20 reasons why you need to be at Inspirefest 2016

24 Jun 2016

Registration at Inspirefest 2015. Photo via Conor McCabe Photography

With less than a week to go until Inspirefest takes over Dublin’s Silicon Docks, the Silicon Republic team has picked out some of their highlights.

Looking at the Inspirefest 2016 schedule as it stands, there’s a lot to get excited about when this sci-tech festival kicks off on Thursday 30 June – though we did our best to keep it to just 20 reasons.

1. It’s an inspiring kaleidoscope of sci-tech perspectives

Yes, Inspirefest is a science and technology event, but it encompasses so much more than that. Forget homogeneity – this event has made a great effort to represent a broad spectrum of humanity on-stage in order to better reflect the global society that exists around the sci-tech space. All of these perspectives will be pooled together with artistic and cultural insights in the drum of Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, twisting and transforming in the spotlight as pertinent discussions pull them into focus. From this colourful kaleidoscope, there’s no end to the ideas and possibilities that can take shape.

2. A single, curated stage in a theatre setting

There’s no shortage of conferences and events you can attend as a sci-tech professional, and even one event might have multiple stages and sessions vying for your attention. The Inspirefest gang are so confident in the line-up they’ve assembled, they’ve put them all on one stage for your viewing pleasure and convenience. No clashes, no missed opportunities and no hassle – just a rich flow of information in a theatre setting that’s sure to arrest your attention.

Inspirefest 2015

A captive audience, including Intel VP Margaret Burgraff (right), watches 10-year-old Lauren Boyle speak at Inspirefest 2015. Photo by Robbie Reynolds/Conor McCabe Photography

3. A chance to discover new heroes

The youngest speaker at Inspirefest is 13 while the rest span many decades beyond. Many are travelling from the US and the UK, others from Kenya and France, while more still will be representing Ireland on this world stage. Among more than 50 speakers, expertise ranges from entrepreneurship and investment to wearable technology and interactive storytelling.

If you’re looking for a catalogue of high-profile names you’ve heard from before, you’re not likely to find it on the Inspirefest line-up. This event is about handing the stage over to those with knowledge and insight worth sharing, regardless of fame or status.

4. A potent blend of STEM and the arts

The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) session will be the first session to take place at Inspirefest following its opening by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, on Thursday.

Looking at the importance of the A in STEAM, it will feature keynotes from Zoe Philpott, tech entrepreneur and storyteller, and Noel Murphy, internet of things wearable design leader at Intel. The keynotes will be followed by a panel discussion with Philpott and Murphy joined by Prof Linda Doyle, director of Trinity College Dublin’s Connect Centre, and Nora O’Murchú, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Limerick.

5. Media will be under the microscope

Not only is digital technology transforming media, it is also the traditional media industry’s biggest threat, as more people increasingly access their news through social media and smartphones. Joining Siliconrepublic.com’s editor John Kennedy for a highly-charged and informative panel discussion on the subject on Thursday morning will be Recode co-executive editor Kara Swisher, one of Silicon Valley’s most eminent journalists; and Raju Narisseti, senior vice-president in charge of strategy at News Corp and former managing editor of The Washington Post.

6. Refreshingly frank panel discussions

One of the highlights of Inspirefest 2015 was the investors panel, where some of Silicon Valley’s leading minds exchanged frank views about the status quo. Investor and adviser Adam Quinton of Lucas Point Ventures wasn’t afraid to call “bullshit” on the Valley selling itself as a meritocracy, instead claiming it as “a mirror-ocracy”.

Expect more of the same this year when Quinton, SheEO founder Vicki Saunders, Pereg Ventures’ Claudia Iannazzo, and Astia’s Sharon Vosmek and Victoria Pettibone take part in the Investors session on Friday afternoon.

7. Big news breaks here

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given so many impressive people will be gathered in the one space, news is likely to break at Inspirefest 2016. Last year, during a panel discussion at the festival, space-tech legend Susan McKenna-Lawlor announced that she wanted Ireland to build and launch its own spacecraft. Since then, more has been revealed about the proposed spacecraft, including what the Irish mission will be called – Cumar.

Also at Inspirefest 2015, Sheree Atcheson, Women Who Code UK founder, revealed that the coding movement would be coming to Ireland, with its first meeting subsequently taking place in Dublin last November.

8. You’ll learn all about hot topics like fintech…

Fintech is where it is at in 2016 and the impact of fintech and blockchain will be discussed on Friday afternoon at Inspirefest by Hazel Moore, co-founder of FirstCapital and an authority on the firm’s SMART dealmaking process; Claire Calmejane, the director of innovation at Lloyds Banking Group, where she is in charge of harnessing digital innovations and disruptions for the bank’s 30m customers and 80,000 employees; and Dave Tighe, head of innovation at Bank of Ireland, who is leading the digital transformation of Ireland’s oldest bank.

9. …and the sharing economy

We live in a time of tremendous upheaval, with traditional industries being turned inside-out and upside-down thanks to the smartphone and mobile technology. There are more Uber cars in New York than yellow taxis and Airbnb is threatening the traditional hotel industry.

Discussing these seismic shifts will be Irish entrepreneur Jules Coleman who sold her company, Hassle.com, for around €32m; Robin Chase of Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the world; and Nilofer Merchant, the author of Onlyness and a person who has personally launched 100 products that have netted $18bn in sales.

10. Two Romeros for the price of one

Gaming supremos Brenda and John Romero will discuss the future of the games industry, with the latter’s experience creating the likes Quake, Doom, Doom 2, Wolfenstein sure to prove a popular draw. The duo’s company, Romero Games, operates out of their west of Ireland base, with Blackroom recently announced as the next Romero release.

11. You’ll discover the future of the workplace…

The modern workplace is changing daily. We’ve already heard about the end of the job-for-life mentality, the rising importance of a company’s culture, and a jobs market that works in favour of candidates. That’s now, but what’s later?

Adrienne Gormley, Dropbox

Adrienne Gormley, global head of customer experience, Dropbox

On Thursday afternoon, hear keynotes from Dropbox global head of customer experience Adrienne Gormley, Salesforce MD of strategic innovation Katherine Von Jan, and Hatch Analytics founder Monica Parker, each touching on how the workplace is changing, and how it needs to change.

12. …and tips on how to build and retain a diverse workforce

Also on Thursday, you will get the opportunity to hear from Accenture chief leadership and human resources officer Ellyn Shook, Dropbox global head of diversity Judith Williams, Fidelity International head of technology Stuart Warner, and Sodexo Ireland president Margot Slattery on recruiting, retaining and leading diverse teams.

Ellyn Shook, Accenture

Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer, Accenture

Williams and Shook will deliver keynotes before joining Slattery and Warner for a panel discussion to delve even deeper into diversity and inclusion in the modern workplace.

13. You can bond over more than just business

There will be plenty of opportunities to network at Inspirefest, but chief among them will be the Inspirefest Fringe event, which takes place Thursday and Friday evening at Merrion Square Park. All kinds of activities are planned for the leafy environment in the heart of Georgian Dublin, giving delegates, VIPs and speakers the chance to bond through the experience of art, theatre, music and sci-tech interactions.

Next week, all attendees will get access to the Inspirefest app, which will allow them to keep on top of everything happening throughout the event but also stay in touch with people they meet.

14. Food and wellness treats for the body and soul

A health and wellness zone at the Fringe event will see the likes of Republic of Ireland international footballer Stephanie Roche make an appearance as Sodexo’s wellbeing ambassador. There will be massages provided, too, to help delegates relax after a day full of inspiring talks.

Sodexo at Inspirefest 2016

Julianne Forrestal, executive craft chef, with Ann O’Dea, founder of Inspirefest, and Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland. Photo via Silver Image

The food supplied for the Inspirefest lunchboxes – provided for all delegates – will include a range of healthy options from Irish family-owned businesses such as Keelings, Good4U and Sprout & Co.

15. The ResearchFest candidates will blow you away

ResearchFest is a new competition for the Fringe, where a selection of PhD students from across STEM subjects will compete for the top prize. The challenge for them is to get up in front of the audience and, in just three minutes, give a verbal presentation on their research project.

ResearchFest at Inspirefest 2016

Clockwise from left: Prof Arlene O’Neill, Trinity College Dublin; Prof Linda Doyle, Connect Centre; Prof Christine Loscher, DCU; Ann O’Dea, founder, Inspirefest. Photo via Conor McCabe Photography

The best communicator on the day will be crowned ResearchFest champion, and you can find out more about the eight chosen combatants here.

16. Two live theatre performances

The Inspirefest Fringe really puts the Arts in STEAM, bringing attendees the very best of music, exhibitions and theatre.

Theatre at Inspirefest 2016

Writer and actress Echo Brown

The theatre offering is strong this year, with Echo Brown bringing her critically-acclaimed solo show Black Virgins are Not for Hipsters to the stage on the Thursday evening, and Zoe Philpott delivering a powerful performance in Ada.Ada.Ada – an ode to Ada Lovelace – on Friday.

For more information on either of these shows, check out the complete Fringe schedule.

17. A soundtrack to beat the band

Music will be a big part of the Inspirefest Fringe on both the Thursday and Friday nights. Fresh from supporting Hozier as special guests on his sold-out UK tour, Wyvern Lingo will take the stage on the first night of the festival, marking the trio’s return to the Inspirefest Fringe after a great performance last year. To top that off, on Friday, legendary, award-winning Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan will close the event with a highly-anticipated set.

18. An expo you can interact with

There will be eight exhibitors showcasing their wonderful scientific work in an interactive tent at the Inspirefest Fringe. Highlights will include Ediphone, which records your voice and gives it a tailored ‘signature’ that then gets printed onto T-shirts.

Elsewhere, Accenture will showcase its ‘Women on Walls’ initiative, while Lero will use video as a medium to establish how well we view facial cues, and how to best manage traffic flows around accidents.

19. You can bring the whole family along

The final event on the Inspirefest 2016 calendar, the Family Fringe, takes place in Merrion Square Park on the morning of 2 July. This free event offers a range of activities for kids of all ages – and adults, too – from coding and hardware workshops to interactive exhibitions and games.

Family Fringe at Inspirefest 2015

Fun at the Family Fringe at Inspirefest 2015. Photo via Conor McCabe Photography

Leading science, maker and tech groups like CoderDojo, GameCraft, TOG and Dublin Maker will be providing plenty to spark visitors’ imaginations and, while there will be space for drop-ins, it is recommended that you register your family in advance if you have your eye on a particular workshop.

20. You can play your part in changing the ratio

Inspirefest started in 2015 with a mission to change the ratio in the sci-tech sector, and that mission continues. This means taking the standard 70-30 male-to-female breakdown of the sci-tech community and flipping it on its head.

There are roughly 70pc women speakers on-stage throughout the event, presenting keynotes and contributing to panel discussions, and this ratio was reflected in the 2015 audience. This isn’t about hosting an event for one-half of society, but ensuring that the voices of women are elevated in a traditionally male-dominated area. It’s a pro-active step towards inclusion, and everyone is welcome to join in the journey.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book your tickets now to join us from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.