Another year down, with barely a moment to pause and reflect! The end of year slow down provides the chance to take stock and refocus for the year ahead. While I do set loose goals, I also like the flexibility to take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that come along. With the pace things move at, it can be easy to overlook just how much happened during the year, especially when new opportunities over-ride what you thought you were working towards. Taking the time to document how you invested your year can help with planning out what’s next. So where did 2018 go?
Connecting the Innovation Ecosystem
Connecting industry, research and government has been a central theme throughout my career. The past few years I’ve been focused on helping this happen at scale by building a series of platforms in collaboration with over 70 partners from across the different sectors. In 2018 we delivered a major update to the Expert Connect platform, launched the Innovation Challenges Marketplace, and added innovation precincts and research infrastructure to the InnovationMap. Highlights included receiving two iAwards Merit Awards for Expert Connect, publishing an article in the University-Industry Innovation Magazine, delivering a webinar to Nesta & partners, and presenting the platforms at the Asian Development Bank Inaugural Knowledge Forum in Manila and to key stakeholders in Singapore.
This year I had the completely unexpected opportunity to build a new company, Ethitrade International, focused on digitally uplifting emerging economy SMEs. Partnering with The Asia Foundation and DFAT, Ethitrade developed a blockchain based food provenance platform which we piloted in Vietnam (tracking dragon fruit from farm-to-plate). To better understand the market, I traveled to Vietnam to meet with farmers and exporters as we were developing the app. After the pilot, I also presented our platform at The Asia Foundation Seminar Blockchain Technology Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Development in Ho Chi Minh City. Just a couple of months later I had opportunity to attend a dinner at Parliament House with the Global Blockchain Business Council and learn more about how blockchain is making an impact around the world.
Early next year will also mark 10 years of cleaning up indoor air quality with Ecolour zero-VOC paint. Whilst many people still don’t realise there’s a premium quality, non-toxic paint option (that doesn’t cost any more than the regular brands), I did have the opportunity to record a Podcast with Graham Phillips for a Ford Ranger series on innovative companies. We put in place an affiliate program to start rewarding people who help us get the message out there too. I also started pulling together some of the key research in this area that helps explain just how important indoor air quality is for our health.
Media & Speaking
Despite constant advice to “find my niche” and narrow down my focus to get more traction, I’ve continued to resist and keep expanding as broadly as possible (often in seemingly unrelated directions). This has led to some interesting media and speaking opportunities over the course of the year. In addition to the ones above, I also had the chance to promote the fantastic innovation happening in Canberra (via CBRIN and AICD magazine), and deliver a mid-year graduation address at the ANU. Speaking at the ANU Future Shapers Conference and the Collaboration Across Boundaries conference both provided excellent opportunities to connect with other speakers and attendees. I also decided it was finally time to set up public Instagram & Facebook pages (both of which I’m still trying to get the hang of!).
Investing in my own professional development is an important focus for me every year. Beyond the professional experience gained throughout the year, I also had the opportunity to undertake Lean Facilitator Training at the Canberra Innovation Network, and attend the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum for the first time.
It wasn’t all work though! Dance has also been a big part of my life for the past 10 years or so. This year I managed to fit in four key events (Zouk Station at the Railway Barracks in Goulburn, Brazouky in Melbourne, Casa do Zouk on the Gold Coast and Brisbane Zouk Festival). Experiencing firsthand the benefits (physical/mental/social) that dance can deliver, I’m passionate about encouraging more people to give it a try. ZoukUnite is the first of what I hope will be many new projects I’m involved with in the dance space in coming years. We were very lucky to have the amazing international zouk artist Eglantine de Oliveira in Australia this year. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her in future!
Of course this doesn’t cover everything that happened during 2018. There was also mentoring (informally and for CSIRO’s ON Prime), judging awards (including for the CRCA Excellence in Innovation Awards and the Enactus social entrepreneurship competition), and most importantly, connecting with many people doing amazing things. A big thank you to everyone who has been part of the journey this year (there are far too many to name). Several of the goals I set for 2018 will be just as good for next year, but this year certainly laid the foundation for an even bigger 2019.