First virtual InnoDays
In the true spirit of innovation, when facing a challenge, InnoDays, along with co-organizers from the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC), hosted its first-ever virtual hackathon from Thursday, April 9th to Saturday, April 11th, 2020. The event was initially slated to take place on UC-Berkeley’s campus in venues made for physical prototyping. Still, in light of COVID-19, it was adapted to an all-online format, which posed unique challenges but also opportunities. Titus Ebbecke, one of the participants, reflects on the digital experience with a positive outlook: “It showed that it is possible to work across the globe and get something going. I never felt like something is missing that we’d only have if we were physically together.” Titus’ teammate, Roland Saekow, further notes: “My highlight was getting to work with people who I hadn’t known before and made some cool ideas.”
To get things started, company partners from EDF Innovation Lab posed the challenge: “How might we design more inclusive Light Electric Vehicle form factors and micromobility solutions for both passenger mobility and goods delivery?” And with that, 80+ participants from Europe, the US, and Asia got to work, moving through the entire design process – ideation, validation, prototyping, and presenting – in just 48 hours. Along the way, 40+ expert mentors from industry and university partners, including MCI (Innsbruck, Austria) and the East-West Center (Hawaii) guided teams through challenges and brainstorming sessions to help focus efforts towards a tangible solution after just two days of work. Abby Guo, who joined the event from California, comments: “We met different mentors who provided beneficial advice. It was a valuable experience”.
A new way of innovating together
Being entirely online meant participants could join from all over the globe – as teams from one side of the world were going to bed, others would be waking up and getting back to work. This made for an exciting, round-the-clock environment made possible by video conferencing services and Sprintbase as the digital Design Thinking platform for the event. After 48 hours, all participants, mentors, and organizers regrouped at 7:00 PST/16:00 CET/22:00 CST (i.e., the only time we were all awake together) for teams to pitch their ideas to the judges from EDF Innovation Lab. David Ferguson from EDF Innovation Lab China observes: “With 80 people from four different continents speaking different languages in lots of different time zones using different digital tools. A lot of people working together for the first time, it’s amazing to see what we produced in that timeframe. The ideas that have come out are fantastic.” The most notable aspect of the solutions presented was the diversity of ways in which teams approached and tackled the prompt within four categories – Form Factor, Goods Delivery, People Mobility, and Addressing COVID-19. Paul Breslow from EDF Innovation Lab US highlights the positive environmental impact of the event “We’ve been able to enable a practically zero-carbon, extremely inclusive global innovation forum. I can imagine such an event involving thousands of people across many countries”. Paul further remarks: “The ability to quickly source people, ideas, and to test different approaches has opened my mind of the possibilities with this event.”
Winners will be announced soon
Results will be announced on Friday, April 17th, at which point members of the winning team will receive prizes provided by Segway Ninebot. All-in-all, the InnoDays event was a great reminder that no matter the barriers, we can come together to solve new and challenging problems – this hackathon will serve as a model for upcoming online collaboration events.