The crew at 1313 Innovation and Digital-Vikings had a challenge: In just 82 days, create a two-day conference headlined by innovators in medicine, education, and technology, and punctuate the event with demos and entertainment fitting for an inaugural splash.
Tech2Gether was the first conference of it kind – a celebration of Delaware area innovators in some of the state’s most active industries and the chance to showcase and recruit related talent.
“We had to execute fast,” said Greg Shelton of Digital-Vikings, a digital solutions company housed in the collaborative workspace at 1313 Innovation. “I think it went very well.”
Shelton worked closely with both Megan Anthony, community manager, and Ryan Harrington, education coordinator at 1313 Innovation to execute the vision of Paul McConnell of McConnell Johnson Real Estate Company (and founder of 1313 Innovation). He wanted to celebrate the rebirth of the city of Wilmington by bringing together the movers and shakers of some of the area’s largest industry sectors.
Attended by more than 300, the first day included simultaneous presentations from a roster of innovators in medicine and education at the Hercules Building; the second day featured speakers in the tech industry who took the stage at the World Café Live at the Queen.
“We wanted a huge emphasis on celebrating the successes in Delaware, so we wanted to find people who have done some amazing things,” said Harringtion.
Those amazing things included topics that ranged from Technology Integration for the Digital Generation, Providing Opportunity through Technology Training; and a discussion of STEM Education in Delaware.
While the topics aren’t necessarily new, the initiatives that drive them are.
Developing Leaders in Education was a presentation by members of Education Pioneers, a national nonprofit organization that strategically provides school districts, charter school organizations, education agencies and nonprofits with talented people they need to help plan and administer their vision.
Innovations in Medicine included topics that ranged from the Landscape of Medical Innovations to the future of Healthcare as well as technologies like Wearable Tech in Healthcare, daVinci Robotic Surgery and the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton.
Dr. Tariq Rahman of Nemours Pediatric Engineering Research Lab gave an overview of the WREX, a state-of-the-art, a lightweight exoskeleton that offers movement for children with upper muscular weakness from diseases like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. Attached to wheelchairs or as part of a body brace, the system offers a wide range of controlled arm movement where there was none.
Components for the WREX are produced by an in-house 3D printer.
“It’s absolutely amazing that we have that in Delaware,” said Harringtion. “These are the thought leaders and game changers.”
World Café Live at the Queen provided a larger forum for the Innovations in Technology focus, where speakers included Christopher Wink from Technical.ly who talked about Innovation Hubs in our Communities, the Future of Fashion Technology by David Freschman, Investing in Future Innovations from Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital, Venture Capital in Delaware from Jeff Davidson of Leading Edge Ventures and Cloud and Big Data by Raj Lakshumanan.
The event was not limited to speakers; it also showcased art-based innovations from Frank’s Kitchen, the Philadelphia-based artistic design and fabrication collaborative group that featured glass blowing and custom welding. “They produce experience,” said Harringtion.
But according to Shelton, the event’s success wasn’t measured by the number of attendees, but by the collective effort of Delaware business leaders who caught the vision and either lent support in sponsorship or contacts for innovative speakers.
“The secondary goal is to help re-invigorate Wilmington,” said Harringtion, who added that plans are underway to host a second conference next year. While the focus will probably continue to be innovation, the team may highlight additional industries.
“We got so lucky, we had such a great team behind us,” said Anthony.