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Local Collaboration Fosters Global Innovation

Local Collaboration Fosters Global Innovation

Students from RISD and neighboring Brown University worked together again this year to hostA Better World by Design, an annual conference aimed at addressing sustainable solutions to complex social issues such as food, health care and the built environment in the developing world.

Now in its fourth year, the student-led conference spanned three days and nine campus venues, and brought together speakers from technology (IBM, Google, Autodesk); design (IDEO, frog design) and academia (RISD, Brown and others), as well as health care (Mayo Clinic), media (The New York Times) and local and global NGOs to build networks and exchange ideas.

Workshops and tours included Providence landmarks such asThe Steel Yard, a vibrant arts community and technical training center founded byNick Bauta 99 SC. Developer John Jacobson 94 PH, president of JTJ Investments, also took participants on a tour of 28 Wolcott. Once an abandoned jewelry factory, it is now a model of energy-efficient building development.

Architecture and design featured prominently throughout the weekend in talks by RISD Architecture professorsSilvia Acosta on socially engaged architecture,Peter Yeadon on zero-energy architecture and Anastasia Congdon on urban access to food. Alumni Dawn Danby 00 ID and Craig Provost 99 ID led discussions on how to put sustainable design strategies into practice.

The weekend kicked off with a keynote address fromSenator Jack Reed (RI-D), RISD PresidentJohn Maeda and Brown Dean of Engineering Lawrence Larson.

“This event affirms my belief that art and design are poised to transform the world,” said Maeda. “The collisions that happen here are seeds for future innovation.” He went on to applaud the characteristics of designers that make them great innovators – risk-taking, scrappiness, agility and a willingness to get their hands dirty. “We’re told that innovation comes from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math),” he said, “but adding Art [to make STEAM] makes a world of difference.”

Larson, Brown’s newly appointed first dean of Engineering, couldn’t agree more as he seeks to foster further collaboration between Brown and RISD. “The best engineers are a combination of artist and scientist,” he said. “The reason the world is a better place is because of design. It can change the world.”

Although Senator Reed could not be physically present at the event, in his taped remarks he, too, commended the collaboration between Brown and RISD, and the two institutions’ “creative, forward-thinking minds working together… Brown and RISD continue to grow innovative ideas and attract business to Rhode Island.”