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An innovation lab takes flight at 30,000 feet

Posting in Education

British Airways is hosting what it says will be an 11-hour hack at 30,000 feet to solve the issue of companies and governments finding workers skilled in sciences

We're all about to learn the result of a social experiment that puts 100 of Silicon Valley's brightest minds on an 11-hour flight and asks them to solve an emerging world problem.

British Airways announced that it is partnering with the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union and a think tank called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) on the "UnGrounded" initiative. UnGrounded seeks to address the asymmetry between where the opportunities are and where engineering, science and technology talent actually lives.

The program's ultimate goal is to help people realize their potentials - that and locating qualified employees for tech companies and civil organizations. There's talented, educated populations of people dispersed all over the world, and many western nations, including the United States, are lagging behind in skilled labor.

"Our understanding is that the talent crunch is a real issue for companies and organizations in major tech hubs around the world," said Amir Dossal, chairman, Global Partnerships Forum, and special representative of the Secretary-General of ITU, United Nations. "We need to give people the opportunity to discover and be discovered, to grow skills, provide experience and uncover new ideas globally."

A cadre of academics, CEOs, start-ups founders and venture capitalists will take off from San Francisco and fly to London to present their collective solutions at the ISD's forthcoming Decide Now Act (DNA) Summit some time this summer. Last year's inaugural summit coincided with the London Olympics and sought solutions for varied global issues through the application of "creativity and commerce" (and doling out awards to celebs).

Some of this year's confirmed participants include:

  • Todd Lutwak of Andreessen Horowitz
  • Leor Stern of Google
  • Celestine Johnson of Innovation Endeavors
  • Duncan Logan of RocketSpace
  • Gerald Brady of Silicon Valley Bank
  • Marguerite Gong Hancock of SPRIE, Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Rhonda Abrams of The Planning Shop

Those of us who didn't receive our "golden tickets" to board the flight can still contribute ideas through the project Web site, track the flight's progress, and see more participants' names as they are announced.

UnGrounded is part of a broader British Airways initiative through the RocketSpace Corporate Innovation Program, which connects Bay area start-ups with larger businesses (as BA connects tech clusters aloft).

(image credit: Wikipedia Commons)

— By on March 20, 2013, 1:39 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure