19. Innovation technology and academics | Julie Lenzer, the Chief Innovation Officer of the University of Maryland discusses the impact of academic research in tech development




Julie Lenzer, Doug Foulkes & Claire Haidar discuss the intersections of technology, academics, and the intricacies of protectable IP and technology transfers.


Julie Lenzer with red lipstick, brown hair and a red jacket

Julie Lenzer has held every role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – from successful entrepreneur, policy advisor, funder, ecosystem builder and investor. She is currently the Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Maryland. In this role, she is charged with fostering and deploying innovation to drive greater economic and social impact from faculty, students, and alumni endeavors. Her portfolio includes UM Ventures which is the tech transfer office, the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Maryland International Incubator (MI2), TechPort (an incubator in rural Maryland), the Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center (MAVRIC), as well as university engagement with the Discovery District (UMD’s research park).



[00:00:00] – Julie Lenzer
I didn’t want the cure for cancer to die in someone’s lab somewhere, and it’s I could see how easily it would happen. One of the things I’ve always been fascinated with is that a true entrepreneur builds something that’s bigger than themselves.

[00:00:21] – Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, you’ve guessed it, the future of work. It’s brought to you by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and Rocket Fuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behavior specialists who use technology to help us humans on our digital journey from disruption to transformation. I’m Doug Foulkes and along with WNDYR CEO, Claire Haidar. We regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future.

This week we caught up with University of Maryland’s chief innovation officer, Julie Lenzer, and we’ll find out exactly what an innovation officer is shortly. Judy’s fascinating role is charged with fostering and deploying innovation to drive greater economic and social impact from the university’s faculty, the students, and alumni. Two of the main areas she works in are protectable IP and technology transfer. Prior to joining the university, Julie was appointed to lead the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the U.S. Department of Commerce. She’s also an award winning serial entrepreneur, sought after keynote speaker, and author.

[00:01:31] – Claire Haidar
Julie, you have possibly one of the most fascinating career intersections. Like, when I think of your career. It’s a Venn Diagram that comes up into my mind. And the different things that are intersecting there is, a combination of academia, technology transfer, and startups. But one of those things that kind of differentiates those startups is very much startups that have protectable IP at their core. Talk to us a little bit about how you got here and whether you very deliberately crafted this intersection.

[00:02:13] – Julie Lenzer
I wish I could take credit for being so smart when in reality my career has been incredibly serendipitous. And one of the things that I always say is that I always follow the thread and that’s what’s brought me here. So I’m a geek by background. I have a degree in computer science. I built a software company and then cashed out of that in 2005. And so I came to this as an accidental entrepreneur, honestly, and I kind of feel like my whole career has been that way. We did develop software. We had a large Fortune 100 client who paid us to develop it, and then we retain the ownership for it, which was a great, great business model, believe me.

So I had IP, it was protectable. And then I got recruited to start teaching a class for mid career women to help them start companies off of intellectual property. And prior to that, I had no interest or no exposure into technology transfer. And so it was back in 2005 when I started digging in to try and teach these women to start companies.

[00:03:21] – Doug Foulkes
Julie, I’d like to say hello and welcome. Very nice to meet you. I’d like you to imagine I know nothing about protectable IP and I can’t spell technology transfer. And can you just explain what it is to me, please?

[00:03:38] – Julie Lenzer
Sure. And trust me, that’s where I started. I always used to tell my students who were way smarter than I was. I said, well, you need to tell it to me. What would Julie understand? So intellectual property comes in many forms. And in fact, I would bet that anybody who’s ever written anything didn’t know that they actually hold intellectual property because anything that you write has a copyright to it in the United States.

And so it can be as much of—you hear “intellectual property” and you think it’s a patent, which is—we have the USPTO that if you have something that’s novel enough, that’s different enough and that they can protect it with a patent, which essentially gives you a 17 plus year monopoly on the ability to practice that or to develop or to deliver that product in the way that you described.

But you know, and what the whole form of technology transfer was created because our federal government in the U.S. spends I think this last year, the president put 131 billion dollars into his budget for research and development (R&D). And back in the 80s, there was a law passed called the Bayh–Dole act that said that we should try and get something out of this this research. More than just the research. We should try and—universities can now, if universities get money from the federal government to do research, we now can own whatever intellectual property comes out of it and we should try and market it.

And so it’s a way to get more out of our research and development dollars by turning these ideas actually into products and getting them out into the market.

[00:05:15] – Claire Haidar
Doug, just before you move on to your next one, Julie, I specifically wanted us to weave that into the conversation because I can distinctly remember I mean, these are terms that are very familiar to me now. But going back to 2009 when you led that program that I was selected to be a part of, along with the other 11 women who was selected to be on it, that was my first ever time to the U.S. And I remember sitting in some of those classes with you and the other instructors and trainers that you guys had built into that program to work with us. And it was such a foreign system to me and to what I’d grown up with as the norm in South Africa. And even then, that program propelled me into a life in Europe and even in Europe, there’s shades of technology transfer, but it definitely is not at the level of sophistication and scale that it’s happening in the US. And that’s why it’s such an incredible system that is backed up by federal funding.

[00:06:25] – Julie Lenzer
It was something that I had never been familiar with either. And yet, we’ve been doing research and development at universities and at federal labs for decades. And so it was a new concept to me.

[00:06:36] – Doug Foulkes
Julie, your title is Chief Innovation Officer, which sounds amazing. What do you get up to on a daily basis?

[00:06:42] – Julie Lenzer
I was brought into the University of Maryland, essentially, to unleash innovation. And we have great ideas coming out of our research. We’ve got students that have great ideas. And so I was there to reduce the friction that it takes to help them take a good idea and to get it out into the marketplace and then also to reduce the friction of bringing in external partners in to collaborate with our students and our faculty and our alumni. And so I’m really just a great big connector, an enabler.

In my portfolio, I have our tech transfer office. I have our statewide small business development center. I’ve got an autonomous like a drone incubator. And we also have a research park where we’ve got about 6800 people come to work every day. So the weather, when you get your weather forecast from NOAA with the U.S. government, that comes out of our research park because that’s where they do that. So it’s a great variety of tasks that I have. And I think that’s what makes it so engaging for me.

[00:07:41] – Claire Haidar
I love that your title is Chief Innovation Officer and you’re taking all of these things. But you said something very interesting there now. And I just kind of want to segway into that a little bit. Your job is about removing the friction. Can you break down for us what some of those recurring friction points are that you’re persistently breaking down?

[00:08:02] – Julie Lenzer
Sure. So this is my first foray into academia, and I’ve been here for four years. And prior to that, I was in the federal government. And so, talk about two places that are known for their bureaucracy and just being difficult places to navigate. And of course, every time I get frustrated, somebody looks at me and says, “if it was easy, anybody could do it.” OK, true.

But the cultural—I think what’s really been interesting at the university particularly is—and I usually when I talk about this to audiences, especially if they’re in academia, they totally get this image—it’s three big mean dogs fighting over one toy because there’s just a lot of things in conflict. So on the one hand, we are atop an R1 research institution. And so research integrity is really important, which means that the integrity of your results have to be unquestionable, which makes total sense, right? Because then you’re a trusted research partner. We’re also funded by the state, so we are taxpayer funded. So we have to have a lot of transparency and everything has to be up above board and we have to make sure that we’re doing the best on behalf of our taxpayers. And the third little piece of that is that the way that our intellectual property laws are structured, the way our system is structured, is that by taking intellectual property and creating a company out of it, a researcher who has created something really fantastic that he or she could actually make money off of that invention. And so we’re creating in some ways, private wealth.

And so all three of those things can often be in conflict. And so having to deal with the conflict of interest, both institutionally and individually, has been really challenging. And then, you know, there’s new—as we start to look at like companies, we do a lot of work with companies like Google or the Gates Foundation. And their objective or their perspective is that we should just release everything that you create, should be released to the public domain or sent software out into open source, which is great, but then our model of “how do you monetize that,” puts that a little bit on its ear. And so we’re having to pivot and really rethink about what does this mean, what’s our real objective?

And so at the University of Maryland, we are known as the Terrapins, which is a turtle, a big turtle. It’s actually Terrapins—I shouldn’t call it a turtle. And we used to do the “Fear the Turtle” was one of our big things, which is kind of tongue-in-cheek. So we started this campaign called Fearless Ideas about getting people thinking about really cool ideas. Well, my job is to activate those fearless ideas for transformational impact.

[00:10:44] – Claire Haidar
Julie, I want to zero in on academic research itself. Do you believe that academic research is a critical component to the long term competitive advantage of any country?

[00:10:58] – Julie Lenzer
Absolutely. I think it’s crucial. If you look at increasingly, other countries are making bigger and broader investments in research than the U.S. and I’ll use China as an example. They’re very different. They’re not a capitalistic society. So the government actually runs and owns everything, but they’re putting a lot of money into really disruptive leading edge technologies. And what that does as a country is it’s building on—it used to be that our value was all in our manufacturing or in our farming and things like that. And as the industrial age has come along now, the pace of change has just skyrocketed.

And so staying ahead of the technological curve and coming up with these new ideas, one, we can apply them in our own country to make things better for people. I mean, that’s what a lot of these technologies can do to either combat global warming or to help feed the hungry. I was just speaking with somebody yesterday at our university that runs something called NASA Harvest that uses satellite images to detect different agricultural issues and help—and their goal is to end hunger. And those are the kind of things I mean, as the world turns, we still have not solved a lot of these problems. And so that is crucial that we as a country especially, really lean forward in innovation.

[00:12:28] – Claire Haidar
If it is so critical, do you believe that the U.S. needs to change? I mean, you shared with us that the president has actually invested significant budget into this. Do you believe that that is still not enough and even more should be invested at this point in time?

[00:12:46.320] – Julie Lenzer
So our research expenditures have actually gone down over time. So, yeah, we’re even, I think, five percent down since 2018. So our research dollars seem to be kind of dropping. And so, yeah, I do believe that we have to invest in it, but we also have to invest downstream. And how do we take these great ideas and get them out into the world? Because at the end of the day, that’s where the value is.

It’s great to discover, make these these wonderful discoveries. And I you know, I could share one. One of the things that I’ve been getting into lately is called quantum computing. And it absolutely has the potential to disrupt everything. And so I’ve been starting to learn about it. It’s very deep science. It’s still very nascent, but it could have such an impact and it could give us, as a country, a competitive advantage.

But there are still more that we need to do looking at our policies and looking at, how do we support these businesses and how do we get capital into the hand? Because many of these these technologies in these early stage companies, that’s one of the challenges with tech transfer, is that the technology is often so, so young and so undeveloped that it requires time and capital to really get it into market. And there’s a gap there.

[00:14:03] – Claire Haidar
Julie. IP backed startups seem very elusive and out of reach to many. If I was an ordinary non-academic individual who knew nothing about this world, but I genuinely had a passion to solve major problems, but I just didn’t want to be the inventor. How do I get involved? What do I do?

[00:14:29] – Julie Lenzer
Yes. So tech transfer offices would love to talk to you and take you through their list of technologies, believe it or not. But how do you even know where to go? We’ve actually had so our researchers—researchers at universities are really incentivized to publish their work. And so technical journals around topics that you’re interested in. Sometimes they’re a little hard to read because they are very technical and academic. But if you find something in a journal that’s interesting, chances are the person who invented it is right there. You can find out what institution they are and find out if that technology and learn more about it, find the patent for it, and see if there might be an opportunity to work with them.

A great example is we had one researcher who found a way to make wood as strong as steel. And he also makes transparent wood, he can make wood transparent. And his article came out about this in Nature Magazine and within days, within hours, he had people reaching out to him. He had an unsolicited term sheet sent to him from Silicon Valley for $1.2 million to invest in his company now. Yeah. And so from our perspective, we actually said, no, you’re too early. This is still just very, very nascent. You need to develop this more. If you take investment now, you’ll be giving away a lot of opportunity to create value. And so we continued to work with him within the university to get more research grants to further the technology. And then he and another partner—there’s actually now two spinoffs from his company right now.

[00:16:11] – Doug Foulkes
I’ve got a bit of a question is a bit of a follow on, really. When you started talking about quantum computing, your wood researchers, do you find that at the University of Maryland, that you’re doing things more that you keep it in-house? Or is a lot of times where you’re collaborating with your researchers are collaborating, you know, with other like minded people all around the globe?

[00:16:33] – Julie Lenzer
Well, I think it’s a both and. You know, researchers, we have a lot of collaborations with different institutions, hospitals. We do a lot of work—I just had a meeting this morning talking about how we’re working on pediatric medical devices with Children’s Hospital. Because a lot of other institutions, whether they’re hospitals or even just other universities, oftentimes they’ll bring resources that we don’t have. And so we do like to collaborate quite a bit. And then from the commercialization perspective, you know, depending on the type of technology, sometimes the inventor wants to spin it out into a startup or sometimes the actual technology is more suited for a startup because they can go out and get small business grants to help further develop it. And then other times, it’s a technology that’s mature enough in an industry that’s mature enough that it can be licensed by a large company and put into service pretty quickly.

[00:17:26] – Doug Foulkes
You know, that at WNDYR, we’re all about work live and breathe on a daily basis. In fact, this podcast is the future of work. And the work that you’re doing is going to have a critical impact on that work. If any examples or any areas that you like to sort of talk about that would really impact work.

[00:17:45] – Julie Lenzer
I mean, I think you’re exactly right. Everything. And if this, you know, these last few months of the pandemic haven’t shown us that work is shifting, then I don’t know what has. But, you know, we’ve got I think the collaboration is becoming easier as the digital divide is narrowing. Not that it’s gone, but I think that the collaboration and being able to share information about what you’re doing so others can build on it, I think is really, really critical about this, particular work. And the willingness to go, it’s changed. So I was a computer science major. You all developed software. The world is very different from when I developed my software to what you do now.

And just even the idea of I was programming on Python last night for my Master’s in machine learning that I just started. And, the idea that it’s all open source. I think that what we’ll see, though, out of that is that even, greater advances in technology because of our ability and willingness and the tools that we have to work more collaboratively and open

[00:18:52] – Doug Foulkes
Julie, I have a question for you. You’ve sort of spoken, you’ve given us a few little snippets of things that you’re involved in. Could you tell us about one or maybe two startups that have actually spun out of UMD and maybe paint a little bit of a picture of their potential impact on the economy and certainly jobs in the next few years?

[00:19:11] – Julie Lenzer
Yeah, I mean, so we’ve got some really, really exciting technologies that are coming out. Just a couple of the—we have an anti-aging cream called Bluelene that you can get on Amazon that came out of a different type of—she was looking at something completely different. She was looking at a children’s disease, dermatological disease, and found that this property of what that she was using could actually reverse aging. We have another professor that has cured MS in mice. So that could be really—and it may not work in humans, but it’s got potential. And part of my job is to make sure that if this is a viable solution for multiple sclerosis, that we see it to its end and get it out in the market.

One of the really exciting ones around quantum computing is called IonQ. And I believe they’ve raised about maybe $88 million so far. But what’s fascinating about this is that this came out of the professor Chris Monroe wrote a paper in a journal and a local investor from NEA came to him, read the article and said, you need to start a company around this, because nobody else is going to create this, you have to help produce this because the university is not going to produce things, they’re just going to keep doing the research. And so IonQ was born and they’ve already grown to I think there’s 50 people. They’re just adding another 25000 square feet. They’re building a quantum computer that can rival Google. What Google’s doing, I mean, they’re head to head with some of these large companies because it’s just a unique technology.

And so if you’re not familiar with quantum computing, essentially what quantum will do is the speed of—the ability to parallel process information will be exponential. And so things that we can’t solve now because it just takes too long and too much computing power. A quantum computer could do it in a second. And so things like there’s a certain type of that most of the cryptography that you use today will be completely useless in a quantum world because the computer will be able to churn through every permutation and combination of what it could be and figure it out very quickly. And so like drug discovery, combing the genome, looking through all this data will be completely accelerated in a post quantum world. I mean, we’re still years out from that,

[00:21:36] – Claire Haidar
Listening to you speak like just going back to the MS one. That alone is like just such a big motivator to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. You know, the potential that you could be working on something that could literally change millions of lives.

[00:21:54] – Julie Lenzer
I didn’t want the cure for cancer to die in someone’s lab somewhere. And it’s I could see how easily it would happen.

[00:22:02] – Claire Haidar
So on that point, Julie, how do we take this technology transfer concept in reality that you live and move and breathe in? And how do we make it more accessible to the masses?

[00:22:14] – Julie Lenzer
One of the challenges with research that we’re actually working actively to to shift this a little bit is that there’s something called basic and applied research. Well, basic research is people come up with these crazy ideas and then it actually turns into something. And that’s how, you know, most of our inventions have evolved. Right? Basic research. Somebody is just looking at a property of something and they discover that this could cure something. And so we want to continue to do the basic. But they don’t always know what the application is for something that they’ve discovered. And so that’s where that translation needs to come.

So we’re trying, number one, to educate our researchers to think about translation and to think about go out and look at the markets, look at what people need, look at what the problems are, and see how what they’re doing could either be could they pivot to meet a need in the community or in the world to solve world hunger? Is there something they could they could pivot or can they take their research in a direction that might lend itself towards a real problem in society that we need to solve? So it’s both educating the investigators, the inventors and then translating—I don’t know if you’ve ever combed the patent database knowing you, Claire. It wouldn’t surprise me if you have.

[00:23:34] – Claire Haidar
I have.

[00:23:35] – Julie Lenzer
See. I knew it. There are billions of dollars of research results. And I will tell you, in some ways you have to really wade through a bunch of things that maybe aren’t applicable or don’t have a use or they might have a use, but it’s not economically feasible, the cost to develop it and get it to the market. You won’t recoup in selling it. So that’s kind of the business dynamics of a lot of this stuff.

But if you’re curious, it’s so easy to Google tech transfer, Google Federal Labs Consortium. There is a federal labs consortium where you can see all of the technologies. There’s a database of technologies that you’re interested in. You could just insert a search term and it will come up with things. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand half of it, because that you can always call the inventor. I mean, that’s one of the things that when we—or call the university and they can connect you with the inventor if you have questions. That’s one of the things that we do, is we help answer those questions. We help to translate as best we can an invention into what its possible uses are. And so those tech transfer offices would love to hear from people, especially those who are serious about “I really would love to start a company. I’m interested in this space, but I don’t have any technology.” You might be able to find it at a university or federal lab.

[00:24:47] – Claire Haidar
If there was ever a message that I wanted to go and stand on top of a building and shout out to the world, it’s this message that there are actually solutions out there. But there’s just not enough people bringing it to market and actively working with people, you know, because academia and the actual bringing to market of a solution are two such different skill sets that it’s very, very rare that you have that all in one person. And so it’s so critical that, you know creative, more business minded people that have that bid to to market and bring things to market are matched up better with people who are quietly in the background researching a way and doing their thing, you know, because it’s a more powerful team.

[00:25:36] – Julie Lenzer
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the things we’re always looking for. We’ve got a faculty who gets a company to a certain point, but then they don’t want to be the CEO. They want to be the chief science officer. They want to keep doing their research and they need business folks who can come in and they’ll help you with the technology. You don’t have to understand everything. But you have to understand the market. If you understand the market and the problem you’re trying to solve and you can go out and communicate with those folks and go help raise money and or sign customers. They need that. That’s the kind of thing that they need.

[00:26:11] – Claire Haidar
Judy, you have a soft spot for working mothers having recently become one. I get it now more than I ever did before. And you’ve even written a book about entrepreneurial parenting. Right now, I think in the current environment that we in, women really need to be in the limelight in terms of how work needs to evolve and change to meet the demand that is being placed on them. Talk to me a little bit about your passion.

[00:26:42] – Julie Lenzer
Yeah, I mean, well, so it was interesting. So my book, when I started my company, there were very few role models of CEOs or business owners who were mothers. And it’s not that they weren’t out there, but they just didn’t talk about their families because it was considered to be, oh, they’re not serious about—you can’t be serious about business and serious about owning a company. And so I started my first foray was I started a column in Enterprising Women magazine that was called Serious Mom, Serious Business.

One of the reasons that I wrote the book was to say, you know what, you can be serious about both. And in fact, as you mentioned, it’s not just a nice thing to have right now. It is an imperative that we have all hands on deck. We need access to all good ideas. Those who are willing to and able to work, we need to we need your ideas. We need your your efforts in here. Women often have a very different approach to transformational leadership, looking at things more collaboratively versus kind of top down. And I think that’s, even though the world from travel has shut down a little bit in this time, it’s not going to always be like this. And the borders will open up again. And even though the physical borders are closed, we have digital we don’t have digital borders. We do need to fix the digital divide because we do indeed have a digital divide. And if every child needs access to, you know, to technology so that they can at least function in this world. And I used to tell my daughters this, I said, look, I know you don’t need to be a programmer just like me, but you need to understand technology, because it’s very difficult to get away from it in anything.

[00:28:27] – Claire Haidar
For me, the beautiful possibility of it is and this actually ties back to your book. One of the points that I, because I read the book before I was a mom, and I remember very clearly you saying in the book in multiple various ways, it was kind of like a repeat pattern was that being a parent actually made you a better entrepreneur because parenting was actually teaching you how to solve problems.

And I understood it at an intellectual level when I read it in the book, but living and breathing it for the last eight months, you know, like he’s a toddler and he’s just so flipping difficult sometimes. And I’m just like, how how is it possible that it’s so hard to please you? And then, I kind of like flipped my mind and I’m like, but this is life. This is what I deal with in business everyday. And as I’m learning to navigate him and his stubbornness and his little growing humanity, I’m realizing and I’m learning how to be a better leader and how to be a better business owner. And I think that for me is what the beautiful possibility of our current situation that we find ourselves in is, that we’re actually breeding a whole bunch of better workers, better employees, better leaders, because we’re being forced to actually be more human in the way we’re interacting with each other. And that’s the piece that excites me about this in all of this chaos that we’re experiencing in all of this upheaval. I think there’s going to be some really beautiful upsides that come out of it.

[00:30:06] – Julie Lenzer
I totally agree. And, one of the things I’ve always been fascinated with is that a true entrepreneur builds something that’s bigger than themselves. Right? It can’t be about you because then it’s limited by your capabilities and your capacity. Just like raising a child, you give them roots and wings, but ultimately your goal is to have them launch and be bigger than you. And so that’s, I think, one of the most beautiful parallels is, now my daughters have or are launching is watching them spread their wings and grow. And it was the same with my business. It was realizing that I was operationally the most expendable person in my business, meant that I did something right actually.

[00:30:47] – Claire Haidar
Julie, I can carry on having this conversation for many hours with you, but we need to wrap it up. And so the last question that I want us to close out with is, is one that I know is very near and dear to not only your and I’s hearts, but Doug’s heart as well, because this is woven into the fabric of him and Tracey’s life, is global economic development.

This is the piece of your work that’s actually the most obscure. Like if you go and do research about you and all that you do, you don’t really see this. And I think it’s one of the most critical and beautiful pieces of your life and and what you do on a day to day basis. Talk to us a little bit about why economic development, particularly in developing countries, is so critical right now.

[00:31:34] – Julie Lenzer
One of the things that I always say is that innovation and good ideas, they don’t know any geographic or demographic boundaries. Right? The best ideas come from just looking at two very disparate things and putting them together. It doesn’t require you to have a PhD or even a degree to come up with a brilliant idea. So who’s to say that there’s not, in fact, I know there are great ideas in developing countries that just don’t have a way to get out or they just don’t even know that this is something that’s possible for them.

And so I’ve always—it’s been a long time—starting back, especially with women, but I’ve done women’s and men’s programs as well all over the Middle East, some in Africa, Europe, just to try and bring—we were setting up a tech transfer office in Armenia, trying to help them set up tech transfer, because these ideas, they’re everywhere. And in fact, the fewer resources you have, the more innovative you have to be. So I’m convinced there’s innovations in developing countries that we could use in the rest of the world if we could only help to discover them and help them to bring them out. And so, yes, this has always been a passion of mine. I love to travel internationally. I love meeting new people and seeing new things. And the more that I travel, the more that I see the commonalities in humanity as well as the differences. And we celebrate those. And that’s where true innovation comes from, is a diversity of thought.

[00:33:07] – Claire Haidar
Oh, completely. Julie, as you know, I serve as a regional board member for UNICEF and the program that’s exciting me the most right now, one of the programs that UNICEF is working on is they’ve essentially taken—you live and breathe this all day long—is that lean startup methodology and that bare bones MVP thinking, what’s the minimum viable solution that we can get here? And they’ve basically packaged it up into like a field kit that UNICEF workers can literally can carry it on their backs and go into these very, very rural places across the globe. And the whole idea behind the kit is they actually get the children in these rural places to brainstorm solutions to their own problems with the very limited resources that they have right there. So they’re not only teaching these kids critical feature work skills that will make them accessible to the world in the form of design thinking and solution, question, query, design type of skills like that. But they’re actually teaching them that your solution doesn’t lie in something that America is going to produce or China is going to produce for you. Your solution is right here, but you just have to design it and develop it and you can. And I’m so passionate about that project for that exact reason, because that’s what you’re saying. The ideas are there. It’s about bringing them to life.

[00:34:39] – Julie Lenzer
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And I love that work. That just is it. That gives me chills. It makes me smile.

[00:34:46] – Claire Haidar
Exactly. Julie, thank you so much for your time today. Let’s do this again sometime soon.

[00:34:51] – Julie Lenzer
Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you.

[00:34:53] – Doug Foulkes
Julie. Thank you also from my side, from the southern tip of Africa. Very nice to meet you and spend some time with you.

[00:35:00] – Julie Lenzer
Nice to meet you, too.

[00:35:01] – Doug Foulkes
And there you have it, the future of work through the eyes of an innovation officer. If you want to get involved in the future of work today, but you don’t have any tech, you now know where to find some. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast and found it of value, please pop back for more top of mind conversations.

Just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services they supply, you can visit their website. That’s WNDYR dot com. And so from the Doug Foulkes and Chaos and Rocket Fuel, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

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