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Innovation Summit starts today

Progress is always the theme for the Innovation Summit, and it will ring especially true this year.

“Driving Innovation through Diversity” is this year’s motto as 250 attendees and more than 40 presenters from Alaska and beyond will examine current and future innovations at the seventh annual event, produced yearly by the Juneau Economic Development Council with the help of sponsors. The summit starts today at Centennial Hall.

This year’s keynote speaker, Frans Johansson, CEO of The Medici Group headquartered in New York City, was chosen to expound on this year’s theme because of his background discussing innovation.

“The question is ‘Why Innovation?,’” Brian Holst, executive director of JEDC, told the Empire Tuesday. “When people with different backgrounds can collaborate on ideas, there is higher rate of innovation. Johansson wrote the book (‘The Medici Effect’) on it, and he will help explore it at the the conference.”

Johansson will speak at 1:30 p.m. today and a Medici Group workshop conducted by Johansson and Juliana Echeverri will be 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

There will also be panel discussions on two industries where potential to grow is evident.

“One of the main concepts is growth,” Holst said. “Visitor products is big industry and is growing fast throughout the state. Ocean products is a small industry with huge potential. It is a million-dollar industry with the possibility of being a billion-dollar one.”

The summit will host the Alaska State Committee on Research Innovators Alaska Hall of Fame where the first item, a traditional Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian wood halibut hook, will be inducted.

“There are so many great inventions, and we are excited to be a part in the recognition of the halibut hook,” Holst said.

Other events include a preview of the Juneau Startup Weekend, innovation shorts presentations, entrepreneurship in Alaska discussion and an idea pitch contest.

“It’s a great way to network,” Holst said. “We try to make it as intense and as rich as possible.”

The summit begins at 1 p.m. today and events will continue through Thursday.

For more information visit www.jedc.org.

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call 523-2265.