Dr Ferguson addressed more than 250 participants, as well as a large on-line audience, at the Middle East’s first-ever TEDxWWF conference that was organized on 21 May by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF) in Abu Dhabi. Several students from Masdar Institute and youth from the wider community attended the non-profit event, themed ‘One Planet Living.’ This was the third annual conference in the TEDxWWF series, which is designed to encourage the exchange of innovative and sustainable ideas in the global community.
Dr Ferguson said: “Unless we innovate, in the long run everything we care about will disappear, even the modern world around us. To protect the environment for the future, we must innovate today. But, innovation is messy, inefficient and unpredictable. So, we need to be careful about imposing constraints on innovation because good ideas need shelter in their early stages.”
“In addition, more than technological innovation is needed. One billion people need to be supplied electricity, and the solutions primarily require political and social innovation. We need to find new ways to secure food, water and energy for people around the world, while protecting other living things as much as possible.”
Dr. Ferguson pointed out that the laws and regulations, guidelines and permits, review boards and best practices that make the world cleaner, safer and more predictable, often have the unintended consequence of slowing down necessary change. He emphasized that the ‘innovation ecosystem’ of rules and stakeholders needs to be adjusted to help speed innovation in government and all sectors of the economy. Citing the example of the US, where many laws are waived for small companies, he called for the creation of new “innovation safe harbors” around the world in which many laws and regulations would be waived for innovative enterprises.
Dr. Ferguson noted that the need for innovation is urgent and added: “There is a balance to be struck between preserving what we have today and ensuring a better tomorrow. Let’s improve our innovation ecosystem in order to innovate faster and increase the sustainability of all the things we care about. Let us innovate in a respectful manner, with careful attention to preserving that which makes life worth living, but let us innovate, and quickly. For, if we don’t build a better future, then we may regret the past.”
At Masdar Institute, Dr Ferguson dedicates his research and teaching in the fields of entrepreneurship, technology management and the ‘innovation ecosystem’.
Dr Ferguson is the co-founder and former COO of Orbital Sciences Corporation, an industry leader in small- and medium-class space and rocket systems, and a co-founder and former CEO of Edenspace Systems Corporation, a crop technology company. He was an attorney in the corporate and securities department of the Chicago law firm of Kirkland & Ellis.
In addition, Dr. Ferguson is a Trustee of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a former Fellow at the George Washington University Center for International Science and Technology Policy. He received his Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Harvard University.
Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.
Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.
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