Smart clothes that become longer or shorter depending on the weather, electronic pet collars that allow better communication between humans and animals, robotic panels that illustrate the thoughts of students, energy produced from water and mattresses that give you a massage as you sleep are but some of the visions that Greek elementary school pupils have for the country in 2050. Sixty 9- to 12-year-olds presented these and other ideas on what they imagine life will be like in 33 years’ time at the Second Greek-French Innovation Network Forum at the Technopolis cultural complex in central Athens last Friday and Saturday, organized by the French Embassy and the French Institute in Athens.
The majority of the youngsters imagined technologies and solutions that would facilitate the lives of children in the future. One, for example, envisioned a microphone pen that would write out test answers and essays dictated by the student in his or her handwriting. Many, though, tried to come up with solutions to existing problems today, such as finding ways for getting much-needed energy from plants and/or water. Others proposed non-invasive vaccinations and a health scanner that could recommend treatments. The massage mattress, however, was definitely the star of the show.
These young visionaries were the last voices heard at the two-day innovation forum, which saw 300 participants present their innovative ideas and business plans, hold meetings with potential buyers or partners, and receive awards for creative ideas that contribute to their country. The event also included three workshops on smart cities, a networking section bringing together young entrepreneurs with crucial support services like investment funds and legal firms, as well as a section on art and entrepreneurship.
It was, by all accounts, a resounding success, with more than 1,500 visitors and over 15,000 users watching the forum online. According to National Technical University Economics of Technology Professor Yannis Caloghirou, who was one of the supervisors in the smart city workshop, the exchange of ideas and know-how between states, cities, businesses and academic and research bodies is crucial to developing urban centers that are more energy efficient, that provide citizens with better lines of communication and that develop hubs of knowledge in other cities. The forum was a success in this respect, as it brought together representatives from Athens, Iraklio on Crete, Trikala in central Greece, and French cities such as Paris and Saint-Etienne.
The biggest contribution made by the forum, however, was the adoption of some 20 start-ups by large, established Greek and French businesses – this was, after all, the organizers’ main objective – that will provide both financial and technical support. The details of the agreements forged were not made public as negotiations are ongoing.
Last but not least, the forum awarded seven new businesses and agencies for their positive contribution to innovation and society. The top prize was bestowed on the Greek Association of Social Responsibility for Children and Youth, whose purpose is to aid in the social assimilation of young people with disabilities.