The role of serendipity in science and technology innovation is well documented so a good social networking environment should encourage chance meetings and discussions.
This week I demonstrated Second Life at Innovations 2006, a UK Government initiative to publicise the Technology Strategy and the Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) set up to aid communication and networking in key technology fields such as Aerospace, BioProcess, Cyber Security, Location-based systems, Green Chemistry, Food Processing, Pollution Management, Sensors and Nanotechnology (to name but a few).
There were over 1000 attendees from all of the above fields with workshops in topics like Emerging Energy Technologies, Nanomedicine, Electronics and Photonics – you get the picture. I popped into only a few of the sessions but would have like to attend all of them! I am sure that there were many good ideas and future innovations generated by chance meetings at the event and certainly anyone with an interest in technology in the UK should join one or more of the KTNs. I’d encourage people to join several KTNs (its very easy once you’re signed up for one online to join another) – as many innovations nowadays are inter-disciplinary.
I am very glad that I heard the whole of John Ryan’s talk on Nanomedicine as he spoke about his work on the direct detection of protein conformation changes and how it could help lower the cost and time involved in drug discovery. Most remarkable is the fact that his work is sponsored by a Telecoms Company who sees the future potential of proteins in their industry (for future read 20+ years). In the meantime Professor Ryan’s work, which itself cuts across several academic disciplines, should lead to major improvements in drug discovery and design, especially those with a direct action on the nervous system.