Recently I had the opportunity to attend two digital & innovation conferences with totally different vibes, roots, purpose and learnings. One of the conferences was Re:publica that took place in Berlin and already exists more than 10 years. The second one is the first Swiss innovation conference in the sports industry, organised by ThinkSport, SwissTech, and EPFL. As a former FIFA employee and having worked almost my entire career in the sports industry, I am keen to give you an insight and share my experiences I made during the two different conferences.

Insights from Republica:

Mike Schwede, one of the Swiss digital influencers, highlighted the Republica Berlin as a must-go-conference for all digital fans. Re:publica is one of Europe’s biggest conference with focus on digitalisation, society and politics. The event is a bottom-up-movement and is now a conference with over 9’000 national and international participants coming from 71 different countries. Another unique thing is that the speakers are recruited from the blogger community. Nearly 50% of the speakers are female, a number that is not often reached at digital conferences. The conference this year was located in an old warehouse close to Postdamerplatz with the positive claim POP (Power of People). When I entered, I noticed the relaxed atmosphere, people sitting in chairs, chatting in the sun and eating their Berlin sausage. People wore relaxed clothes, looked hip and most men wore the so called “Hipsterbart”, high heels and suites were nowhere near.

Mike Schwede introduced me to the Swiss re:publica community, a community that meets every year at this conference. I was happy to be part of this conference, representing digitalswitzerland. For us it was important to get in touch with the Swiss digital community and to get a sense for what is on people’s mind with regards to digital developments.

500 Hours of Speeches, Panels and Inspiration

Entering the main hall I first saw many booths where exhibitors presented their newest digital gadgets such as VR experiences, apps, vehicles of the future, alternative currencies, and many other things. It reminded me of a smaller Digital Day, where companies show their current digital developments to society. In addition, Re:publica created many network and cafe areas with comfortable seating possibilities and charging stations.

The agenda for the next three days seemed to be overwhelming: Over 500 hours of programme were planned on 11 different stages and additional workshops. The main topics presented during the conference were blockchain, data security, ethics and AI. I attended several presentations, but one particular speech of Martha Lane Fox made me dream even bigger about our upcoming Digital Day on 25th October.

Martina Lane Fox presented the results of a survey she undertook and highlighted that people in the UK do barely know how digital advertisements works or how tech companies make money.  She addressed the importance to teach basic skills to everybody in order raise the digital knowledge bar, gain trust in technology but also being able to ask the right questions to develop sustainable policies. The main stakeholders that can make this shift are tech companies, the government and individuals. England is ready to become a forward-thinking nation.

The Swiss Digital Day on 25th October is exactly based on Lane Fox’s calling. We want to start the dialogue with Swiss citizens, companies and the government to equip our country for the future where we need to become familiar with the ongoing digital changes, to make informed decisions and ask the right questions.

So let’s take the opportunity starting with the Digital Day! Let’s start the dialogue with society, let’s better understand current developments, open up to new things and ask the right questions. Together we will be able to understand how to build a better tomorrow for Switzerland.

Insigths from the Sport’s Conference ‘TheSpot’

While the conference in Berlin developed as a bottom-up movement, the sports conference “TheSpot” was carried out for the first time in Lausanne at EPFL. However, with my 20 years of experience in the sports industry, as well as working for FIFA the last few years, I am delighted to see that Switzerland started to act on topics such as innovation and digitalisation in sports. While the United States is spearheading sports innovation with an overwhelming number of sports start-ups and sport accelerators, Europe’s traditional sports environment unfortunately lags behind with only few sports related innovation hubs. One successful example of sports accelerator is leAD that grew from the legacy of Adi Dassler, the founder of adidas. leAd nurture early-stage sports start-ups and is based in Berlin.

I strongly believe that Switzerland, being ranked several times as #1 in innovation World-Wide (WIPO Global Ranking 2012-2017) is predestined to become the world’s sports innovation hub. Not only because Switzerland is named as #1 but also because Switzerland has a unique sports ecosystem with over 67 international sports organisations (like FIFA, IOC, FIBA, FIBA etc). To become a sports innovation hub, Federations need to invest more in innovation, connect more strongly with sports start-ups, help build up accelerators and provide entrepreneurs the right environment.

Bringing Sports and Innovation together

Back to “TheSpot”:  It was nice to see over 40 sport start-ups pitching. As a member of the jury, I noticed a high number of companies that build their start-up around body tracking measuring device, a very though environment to survive at the moment. (-: I was asked to sit in as a jury for the final pitches on the main stage, as only woman. While feeling honored I again realised how male-dominated this industry still is. Another challenge that not only sports need to solve these days.

As winner of the final we chose a young start-up from Germany called “ForwardGame”. The start-up is focused on creating outdoor and physical activities gamifications solutions motivating kids to move and play outside again using new technology.

Overall, the conference was a a success and I am looking forward to seeing Switzerland pushing sports forward.

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Author Diana Engetschwiler, digitalswitzerland

Senior Project Manager Public Dialogue & Digital Day

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