On Wednesday, Oct. 8, D-Lab founder and co-director Amy Smith joined Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Arunachalam Muruganantham, founder of Jayaashree Industries (best known for designing a revolutionary, low-cost machine for making affordable sanitary napkins in India); and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health on a panel addressing innovation.
The innovation session was the plenary panel for the Grand Challenges & Keystone Symposia Joint Scientific Session. The Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology convenes open, peer-reviewed conferences across a broad range of the life sciences. The Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Grand Challenges Canada.
A day prior to the panel, and in conjunction with an announcement of a new Grand Challenge, "Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development," Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates highlighted Smith’s work on Twitter. "Innovation doesn't always need to be high-tech, just ask Amy Smith," Gates tweeted, linking to a post on a Tumblr site, Empowering Women and Girls. The Tumblr post lauds Smith’s work “empowering entire communities in the developing world by working with them to create solutions to the challenges they face.”
Wednesday’s panel generated a flurry of memorable quotes that were quickly circulated on social media. "The process of innovation is as important as the product of innovation," stated Smith, and “Engaging women and girls in innovation will provide better solutions to the issues they face."
And Arunachalam Muruganantham had an important message for students everywhere: "Do not use your education to survive; use it to do something extraordinary."