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Open Innovation Panel – Shaping the Sustainable Future

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What an inspiring and insightful discussion we had on the 18th of September at Google Isar Valley, who welcomed us for the Open Innovation Panel! With fully committed panelists, a driven and highly engaged audience and a welcoming venue, we were off to a good start for a fantastic evening.

Almost 100 people were inspired to help shape a more sustainable future. After a short presentation about LILab and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), six professionals came on stage to share their views on innovation and sustainability. They were all so driven and passionate about the topic that we all felt motivated to act now!

Our six panelists covered a wide variety of topics and contexts:

  • Hila Cohen is the head of Business Development at the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator, which empowers startups and humanitarian innovators to end hunger and partner to tackle a number of related SDGs.
  • Ophelie Gourdou is a founder of Cairn Consulting where she guides brands and producers into sustainable packaging solutions.
  • Katherine Lopez Rodriguez is an international environmentalist and artist; focused on creating awareness and educating people about a sustainable lifestyle.
  • Benjamin Groschel is the co-founder of the Münchner Kaffeerösterei where, together with his colleagues, they focus on creating value for farmers through technology.
  • Hector Ramírez Molina is an energy efficiency expert currently pursuing a Ph.D. to successfully integrate renewable energy to the current Swiss energy transition.
  • Robert Schrimpff is the founder of Solar for Schools but also a serial sustainable entrepreneur who has co-founded inter allia, Lumicity, and

“Change needs to happen and we must create the spaces where synergies, awareness, discussions and collaboration can be developed.”

We got inspired, empowered and challenged in how to use innovation as a driver of change to shape a more sustainable future! Even though many different thoughts were shared; the vast majority of them highlighted the fact that we can all be drivers of change, and that it is our responsibility to spread the word and act.

A quick recap of the thoughts shared during the evening:

  • “The Sustainable Development Goals are all interconnected, and if we are changing we need the world, we need to change it for everyone” Hector R.
  • “We need to understand how to scale sustainable innovations” Benjamin G.
  • “Awareness is the key to making innovation sustainable.” Katherine L.
  • “Education about sustainability is key into understanding the problems we face and how to solve them.” Robert S.
  • “Human-centered design can help to understand the needs of people, and provide innovations based on their own reality that will solve those needs” Hila C.
  • “Even if the issue is complex and must be tackled at different levels (governments, companies, NGOs, research, individuals…), everyone can initiate a change.” Ophelie G.
  • “We need to change agriculture to a more sustainable process: “Soil revolution.” Robert S.
  • “We need to gain sensitivity to understand the realities of places to provide innovations that really solve their needs.” Hila C.
  • “If we are in denial, even with rational arguments, it’s difficult to convince people.” Katherine L.
  • “Empathy is needed to change the world” Hector R.

How can we shape the sustainable future in 5 steps

1. Raise awareness.

2. Educate ourselves and others about sustainability topics.

3. Create enterprises and ideas that have sustainability as a core value.

4. Change our consumption habits to support companies that do good for the planet.

5. Become more active in demanding the governments to support more sustainable policies

We need to finance and support sustainable innovations and educate ourselves about the carbon footprint of our buying habits.

The panelists showed us we have the power in our hands. As consumers, we can first change our way of consuming, so that we can exert change within companies and demand politicians change their behaviors. Whoever we are, we can have an impact, since every sector of our society needs to change.

Changing our consumption has a cost – the panelists were very clear about this! However, the price we will have to pay in the future if we don’t take action will be much higher. Some of our panelists who work with children are convinced change is coming from the younger generation, and that they are the ones actually convincing their parents to be better. But changing habits is not an easy task, and people often wonder how they could even be happy this way.

Empathy is needed in creating the future Innovations that can change the world!

In innovation and sustainability, empathy seems to be at the center. If we use empathy as a tool to build understanding and create meaning, we will start coming up with ideas that are viable, scalable AND sustainable.

To sum it up, sustainable innovation requires motivated entrepreneurs ready to make an impact and act for the future, even if the price seems high right now. It also needs also voices, from every industry and from every consumer to muster influence in a massive number. And, last but not least, it requires empathy to understand and allocate enough resources and power to the actual stakeholders. As a transversal component, user-centricity to needs to be at the forefront, in order to that innovation relevant to people.

Shaping the Sustainable Future is our responsibility!

📣Get out of our comfort zone
♥️Feel empathy
📗Educate yourself
🔍Take new perspectives
🔉Have the difficult conversations
🎤Speak loud and clear that change is needed and we can’t wait!
💪Act now!!!!

Don’t forget to join us on Meetup, FB or Instagram to stay up to day about all our upcoming Labs & events…

Hila Cohen is the Head of Business Development at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator in Munich, Germany. The Innovation Accelerator’s aim is to enable disruptive innovations to reach a world without hunger. The Accelerator supports entrepreneurs and startups working towards ending hunger and partnering to tackle related SDGs by applying a human-centered design and a lean startup approach.

Hila worked in WFP for 3.5 years before joining the Innovation Accelerator. Beforehand, she worked for 4 years as a corporate tech lawyer in a leading firm in Tel Aviv. She holds an MBA from the SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) and a Bachelor’s in Law from the University of Haifa (Israel). She has an avid interest in the latest developments and trends in the technology realm.
Contact: Website Twitter Email

Robert Schrimpff is the Co-founder & CEO Solar Options for Schools Ltd
Prior to setting up Solar for Schools Robert led investments in renewable energy companies for 8 years first at TVM Capital in Germany and then at Greencoat Capital where he focused on solar. He co-founded Lumicity, a successful UK-based renewable project developer and led the investment in TenKsolar, who he claims manufacture the best solar PV systems for flat roofs. Previously Robert set up a number of Internet businesses including and, a leading web development agency focused on helping membership organisations and charities leverage the Internet to be more efficient. He firmly believes that solar on roofs is the most sensible first big sustainable step to shedding our dependence on fossil fuels and wants to combine his experience in Internet business models, solar power and renewable energy finance to accelerate the adoption of solar on UK roofs. Robert holds an MBA from INSEAD, where he co-founded the INSEAD Energy Network and an Aeronautical Engineering Masters from Imperial College in London.

Contact: Email Website Facebook: /solar4schools and Twitter:@solar_4schools

Katherine Lopez Rodriguez is an international environmentalist and artist. She has worked on global projects in America, Africa and Europe within multiple organizations including the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Chair of Forest Growth and Yield Science at TUM, Sierra Club Canada, Maison Tucker House, among others. She holds Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and a Masters of Science degree in Sustainable Resource Management at the TUM. Her expertise encompasses various topics including climate change, sustainable agriculture, renewable energies, and sustainable consumption, among others. She currently works at Solar für Kinder in the marketing and communications department. In the artistical field, she has an Associate of Arts degree in Theatre from Pasadena City College L.A, California. She has performed in theatre, TV, and short-films. Her work and passion are focused on creating awareness and educating people about sustainable lifestyles through the arts and media.

Email and Website

Benjamin Gröschel is an experienced sales engineer who has turned his passion for a good cup of coffee into a profession. As a mechanical engineer he studied in Erlangen (DE) and Princeton (USA) and learned in his early professional live as a branch leader a lot about international supply chains.
As a co-founder of the @muenchnerkaffeeroesterei he is fascinated by the unique effect of two cups of coffee between two people and is tackling a very traditional market with innovative ideas. He and his team are striving to create value for all participants in the coffee supply chain – from farmer to consumer – by using state of the art technologies.

Héctor Ramirez is an energy efficiency expert who has worked for the industrial, commercial and public sectors in Central America and Europe. In 2015, Héctor supported Ad Astra Rocket Company – a high-tech aerospace company – within its renewable-based hydrogen venture. This innovative project is one of the first of its kind in Latin America and it aims to build a carbon-free solution to substitute fossil fuels.

For Ad Astra, he designed and implemented a techno-economic analysis of the potential of renewable energies in the Costa Rican transport sector, with an emphasis on hydrogen production from solar and wind energy sources. This project aims to contribute actively to Costa Rica’s efforts to become a carbon-free economy in 2050.

Currently, Héctor is a PhD candidate in Energy Economics at the University of Basel in Switzerland. His research focuses on modelling different scenarios of deployment of energy storage technologies into the Swiss energy system in order to understand the mechanisms and policies needed to foster the successful integration of renewable energies in the context of the ongoing energy transition in Switzerland, contributing to a better future for future generations.

Contact: Email and LinkedIn

Ophelie Gourdou has over 20 years’ experience in the Food Industry. She was managing R&D Teams in Packaging, New Product Development and Innovation at Mondelez International (former Kraft Foods), one of the biggest global food companies, where she has developed sustainability strategies for European brands.

She is a strong advocate of integrating sustainable choices into her life, both personal and professional. In 2018, she created Cairn Consulting to guide Brand owners and packaging producers towards sustainable packaging solutions, from specific advice to detailed strategy mapping. She is also involved in a social project called Eco-Schools, to educate the youngest in sustainable development.

She holds an EMBA in Sustainability and CSR from EM Strasbourg, France and is an Engineer in Food Sciences.

Contact: Email and Website

Get to know our host!

We want to thank the Google Isar Valley team for hosting us.

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