Juneau, Alaska (KINY) What are we waiting for? That was one of the questions asked attendees at the annual Innovation Summit today.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White challenged the Innovation Summit to take advantage of Alaska’s ability to be innovative.
He said the state has the ability to fundamentally change the economy for the better.
“Right now we have the material. It is all of us in this room that need to commercialize innovations that exist today and innovations that will exist in the future.”
White said it will be really hard to cut our way to prosperity alluding to the proposed cuts to the University of Alaska budget.
“Think about and focus on the future. What will each one of us do? This summit is the marquee event in Innovation in Alaska. I ask all of you to participate.”
The theme for the 8th annual Innovation Summit is designing Alaska’s future. The issues of tourism growth, economic self-sufficiency, education and outdoor recreation will be among more than 30 presentations planned at the summit through Thursday.
“The value of the summit is commensurate with what you put into it,” said Brian Holst, Executive Director of the Juneau Economic Development Council.
“We are fortunate to live in Juneau where creativity is alive and well.”
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld spoke on constructing a digitally enabled, self-sufficient future for Alaska. He is a social scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management for Brandeis University.
He encouraged the crowd to look at a problem from multiple points of view. On the issue of technology, there is some who worry about robots taking their job. Others look at it as an opportunity.
“Its easier to shape technology early on than to wait for later when technology is deeply embedded in society.”
Gershenfeld said we are early in the third technological revolution.
What could digital fabrication to the future and the economy of Alaska? This means having access to the means of production.
Digital fabrication is a design and production process that combines 3D modeling or computer-aided design with additive and subtractive manufacturing. Many technologies are exploited to physically produce the designed objects. The objects are created with a variety of CAD software packages that use 2D vector drawing.
The Cook Inlet Council was the first to create a fab lab at Utqiagvik High School. Digital fabrication in the future could include food production, egg hatcheries, milk pasteurization, digital greenhouses, laser cut furniture, shelving and lamps, sewing and knitting machines, spare parts, machines that make machines, wind turbines, heat pumps, pre-cut wood building components, printed cement walls, and spare parts for means of transportation.
He said more and more locals are self-sufficient and also have the ability to contact others globally for ways to be more innovative.
“The fastest progress might happen in the most remote rural areas and impoverished urban areas because the need is the greatest and there is less in the way.”
Summit participants commented that Alaska has a tradition of independence and tinkering here. In Alaska, the access to power and internet access is a limiting factor. Another challenge in rural areas is political capital. They said all the societal stakeholders need to work together.