x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

MIT brings quest for brightest into region

The Life: Technology Review 35, run by a magazine published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has recognised some of the world's most promising inventors and scientists since 1999. And now it is launching in the Arab region. Kathleen Kennedy, the magazine's chief strategy officer, explains why.

Kathleen Kennedy says there is a tremendous movement towards innovation in entrepreneurship in the region. Delores Johnson / The National
Kathleen Kennedy says there is a tremendous movement towards innovation in entrepreneurship in the region. Delores Johnson / The National

For more than a decade, the editors of Technology Review, which is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have honoured the most promising young inventors and researchers. This year, their search for the "TR35" will be conducted in the Arab world for the first time. Kathleen Kennedy, the magazine's chief strategy officer and president of the MIT Enterprise Forum, speaks about why the competition has been brought to this region.

Why is your list called TR35 Pan Arab?

I work for Technology Review, which is the oldest technology magazine in the world. It was founded in MIT in 1899. When Technology Review was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1999, we founded what at that time we called the TR100 [Technology Review 100], which is now the TR35. The TR35 ranked the top young innovators under the age of 35. We launched that in 1999, and in 2009, we decided to start doing it regionally, so we launched in India, with the TR35 India, and subsequently we have launched it all around the world.

Why here?

Well, a number of reasons. Number one: we think with the last year and a half, the Arab Spring and things that have been happening here, there is a tremendous movement towards innovation in entrepreneurship. And we really want to recognise that. Also, part of Technology Review is a group called the MIT Enterprise Forum. This is an entrepreneurial community that was founded at MIT about 35 years ago. We have 28 chapters all over the world, one of them being the pan-Arab region chapter.

What does this forum do?

[It] is about empowering entrepreneurs and fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem. We look specifically around technology and new technologies that are solving problems. We will have a panel of judges in the different areas we focus on: in IT, things on the Web, biosciences, biomedicine … the promise of the technology and what its impact will be.

What kind of technologies might this include?

To give you an example of some past winners, there was Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Generally, we recognise them far before people have heard of them. We recognised him in 2005 or 2006. Sergey Brin and Larry Page we recognised in 2002.

What kind of technologies do you think you will see here? There have been no such big ideas to come out of the Arab world yet.

We also have a lot of people who are not necessarily as notorious as Mark Zuckerberg, but we have recognised people who have serious technologies which have really made a difference. This year, one of the global TR35s was Paul Wicks, who is the head of a company called PatientsLikeMe. It is a website which helps people with specific diseases connect with each other. It's a very interesting website, and I think what we're going to see locally here are probably a lot of different Web technologies that are addressing specific things happening in this region.

gduncan@thenational.ae