Berkeley Innovation Forum: Top corporate honchos ideated on restoring Earth’s ecological balance

Ritu Jha-

The Earth is coming to a tipping point of no return to maintain a healthy balance to support human life as we know it. If all the knowledge and technology we had generated is totally useless if it cannot save us from future disasters of our deteriorating earth says, Professor Solomon Darwin.

During an interview with indica on the side-lines of the Berkeley Innovation Forum held recently top corporate leaders came up with great ideas to restore the balance sheet of Earth inspired by his recent book “How to Think Like The CEO of The Planet – Restoring the Declining Balance Sheet of the Earth.

Darwin is the executive director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, and the former executive director of the Center for Financial Reporting and Management at the Haas School of Business. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, he was an associate professor at the University of Southern California from 1996 – 2005. Darwin has more than 13 years of Industry experience at Bank of America and Motorola.

The Berkeley Innovation Forum of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation was held from October 11 – 14, 2022. The forum drew top corporate houses from across the globe focusing on ‘Creating Sustainable Ecosystems Through Open Innovation’.

Global CEOs and top honchos of some of the world’s most influential companies mulled over ways and means to combat climate change by using innovations and technology. They discussed ways to take the quantum leap from pledging to take action and making a palpable impact. The Smithsonian-affiliated Aquarium of the Bay hosted the primary session, and the final session of the event took place at another branch of the Bay Ecotarium, the Bay Model in Sausalito.

The Berkeley Innovation Forum is a membership organization hosted by Dr. Henry Chesbrough, Faculty Director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation. Professor Chesbrough has become a world-renowned authority on the topic of open innovation, a term that he is credited with inventing. BIF is an exclusive membership group consisting of carefully selected corporate Directors from non-competing firms who are deeply involved in managing innovation within their company.

The forum provides its members an ongoing window on innovation challenges confronting companies around the world and gathers members together to share their experiences in dealing with these challenges.

Prof Darwin said: “This flagship program at Berkley brings together senior executives of elite companies in Silicon Valley and from around the world to innovate and exchange ideas in a closed environment. They meet to talk about the challenges they are facing and find solutions to expand their markets. At these meetings companies innovate and co-innovate, create ecosystems and partnerships and even work with competitors to grow markets to create value for consumer basis around the world that are looking for various solutions.”

This October forum of 2022, focused on sustainability. “It was all about how we can create a better sustainable planet with all the knowledge, technology, and resources that we have. We came up with great ideas and good ways we can collaborate as companies on restoring the balance sheet of the earth. Earth has assets that are deteriorating and declining and it cannot sustain life anymore. We are coming to a tipping point where that makes a huge difference. The knowledge we invent in this world or the technology we invent, if it doesn’t serve the purpose of stopping the hole that is getting bigger in a boat that is already sinking is no good, it’s useless,” said Prof Darwin.

Welcome address to this closed-door event was given by Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley’s Chief Innovation & Entrepreneurship Officer. From 2008 to 2018 he served as dean of UC Berkeley’s Haas School where he currently holds the William and Janet Cronk Chair in Innovative Leadership. After that Prof Darwin took over to introduce the event to the participants.

The keynote address was given by the CEO of Tata Chemicals – R Mukundan. He is an engineer from IIT Roorkee and joined the TAS, after completing an MBA from FMS, Delhi University. He is also an alumnus of the Harvard Business School. During his 26-year career with the Tata Group, he has held various responsibilities across the chemical, automotive, and hospitality sectors of the group. “The Tata Group from India gave a great presentation on their initiatives. Saving whales and working with communities. Tata is a great example for other companies in India to follow,” he said.

 

All the corporate entities who were part of the brainstorming have agreed in principle to pool resources and work together for the common ecological goal. “They all want to cooperate and work with our students to solve this challenge. There’s a seriousness, and urgency in the approach being devised to tackle the challenge. They want to move from pledging to doing something to make an impact. We cannot sustain another crisis like Covid or another disaster. We just need to wake up really for this is a wake-up call,” he added.

The participants discussed means to reduce carbon emissions, what could companies do to contribute to it, how to grow more trees and keep people more accountable and how technologies like Google Earth can track down every tree on the planet. He said: “How do we use technology to create awareness so that people can take action locally and globally.”

Prof Darwin admitted that the climate focus came more recently. “This is the first Berkeley Innovation Forum that was dedicated to this topic. Innovation has always been about how do you make more money. But this time the Berkeley Innovation Forum was not about how you make money but about how firms need to make sacrifices to stop the ecological bleeding. We may be the wealthiest people on earth but if the boat we are on is sinking, what good is it?”

 

 

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