Young entrepreneurs and researchers from across Europe who gathered in the Donegal Gaeltacht last week for the MIT Innovators Under 35 Europeawards have been told their efforts to address humanity's greatest challenges show the importance of collaboration and partnership.
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Liam Blaney welcomed the innovators, delegates and Festival organisers to the county at thes opening ceremony, held in The Crolly Distillery in Gaoth Dobhair, "I firmly believe that this is a fitting location for an event of this nature due to the unique environment in Donegal which blends technology and innovation with culture and heritage. It is a place which fosters and nurtures our future changemakers."
"At at a time in our world when the impulse to turn inwards is strong, this conference shows it's vital to open our ears to new idea, not close them," Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty told innovators who had travelled from four continents for the prestigious event.
"Communities, no matter where they are, face common challenges, from healthcare and climate breakdown to sustainability and conservation,"
Our 35 innovators have shown how novel applications of technology in diverse areas — from artificial intelligence to biotech — can be harnessed to address those common challenges. These achievements reveal a common thread: that the power of ideas, when fostered, is limitless."
The Donegal TD was addressing Friday night's gala banquet to honour the 35 innovators who are regarded as the most brilliant of their generation and hailed from 16 different countries including Spain, France, Finland, the Basque Country, Portugal, Ireland, England, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Romania, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
In the days before the awards presentation, the innovators had travelled to Derry for meetings at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster, met local schoolchildren to discuss entrepreneurial solutions to the energy crisis and taken part in a conference in the Údarás na Gaeltacht business park in Gaoth Dobhair.
Among those taking part in the conference were Georgios Nounesis, Director of the Greek Centre for Science and Research in Athens and Nicklas Bergman, an advisor to the European Commission's €10bn Innovation Fund.
Pearse Doherty said he was especially proud to host the visitors in the heart of the Gaeltacht and praised the developing innovation base in the northwest region. "Innovation is the engine of economic development," he added. "The foundation of new jobs and higher living standards. I and my party, Sinn Féin, are committed to investing in and supporting research and development in this region and throughout our country."
Addressing the conference opening reception on Thursday 11 May in the Cróithlí Distillery, Guadalajara, Mexico-based Giancarlo Di Vece praised the award-winning innovators as "trailblazers and visionaries". "This event is a powerful testament to the role of innovation in shaping our world, a role that I personally, as CEO of Unosquare, deeply believe in. We live in a time where the line between the impossible and the possible is continuously being redefined – and this room is filled with the architects of that redefinition."
Di Vece whose tech company has locations across the US as well as in Mexico and Boliva employs around 80 people in Belfast. "Ireland holds a special place in my heart and it's an absolute joy to be part of anything that puts this beautiful country in the spotlight. The support, talent and unwavering enthusiasm of the Irish people have been instrumental in helping me build a thriving business. The spirit of Ireland, its history of resilience, and its future of promise all contribute to creating an environment where innovation flourishes."
But the Unosquare chief said more young people needed to be encourage to chose an education in the sciences. "We need more dreamers, more doers...so let's continue to inspire and to foster the next generation of tech leaders. Let's keep pushing the boundaries of what's possible so that we can create a world that is not just smarter and more efficient but also more compassionate and inclusive."