The Global Innovation Project aims to explore how innovation / entrepreneurial ecosystems function in different locations across the world. The central aims are to map out demographics of entrepreneurship in different cities and countries globally, and to identify successful models for fostering innovation in a community.

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A Good Answer to a Bad Question: The Trouble with the Lean In Philosophy

Anyone who has spent enough time in conversation with me will know that the topic I’m most likely to get vocal on, is the subject of equality and diversity in the workplace. As a woman who has spent many years working at the cross-section between the financial services and technology, sitting in the centre of a Venn diagram of two very male-dominated industries, this a topic very close to my heart. Any good conversation on...

Celebrate the S-Bend: Attitudes to Innovation

One discovery I hadn’t expected to make as I explored the world’s startup ecosystems, was a wide variation in how people viewed innovation. After nearly three years in the Silicon Valley bubble, it was easy to imagine that innovation and startups are inextricably intertwined concepts, however as I travelled I found different attitudes to innovation, from the romantic to the pragmatic.

Bubbling Up: Culture in the Misfit Nation

When I was in high school, we carried out an incredibly dull experiment. The experiment consisted of counting how many tiny bubbles came off of water plants sitting in beakers of water. I don’t remember what we were supposed to learn from this (which tells you a lot about the quality of science education at my school), but it came to my mind today as I thought about the connection between culture and building successful...

Argentina: Human Capital seeks Smart Capital

Argentina is a country with a rollercoaster history; a spectacular series of dizzying highs and crashing lows, with endless political twists and turns. Despite being one of the world’s most successful economies in the early 20th Century, Argentines had a real flair for coups, with half a dozen military takeovers between 1930 and 1976. It wasn’t until 1989 that the country managed to return to calm political handovers between elected rulers. All of this political...

Hard Bargaining or Soft-Selling? Commercial Culture in Vietnam and Thailand

Many years ago, I celebrated my eighteenth birthday in Beijing. I was at the very beginning of a year spent as an English teacher in the distant North-Western province of Gansu. It was in the colourfully chaotic markets of China that I learned the art (and joy!) of haggling. Good haggling tactics were essential if you wanted to avoid staggering out of a market in a dazed state, carrying goods you had never wanted but...

Singapore: From Trade Centre to Innovation Centre?

When I arrived in Singapore, I had just finished reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In this iconic 1931 novel, Huxley imagines a hyper-controlled future which blurs the line between utopia and dystopia. For those if you who have visited Singapore, you might understand why this was so resonant. The city-state is perhaps the closest thing we have to a real manifestation of these utopian sci-fi imaginings, with its gigantic artificial ‘Supertrees’, ultra-modern shopping malls...

Fellowship in Far-Flung Places: ‘Knowmadic’ Culture in Bali

Solidarity. That was the watchword of February 14th at Green School, in between Ubud and Denpasar on the popular Indonesian island of Bali. For anyone who is not good with dates (and annually gets in trouble with their loved one), this was Valentine’s Day, but it also the date for the less well-known and more recently coined ‘VDay’, which celebrates women’s rights and protests against violence towards women and girls. It may seem a heavy...

Digitising Chaos in Jakarta: the Go-Jek Effect

It’s 9:30am and I’m supposed to be in a meeting. Instead I’m sitting in a stationary Uber, watching thousands of motorbikes, carrying everything from goods, to passengers, to portable children’s playparks, weave through the gaps between the trapped cars. This is Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. A vibrant, bustling city, crippled by its woefully inadequate transport infrastructure. There are no pavements, the metro system has been delayed until at least 2019, and the roads are in a...

The Soviet Legacy and its Impact on Innovation in Eastern Europe

As I flash my torch up the dark steps and make my way up to my apartment, I can’t help but think that the Soviet legacy is more evident here in Bucharest than in any of the other Eastern European cities I have visited so far. It is only 4:30pm, and it is still light outside (a happy realisation after months of traveling in more Northern places where the sun has set by now), but...

Driving Forces for Startup Ecosystems

As I have been travelling around the world trying to understand local innovation ecosystems, one of the most interesting things to uncover has been the driving forces behind the innovation movement in each particular city or country. What was the spark that ignited the entrepreneurial fire and who were the people fanning the flames?

The Russian Startup Ecosystem - An Overview

The Russian startup ecosystem has been slowly building over the past ten years, with a noticeable increase in activity in the past 3-4 years. The government has been a key driver in many areas of activity, and as befits the tendencies of the Russian government, many of the schemes have been grand and ambitious. The most notable of these is the Skolkovo project, which aims to build an entirely new ‘Innovation City’ just outside of...

Travel Tips: South Korea

It can be so confusing travelling to a new country and trying to make sense of all the basic practicalities that you take for granted at home. Here I’ve gathered together a list of practical tips for travelling in South Korea that I learned from my three weeks exploring the country. Expect to see more ‘Travel Tips’ posts as I continue my travels!

Building Environments for Innovation

“Special people are special everywhere,” Katia told me, as I interviewed her in a trendy office in a fashionable part of Moscow. This statement has been on my mind since then. Katia was talking about the ability for people to adapt to succeed in new markets and environments, but it stuck with me as a wider notion. As I have been travelling through different countries with different cultures and meeting people with different backgrounds, there...

Embracing Confusion in Russia

I have been in Russia for ten days now, and I have spent the majority of my time somewhere along the spectrum from mild to severe confusion. I spend so much time furrowing my brow and gritting my teeth that I have a persistent headache and nightmares about my teeth falling out. From restaurants, to art galleries, to office buildings, to banks, to train stations, I am bewildered. If you plan on visiting Russia my...

The South Korean Startup Ecosystem - An Overview

South Korea’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is still in its infant stages, with around a decade of targeted activity which has greatly increased in recent years. The government plays a very significant role in all aspects of the ecosystem, from funding to the establishment of support systems for startups. The system also receives support from the large ‘Chaebol’ organisations that dominate Korean markets (e.g. Samsung, LG, Lotte) as well as other large companies, such as networks of...

The Long Tail of Service Mistakes

In a slight diversion from my usual posts on travel and innovation, I want to tell you a story of the knock-on effects of seemingly small acts of poor service.

Tales from the Sea

I’m trying to work, but it’s difficult when the boat keeps pitching up and landing back down with a crash into the waves. I’ve found a spot by a window, and am trying to master the art of typing without looking down at the keyboard and the screen because it makes me nauseous. And so I try to type while staring resolutely out of the salt-smattered window at the grey waves and the dark mountain...

Innovation from Unexpected Sources

Too often we equate innovation with technology, but true innovation can come in any form. Today I spent an exhilarating day exploring the narrow twisting streets and winding staircases of Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, South Korea’s second largest city.

Becoming a Traveller

I am no stranger to travel. When I was just 18, I went to spend a year living in China, working as an English teacher. A few years later, during one long summer break from university, I spent 4 months working in an aquarium in San Francisco. I’ve been to India, Japan, Malaysia, and covered off a fair bit of Europe. However, while I have travelled, I have never before been a ‘traveller’.

Korea First Impressions

Arriving in Seoul, it’s hard to believe that South Korea isn’t a more popular tourist destination than it is, although I’m sure the tourism trade here will increase just as dramatically as the overall economic fortunes of this miraculous country. Incheon airport does a very efficient job of welcoming you to the country while you pass through its majestic souring architecture, reminiscent of the transport hub of some futuristic robot city.

The Failure Cult of Silicon Valley

I’ve lived and worked in Silicon Valley for nearly two years now, having been sent out by my British employer tasked with finding innovative solutions we could use in the company. It’s been a whirlwind two years, starting with a wide-eyed wonder and magpie-like attempts to see and do everything, and progressing to a more mature and selective way of dealing with this complex ecosystem.