Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Juxtaposition of Tech Transfer and Non Tech Farm and Food

So I missed the Chalk Off this Friday. I wasn’t even able to stop by and that is too bad given the great work that was done this week.

However I did get a very clear juxtaposition of no tech and tech talk in the space of a week.

First, on the no tech front I accompanying one of my daughters on a goodwill mission trip to set up a food bank and distribute goods to families in need. Sponsored by Agape, this entailed walking a neighborhood to collect food and clothing (following a flyer distribution that announced that a canvassing would occur), stationing outside several grocery shopping centers to ask for food donations, a day of work farming, and the setting up of the bank for distribution.

Along with this came several organized sessions for the middle and high school kids who were participating, one of which included shopping for food. They were given family scenarios and a days wage for the work they did on the farm and needed to purchase, cook and feed themselves based on the money they earned.

A enjoyed the farming day. But it was hard work and I wouldn’t want my lively hood to depend on it. The family whose organic farm we were helping on were very nice, informative and gave me a chance to use some of my rusty Spanish.

We sleep on the floor and had one shower at the YMCA during this time. The kids were great. Their attitudes were unfailingly positive and for the most part were a joy to be around. I was very proud of them and of my daughter in particular.

I don’t like being disturbed by that knock on the door and I am not comfortable with the solicitations outside storefronts (whether they be girl scout cookies, bell ringing Santas or other donations). This made being on the other end of it even tougher.

In the end, it gives me greater appreciation for the desire to do good that these folks have, and the hard work that they put in.

After that, it was back to work, which meant attending a conference in Seattle put on the Executive Summit Series in Technology Transfer: Crossing the Valley of Death, “the vast desert filled with the carcasses of great innovations that became literally cash-starved before reaching the oasis of commercial viability.”

They keep the numbers attending to a manageable size, and for two days we listen and talk about how to advance industries and the economy through focused collaboration.

As the ESS team explains, “Technology, policy, economics, trade and the environment are all major factors impacting our business and personal lives. Understanding these forces and practical business applications around them leads to better decisions for organizations and industries in all sectors of the economy. ”

Dr. John Parmentola, Director of Research and Laboratory Management, U.S. Army Research Labs was very clear about the difficulties of working with the military in an entrepreneurial start up fashion, but was also succinct and helpful in offering ways in which to make it more feasible.

Mr. Brad Buswell, Deputy Undersecretary, Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate was interesting and helpful in pointing out where the pitfalls of technology transfer to working product in the first responder sector were and what conditions were necessary for success. He also provided a high technology needs list and operational requirements information.

Others in attendance were also engaging and refreshingly straightforward about what worked and didn’t work based on the nature of the federal and political infrastructures that they were dealing within.

Peter Erickson, the CEO of Executive Summit and the co-producer of the series Mike Provance, will be constructing a white paper out of the discussions. When completed I will provide a link to it from this entry.

Overall a real swing in the conversation from Monday to Friday. Sometimes it is good to stretch the body, but also the mindset, in order to stay limber.

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