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Richard Williams talks about the increase of research on social innovation

by Richard Meckien - published May 07, 2014 11:15 AM - - last modified May 12, 2014 11:27 AM

Engineer and innovator Richard Williams, from the University of Birmingham, will give a conference on social innovation on May 12, at 3.30 pm.
Richard Williams

Richard Williams is an engineer and innovator, being responsible for putting into practice several concepts, processes and methodologies, particularly in the areas of chemicals, materials, energy and instrumentation. One of his biggest concerns is the application of scientific and engineering knowledge to benefit society through commercial means or non-profit initiatives. He has been working extensively in the development of relations between academic and industrial partners in Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa. He is also interested in public engagement projects involving interfaces of art, science and engineering.

“Washing without Water and other Stories of Innovation: Accelerating research into societal innovation” is the theme of the conference to be given by Richard A. Williams, director of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and one of the vice-chancellors of the University of Birmingham on May 12, at 3.30 pm, at the IEA-USP.

According to Williams, there is a global need to maximise societal sustainability of food, energy and water. The talk will present two “extraordinary” stories of innovation that impact the environment. “Both arise from fundamental university-based research that is being translated into society. Both present radical innovations that are disruptive to current societal practises.”

The first story to be told by Williams describes the trajectory, from discovery to commercialisation, of a new method of domestic and industrial washing, almost water-free and focused on energy saving.

The second relates to a method for storing energy in liquid air (cooled to extremely low temperatures) and applications in automotive propulsion and refrigeration. According to Williams, this research is the basis for an important new center at the University of Birmingham, recognised and funded as one the “Great Eight British Technologies”.

The talk will highlight the issues associated with seeking to apply rather radical ideas and the clear role for universities, government and industrial partners to work together to make commercially disruptive innovations gain traction in society.

The event will be held in English (with simultaneous translation) and presented by Mário Salerno, professor at USP’s Polytechnic School (POLI) and coordinator of IEA-USP’s Innovation and Competitiveness Obsevatory / NAP (OIC). Leonardo Augusto de Vasconcelos Gomes, also from POLI and member of the OIC, will be the discussant. The conference is an initiative of the OIC. It will be the second activity promoted by the IEA-USP in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Studies of the British university. Both institutes are members of the University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study (UBIAS) network.

The event will be broadcast live on the web.

Photo: University of Birmingham