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Wicked Problem Discussion with Turkish Delegates and Business Leaders Explores Technological Innovation

Monday, February 24, key UAB faculty members, Birmingham business leaders and innovators, and representatives from Hacettepe University and Hacettepe Technopolis in Ankara, Turkey, gathered at The Edge of Chaos to discuss a wicked problem: “Innovation Transformation: What does 2020 look like and how do we get there?” This ground-breaking collaboration was hosted by The Edge of Chaos and Innovation Depot with the intention of bringing together important voices in technology across international borders to both discuss and plan the future of technological innovation.

Hacettepe University is a major state university in Ankara, Turkey, and it was this leading institution of learning which gave birth to Hacettepe Technopolis in 2002. Since its inception, Hacettepe Technopolis’ mission has been to foster an environment in which technological innovation can thrive. Hacettepe Technopolis currently is home to 98 corporations, which collectively employ 706 people, 580 of whom are involved primarily in technological research and development. As these corporations pursue technological innovation on a multitude of fronts, including pharmacology, computer software, and medical device development, Hacettepe University collaborates with them and provides technological support.

The relationship between Hacettepe University and Hacettepe Technopolis bears many similarities to the relationship between UAB and Innovation Depot. Innovation Depot is a business incubation facility and program that focuses on the development of emerging biotechnology/life science, information technology, and service businesses, in a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Innovation Depot currently hosts 90 small businesses that employ over 500 workers; its recent sales and earnings impact topped $1 billion.

Hacettepe has served as host to delegates from UAB twice before, and February 2014 provided a unique opportunity not only to return the favor, but also to generate and benefit from interactive discussion and idea-sharing. UAB Provost Dr. Linda Lucas orchestrated the cooperative visit of the Hacettepe delegates, with the assistance of Vice Provost Dr. Suzanne Austin; Dr. Tim Townes, the Chairman of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Dr. Linda Moneyham, Senior Associate Dean in the School of Nursing; Dr. Harold Jones, Dean of the School of Health Professions, and Dr. Max Michael, Dean of the School of Public Health.

The collision of minds with a variety of experiences and educational backgrounds is a key component to creating innovation; Hacettepe’s realization of this concept is one reason why The Edge of Chaos, in conjunction with Innovation Depot, invited the visiting delegates from Hacettepe to take part in a Wicked Problem Discussion at The Edge of Chaos at UAB.

The discussion was spearheaded by Dr. Max Michael, Dean of the School of Public Health, whose belief in the power of near-chaotic interactions to spur transformative change gave rise to The Edge of Chaos 18 months ago. Devon Laney, CEO of Innovation Depot, presented an analysis of technological innovation taking place in the greater Birmingham area, and representatives from Hacettepe offered a presentation on recent developments in the Technopolis.

Also present in the discussion were: Dr. Art Tipton, President and CEO of the Southern Research Institute; Dr. Lee Moradi, Director of Research Engineering at the UAB Center for Biophysical Sciences; Mark Brown of the Birmingham Business Alliance; Dr. Dennis Leonard, the Business Development Consultant for the Office of the Vice President of Research and Economic Development at UAB; Vice Provost Dr. Suzanne Austin; Dr. Tim Townes, and The Edge of Chaos’ Director of Innovation, David Hooks, as well as several other notable UAB academics and representatives of local businesses.

Participants were encouraged by facilitators from Clarus Consulting Group to conceptualize the possibilities for technological growth and innovation over the next 6 years, and the discussion yielded a broad range of ideas and concepts.

The discussion also yielded some concrete steps for the future, including movement toward further collaboration, not only with Hacettepe Technopolis on a global scale, but between local innovators as well. Director of Innovation David Hooks commented, “Each innovation begins with a collision of minds or ideas; each large advance begins with a formative step. When 2020 does arrive, it seems likely that it will carry with it some remarkable initiatives that were first launched on a cold February morning 2014, in a place called The Edge of Chaos.”

Daivd Hooks, Director of Innovation at The Edge of Chaos, welcomes guests to The Edge of Chaos for a wicked problem discussion on the topic: "Innovation Transformation: What Does 2020 Look Like and How do we get there?" 

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