Lit letters. UNLEASH
The UNLEASH Innovation Lab took place in Shenzhen, China from 6-13 November

UNLEASHing youth innovation to meet SDG challenges

NIRAS’s Pi Arnth Petersen joined other 35-and-unders at the annual UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Shenzhen, China, to brainstorm next generation solutions to enable positive change.

20. Nov 2019

Once a year, the UNLEASH Innovation Lab invites more than a thousand talented young people from around the world to a weeklong meeting. The goal? To collaborate on solutions to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and build lasting global networks among experts, entrepreneurs, and academics – all under the age of 35. Pi Arnth Petersen, a junior consultant and specialist in climate and water represented NIRAS at the event which took place from 6-13 November in Shenzhen, China, two years after its inaugural launch in Copenhagen.

Getting to learn from and meet people from all over the word with common interests, who are just as passionate as I am about creating positive impact – that was an incredible experience I will never forget!

Pi Arnth Petersen, Junior Consultant

Professor Flemming Besenbacher addresses the conference - Chairman of UNLEASH, Carlsberg, and the Carlsberg Foundation

To help organise and channel the creativity and ideas at the conference, participants broke off into teams based on their interest in specific SDGs. This year, the lab focussed on the themes of SDG3 – Good Health and Well Being; SDG4 – Quality Education; SDG6 – Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy; SDG9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG12 – Responsible Production and Consumption; and SDG13 – Climate Action. Over five days, the groups worked on solutions to intractable and complex problems, culminating in a pitch to their fellow participants, facilitators, and an expert panel. Pi had the opportunity to work on SDG6 with a motivated team comprised of talent from Botswana, China, India and the United States.

The goal of the lab is not just to bring young problem-solvers together but to support them in bringing their ideas to life. Every team was able to present their solutions at a daylong “marketplace”, helping them to hone their pitching skills and demonstrate that their solutions could really work. Investors were present to connect directly with the most exciting solutions. The more effective the pitch, the better the reward: one team was offered funding on the spot. Four teams even won prizes for being ‘Most Promising Partnership’, ‘Most Scalable Solution’, ‘Most Disruptive Technology’, or ‘Most Innovative’ – and several other exciting ideas had the chance pitch at a “Dragon’s Den” to a high-level expert panel.

The Innovation Lab concluded with a closing ceremony during which Nobel Peace Prize laureates Professor Muhammad Yunus and Leymah Gbowee spoke to the assembly. The headline speaker was UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who addressed the conference by video, bringing a powerful message to attendees that youth can play a tremendous role in reaching the SDGs by 2030 – especially when everybody’s creativity and ideas are harnessed. For many of the participants, the UNLEASH Innovation Lab was just the beginning. The event facilitated the launch of a few startups and nurtured ideas that could go on to change the world. And for Pi, it was an unforgettable week, surrounded by passionate people from around the world.