On Wednesday, February 8, the Connecticut Historical Society Museum hosted a Panel Discussion: Innovation Today, where Hartford-area innovators, entrepreneurs, and inventors discussed the many reasons why Connecticut is a good place for innovation.
The Connecticut Historical Society Museum is currently showcasing the Connecticut Innovates! exhibit, which is on display through March 25. Presented by Connecticut Innovations, the Connecticut Innovates! exhibit explores stories of innovation throughout Connecticut and the ways in which our environment, people, and resources have led Connecticut to be a hot spot of innovation.
The Panel Discussion: Innovation Today panelists included:
- Rachael Felberbaum, Ph.D., Senior Director, Business Development, Protein Sciences Corporation
- Eric Knight, Founder and President of Remarkable Technologies, Inc.
- Margo Lynn Hablutzel, Board Member MakeHartford
Moderator Paige Rasid, Chief Operating Officer and Member Services at the Connecticut Technology Council, asked the panel several intriguing questions, before asking the audience to-provide questions.
PAIGE RASID: How does a mix of community create innovation?
MARGO LYNN HABLUTZEL: It’s all about brainstorming, making connections, collaborating, and then finding out what to do with your ideas.
ERIC KNIGHT: There are so many good, innovative things happening here in Connecticut and we have great resources too—people, education, and financing.
I agree with Margo Lynn, you need to bring together people of different backgrounds—engineers, creative types, etc. Then you need to focus on how to bring your idea to market.
PR: What’s a good way for inventors to plug into resources?
Once they come up with an idea, inventors need to find out the first steps, which include encapsulating their intellectual property. The next step is prototyping.
MLH: Makerspaces are great for prototyping. Inventors should bear in mind that invention and innovation aren’t necessarily limited to technology.
PR: How do companies benefit from interacting with the local community?
RACHAEL FELBERBAUM: It’s mutually beneficial. Our work has a positive impact on the community resulting in economic growth and job creation.
Our involvement with the community helps us to develop creative, innovative approaches and new business models.
MLH: The FIRST Robotics Competition is a great example of community mentorship. The competition is made possible with grants from corporations working with makerspaces. CTNext provides grants for makerspaces to work with companies to train new employees, and to help inventors create their companies.
PR: What can you tell us about the Innovation Places program?
EK: The Innovation Places program is a CTNext initiative. The goal is to support Connecticut entrepreneurs and create compact innovation districts throughout Connecticut—places that will draw innovators in.
PR: Connecticut is filled with education facilities and large corporations. Do they provide a good support system? Are you finding talent in Connecticut?
RF: It’s a real advantage to being in Connecticut. I’m an advocate for partnering with local universities and tapping into those resources. We need to keep people in the state.
EK: Yes, I want to emphasize the importance of keeping talent and growing businesses here in Connecticut.
PR: As entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators, what inspires you?
EK: Things occur to me as an inventor. It’s unconscious. I was definitely inspired by the space program. And, my patented technology to treat Alzheimer’s disease was inspired by work on an aerospace project. The disease, itself, has a huge potential impact on overall economy. Cross thinking between industries is important.
RF: The history of vaccines is inspirational to me. They have saved countless lives.
MLH: For me it goes back to the trailblazers: Isaac Newton, Archimedes. Thinking about basic things, like: How do we overcome gravity? Is there a simple solution people can create?
Q: I’m a “lone innovator” with a lot of frustrations. Any advice?
EK: Get involved with resources to help you, so your patented idea doesn’t just sit there.
Q: Why is innovations so hot now? Are we in a burst of innovation? Is it going anywhere?
RF: Things like Shark Tank bring innovation to the mainstream.
EK: Right, so does social media. It simplifies ideas and makes things more visible. Also, prototyping is easier than ever. For example, we have access to 3-D printers.
However, we need to empower innovators to take ideas faster through the process. This is a new era of innovation. We need to figure out how to harness that for good.