Innovation is the Answer

Innovation is the Answer

May 21, 2014 at 04:05pm

By Rania Rostom,
Chief Innovation and Communications Officer
GE Middle East, North Africa & Turkey

Innovation has become a buzzword that seems to be everywhere: floating in the air at universities, plastered onto billboard advertisements, tumbling forth from CEOs during meetings, bounced around at conferences. It’s a word frequently used, seldom defined, and often dismissed as “just jargon.”

But at its root, innovation and – crucially – the notion behind it, is arguably the most important concept of the future for the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey.

In this region, we have challenges and opportunities like nowhere else in the world. We’re young – half of the population is still under 30, and most of our countries have yet to host a centennial. We’re educated – men and women are graduating from universities in record numbers, ready to take on tough problems. And maybe most important of all – we’re thirsty for it. We don’t want to continue to rely on technology developed for someone else. We know we must innovate in the region, for the region, to collectively thrive and endure.

Walking hand in hand with a focus on innovation is a need for localized entrepreneurship. Long gone is the era when multinational corporations sequestered themselves in faraway research labs, working on technologies that may or may not have a viable purpose in the real world. Instead, we now must look to the brilliant minds in the region, who have the ideas and courage to start small businesses and go after solutions that will benefit our unique environment.

To foster the creation of localized solutions, entire ecosystems must come together to generate an optimistic mindset that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. This is an idea supported by a recent Al Arabiya piece, which reports on findings by leading business school INSEAD: a culture of innovation is fostered by collaboration between universities and learning institutions, companies that market innovation, financial capital, and a robust infrastructure.

We must understand that it’s not about finding a single path that’s “right.” It’s about working together and pursuing multiple avenues. It’s about failing time and time again, until that final iteration gets it right. We can’t be afraid of the mistakes that innovation requires – if we understand that they are necessary for success, we can appreciate them as part of the process.

At GE, we know we don’t have all the answers. To truly deliver the solutions the region needs, we must be open to collaboration, and we must operate close to our customers. In this vein, we are proud to partner with Saudi Aramco on a global ecomagination challenge, focused on finding innovative solutions that provide measurable, scalable, and economically viable improvements in the process of seawater desalination through renewable energy.

Together, through this challenge and others like it, we can continue to strengthen the spirit of local entrepreneurship in the region, and build a solid culture of open innovation and collaboration.

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