outside world is faster than innovation inside [of the company], then you are definitely on the wrong track,” he said. 

Attia stressed that the ability to manage fundamental changes is the key to growth, as companies that are no longer on the map are those that ceased to innovate and grew comfortable with past successes.

Rather than fear innovations like big data, cloud technology, IoT and analytics, companies should adopt and prioritize these innovations as keys to success, said Etisalat CEO Salvador Anglada. Citing Uber and Airbnb as companies that embraced change, he encouraged executives to also be flexible and open.

Empower and enable

A culture of innovation isn’t enough. Companies need to enable their employees to make innovation a reality, said Paul Boots, chief operating officer at Beehive, a platform that connects investors and businesses. Companies need to take their time in selecting their employees, and give them the right tools and opportunities to innovate.

The principles of innovation enable individuals and organizations to achieve more, Salloum said, and noted that SMEs are at the forefront of innovation.

The Global Innovation Summit also recognized innovative entrepreneurs in the UAE. They are:

  • Isabelle Millasseau – for the Best Innovation in Retail Sector at Footup
  • Alison Wilcox – for the Best Innovation for Business Growth at Cinetech
  • Tazeen Sharif – for the Best Innovation in Education Sector at Ihear
  • FouwazParkar – for the Best Innovation in Healthcare Sector CURAPP
  • Sebastian Stefan – for the Best Innovation in Sustainability for LoadMe
  • Neha Kaul – for the Best Innovation for Public Good 

*Panelists include Mohannad Samara, Director at Etisalat; Tommi Raitio, Regional Director, Telecommunications and Internet of Things, META Region, Intel Corporation; Rania Rostom, Chief Innovation Officier, MENA and Turkey GE; Anthony Sayers, Internet of Things Business Developper and Strategist, Dell Jeroen Schlosser, Managing Director, Equinix MENA; Aiham Al-Akhras, Head of Business Development and Operations, Fujitsu.

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