By Eimear Dodd Journalism MA student, @TheCity_Dublin editor, @Irish_TechNews

FutureScope 2017 brought 1,200 entrepreneurs, innovators and investors together in the Convention Centre in Dublin. The day’s theme was ‘current trends and future insights’ with a focus on AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and FinTech.

Organised by Dublin Business Innovation Centre (BIC), the event was an opportunity to network and hear perspectives from figures within Ireland’s entrepreneurial and tech communities. And as an added bonus, the sun was shining down on Dublin’s docklands.

With three stages spread over two levels, advance planning was a must to get the most from the day. Decisions had to be made between the keynote addresses, pitch battles and panel discussions.

Mark Little, entrepreneur, journalist and founder of Storyful, gave the opening address. He discussed why innovators need to be aware that not everyone welcomes change. He argued that the current model has a side effect that has caused the erosion of trust in journalism and other institutions. The result is a “collapse in trust of the social capital that keeps us together.” He closed by calling for a new business model that prioritises a deep relationship with the consumer.

 

The presentations on the Insight stage were grouped into four themes. First up was ‘the Connected World’ which looked at opportunities in IoT. Chris Penrose of AT&T gave the keynote address in this segment. He spoke about how businesses will be transformed by the use of sensors that allow for predictive problem-solving. But, he also highlighted the challenges of IoT around security of data and devices. Emma Reid of Microsoft also spoke about the transformative potential of IoT. She also discussed the living lab collaboration that has turned Croke Park into a smart stadium.

AI and the maturing FinTech landscape were the next two themes of the talks on the Insight stage with speakers from Paddy Power Betfair, Circle, Bank of Ireland and Mastercard.

What about the other stages? The Collaboration Stage featured panels on innovation, smart tech and start up funding. It also hosted the final of the FutureScope One2Watch 2017 competition to find Ireland’s most scalable business idea. The four finalists competed in a pitch battle.

The winner was medical device startup, ProVerum. Their prize included a slot on the Insights stage, a desk for three months at the Guinness Enterprise Centre, consultancy with a Dublin BIC investment preparation specialist and €2,000 in prize money.

Several offstage panel discussions ran in three meeting rooms on the same floor. The rooms might have been too small for the demand to hear about fake news, FinTech, MedTech, AI and the future of work.

The scaling up panel brought together professional advisors and entrepreneurs to discuss whether to scale a business or sell. One key takeaway from the debate was the importance of talent and making good hiring decisions.

Talent and skills were also a focus of the Brexit: what it means for Irish Tech panel. Uncertainty may make it harder to plan but that’s no reason for businesses not to prepare for the implications of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This includes keeping employees informed of developments even if there is no new information to share. Anne Lanigan from Enterprise Ireland outlined how they have devised a SME scorecard to prompt businesses to think more about Brexit. The scorecard is available at prepareforbrexit.ie

John McGrane of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce described this time as “our TK Whitaker moment”. The uncertainty could become a catalyst for structural reforms within Ireland that benefit citizens and business in urban and rural communities. While acknowledging that Brexit will be difficult, the panel were optimistic about Ireland’s prospects and hoped that Brexit could be a defining moment for the county.

The final segment on the Insights Stage looked at RABBITS (Real Actual Business Building Interesting Tech) and unicorn tech companies. Colm Lyon of Fire gave the keynote address before participating in a panel discussion with Dan Crowley of GMI and John Hearne of Curam. They discussed the challenges and opportunities of running tech businesses that create value for shareholders, employees and the community.

As the day drew to a finish, there were more networking opportunities. There was also a promise to be back next year to share more knowledge, experience and insights.


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