UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017


Three members of the Global Health Next Generation Network, Margarida, Andreea and Carmen,  had the amazing opportunity to attend the founding class of UNLEASH Innovation Lab. UNLEASH is a global initiative aiming to create solutions that challenge traditional approaches and business models in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year’s event focused on 7 themes of the SDGs: Education & ICT, Energy, Food, Health, Sustainable Production & Consumption, Urban Sustainability and Water.


Here are the impressions of Margarida, Andreea and Carmen!!

UNLEASH… without any doubt the 10 most inspirational days in our lives. We had the chance to meet people from 129 countries who shared our passion and desire to change the world.

We arrived at Copenhagen feeling a bit skeptical about the concept. How were 1000 young people supposed to find practical solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals? It was the first time UNLEASH was being organized, was it really going to work? It didn’t take us long though to realize that magic was about to happen!


Day 1 MeatPacking District, Saturday August 12th, Copenhagen

Most of the Talents arrived in Copenhagen on Saturday and had the first encounter with the UNLEASH Team at the airport. The team provided us with the first information about the coming days, as well as a map of the city and a ticket for the metro system. The rest of the day was free to visit the city or relax. In the evening, we were invited to a delicious dinner at the Meatpacking District. We enjoyed delicious international street food, listened to good music and met some of the talents for the first time.

Meeting the first participants we soon realized that there was something special and unique in each and every one of them. We all had something in common: passion and drive to make the world we live in a better place.


Day 2 Lokomotivvaerkstedet, Sunday, August 13th, Copenhagen

The second day started with excitement filling the air. We were transported to Lokkomotivvaerstedet, a big open space in what looked like a modern industrial area. Breakfast was waiting for us and so was the Chairman of Unleash, Flemming Besenbacher, who officially welcomed us.

The day was packed with interactive icebreakers, social games, and interesting talks. We had our first glimpse of finding solutions. Danish innovative companies asked us to find problems and possible solutions for their current projects.

All of us were in Health theme and had to brainstorm about the “hospital of the future”. This is a new and ambitious project called “New North Zealand Hospital” which tries to break some barriers between a hospital and the community it serves.

Before lunch, we had the amazing opportunity to listen to Volvo’s Futurologist: Aric Dromi. He talked about artificial intelligence, robots, machine learning and technology of the future.

The afternoon followed with a panel discussion: how companies can disrupt themselves. The Panel consisted of Anders Runevad, Group President and CEO at Vestas; Peder Holk Nielsen, President and CEO at Novozymes and Charlotte Mark, Managing Director at  Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen. Our last keynote speaker was the talented and creative Bjarke Ingels who is an Architect and Founder of BIG. The evening ended with a dinner and DJ party.


Day 3 (Copenhagen)

We started again early in the morning with some long queues to get breakfast. The UNLEASH volunteers were already waiting for us in order to bring us to the respective visits.

The visit of the health theme started at the Danish Design Centre where we had the chance to travel to the future. We received an insight into the project “Boxing Future Health”  in which an interdisciplinary team is trying to predict how healthcare will look like in 2050!

From 2050 we traveled back to 2017. The second part of our visit was the future made present: the Danish national biobank.

UNLEASH Innovation Lab 1

The schedule was tight and we had a lot to learn and see. So we rushed to the Copenhagen CIty Hall, where a panel of experts was waiting for us. These were representing the Danish Industries, KR Foundation, European Commission for Climate Action and the Technical and Environmental Affairs of Copenhagen.

Seeing all SDG Talents in a magnificent environment like the City Hall, listening to such an amazing panel discuss the SDGs and the importance of SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals, made us realize the importance and impact that our week in Denmark would eventually have.

The amount of people we met was increasing and everyone we met was interesting and brilliant.

Once the panel finished we were split again into themes and sent to different corners of Denmark. The destination was the folk high schools. The folk high schools are one of the most fascinating parts of the Danish culture. There are about 70 of them spread across the country, mainly in rural areas.

The health theme was going to the Grundtvigs high school. When we entered, we understood right away we were being part of something special. They created a small society, with students, teachers and other staff living there, sharing meals and sharing thoughts.

Each day at the school started with a morning assembly to sing together (yes, sing!) and think together: every day we were challenged to think about a fundamental part of the human/societal experience. The general description of folk high schools is: “non-formal adult education for adults” doesn’t totally cover what we felt. We felt stimulated as human beings, in a nourishing cultural environment. The experience was so unique that we truly believe everyone left with a little bit of Grundtvidgs’ attitude and ready to share it around the world.

UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2

Day 8: Aarhus

Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark, was our final destination as Unleashers and the place where everyone’s solutions would be presented. After a 4-hour bus drive, we rushed to get our projects finished, to get opinions of mentors scattered across the city and to finalize our pitches. The clocks were ticking and approaching the submission deadline (12 am!). Everyone was looking nervous and busy, writing furiously away in computers and notebooks to get the written submissions done and submitted on time. Tick tack!


Day 9: Aarhus – Pitch sessions and Dragon’s Den

It was pitching day!! The moment for what we had been working for all week. Group after group, everyone was pitching eloquently. The thought that everyone in the Health Theme was fantastic in their own way kept resurfacing.

29 solutions were presented in the morning, but only 12 passed to the next phase. The selected teams faced judges and the first round of possible investors during the afternoon. Out of these 12 team, 2 were finally selected to pitch at DRAGON’S DEN!

The finalists from all 7 themes got to pitch in front of 1000 talents and four “Dragons”: the ones representing big private investors and partners of Unleash. None of our teams made it to Dragon’s Den, but it was so impressive to watch our peers/friends talk about their solutions to make the world a better place.

The pitch was only 3 minutes long, which was clearly limited with a bell and this opened the floor for the question firing of the dragons. The questions requested details about financing, implementability, profit, sustainability… The winners received promises of solutions, mentorships, and investment which contributed to the overall feeling of pride and hope to be part of the inaugural class of UNLEASH: we were changing the world in that room!

Pride and hope soon gave place to euphoria and friendship when we were given a big space for dinner, singing and dancing all night long together. Latin sounds were joined by african beats, house tracks followed by contagious Bollywood classics and everyone showed off a bit of their home dance moves.


Day 10: Aarhus – SHOW time!

We woke up with mixed feelings: excitement for the awards show, tiredness after an overwhelmingly intense week but most of all…. Sadness to know that this incredible experience was getting to an end. This was for most of us the final day in this “UNLEASH world” and saying goodbye to friends from different continents was a sad perspective.

As usual in UNLEASH, the day was packed. We met with private investors at Aros Art Museum to discuss what would become of our ideas/solutions, attended an SDG festival in a park in Aarhus to discuss some of the week achievements and present the SDGs and UNLEASH solutions to the Aarhus community and finally, the big Hollywood moment of the awards show came!

During the final show, we had the opportunity to listen to: the most prominent Danish and international partners among them the Prime Minister, Lars Rasmussen or the UNDP administrator, Achim Steiner.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Mary of Denmark gave an inspiring speech, reminding us of how unequal the world still is if you are born a girl.

The charismatic and incredible Sal Khan,  founder of Khan Academy followed and Trysha Shetty, the founder of SheSays, made everyone in that room get up because in an emotional appeal she voiced the anguish of a young generation eager to change the world.


UNLEASH Innovation Lab 3

Hollywood made an appearance in Aarhus with the intervention of Ashton Kutcher, who is, of course, an actor, but also one of the most important venture capitalist in high technology.

In a short conversation with the presenters, he explained his points of view when it came to investing in new technologies and innovative solutions.

All of these highlights were interrupted by announcing the winners of different categories and a brief presentation of their awesome groundbreaking solutions.

Our fellow Unleashers on stage, and in the audience, deserve all the love and applause for their achievements during the program and from us, the representatives of GHNGN at UNLEASH, we wish you the best of luck and our support.

Once UNLEASH is over, the work has not finished. Many of us continue working on our ideas and the organization has created a venture capital fund in order to support us to move forward.

We genuinely feel that UNLEASH will help build a better world. Thank you UNLEASH!



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