Fostering Collaboration, Innovation, and Community

Solving our climate crisis will require radical collaboration at the frontier of science and social action. "Ignite: Inspiring Innovative Impact" recognizes this imperative and serves as a dynamic platform where inventors, investors, influencers, and ecosystem builders convene to share insights, explore opportunities for collaboration, and inspire climate tech innovation for global impact.

Meet Nancy Giordano: A Visionary Thought Leader

The inaugural Ignite, held on August 8th at the Danforth Center, featured Nancy Giordano, an exponential strategist and business futurist. Nancy’s talk set the tone of the Ignite series by delving into the future economy and the mindset necessary to shape it. As we hurtle toward the year 2030 and beyond, our world is evolving at an unprecedented pace. Traditional modes of thinking and doing business are being challenged, and visionary leaders like Nancy are lighting the way forward.

Emily Lohse-Busch, Executive Director of 39 North, underscored the importance of challenging conventional thinking and exploring new horizons, which are essential for any thriving innovation ecosystem: “Innovative thinking is a muscle that you have to exercise, you have to work it out. These types of conversations help us to work that muscle as an ecosystem and to think about what could be, take it up a level or two levels or three levels.”

39 North Executive Director Emily Lohse-Busch and Danforth Center President and CEO Jim Carrington, PhD, connect at the inaugural Ignite event on August 8, 2023.

Andy Dearing, GeoFutures Initiative Lead, emphasized the need to connect local and global perspectives to enrich the community's dialogue on innovation: “This is the type of event that you get in New York City. Having something like this where you get to connect with a local crowd and also have outside thought leadership, getting us to think, it's just so different from what you typically have at other conferences or other events that we've had around here." 

BioSTL Director of Regional Workforce Strategy Justin Raymundo highlighted the value of bringing together a wide range of perspectives to drive innovation and solve complex problems: “What's really critical in understanding innovation is that innovation requires a diversity of perspectives. Events like this, that are bringing new thinkers or cutting-edge thinkers together in a way that's appealing to broader communities, is really essential."

BioSTL Director of Regional Workforce Strategy Justin Raymundo engages with the crowd at Ignite.

A Call to Action

Nancy Giordano's talk left attendees with a sense of excitement and purpose. Her discussion on transitioning away from outdated business thinking and creating sustainable, inclusive, and dynamic solutions resonated deeply with the audience.

Melanie Bernds VP/Public Relations Director, Rabo AgriFinance captured the infectious enthusiasm instilled by Ignite: "I think it is incredibly important to connect, to talk about creative ideas, and really rethink some of the concepts that are going to move our generations forward, food forward, and our food systems forward. And especially when we're talking about climate, it's going to happen through communities."

The Path to Innovation

After the event, Nancy Giordano met with regional ecosystem leaders and had a meaningful conversation with high school students from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Innovation Center, undergraduate students interns from the Midwest Climate Collaborative at Washington University in St. Louis, and members of the Danforth Center's Committee for Scientific Training and Mentoring.

During these intimate gatherings, Nancy delved into topics that are vital for shaping a sustainable, inclusive and thriving future. She emphasized that while the future will change faster and more dramatically than we realize, if we can change our mindset and industrial era approach, it is filled with tremendous opportunity. Our ability to adapt requires us to build capacity as lifelong, collaborative learners and a shift in paradigms about work, society, and new technology as a means to enhancing the quality of life for everybody.

Nancy Giordano meets with high school students from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Innovation Center, undergraduate student interns from the Midwest Climate Collaborative, and members of the Committee for Scientific Training and Mentoring.

Fueling St. Louis's Innovation Ecosystem

Located in the heart of America, St. Louis has emerged as a dynamic hub for innovation. The region's vibrant ecosystem brings together a diverse community of individuals, companies, and organizations, all driven by the common goal of shaping a brighter future. 

Ignite is not just an event; it's a catalyst for change, a bridge between ideas and action, and a celebration of our community. It represents the epitome of collaboration, where diverse perspectives converge to find solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges.

"Events like this, where we all step out of our comfort zone a little bit and learn a new topic or think about a new way to interact, really are great. They lift the whole community and the whole ecosystem” shared Phil Taylor PhD, Director of Open Innovation, Bayer Crop Science.

Collaborators from across the St. Louis innovation ecosystem gather at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center for Ignite.

Through networking, thought-provoking talks, and meaningful conversations, Ignite is fueling the region's rise as a global innovation hub and a hotbed for climate tech innovation. The event series is setting ablaze the collaborative spirit that defines St. Louis. 

Ruth Kim , Sr. VP & Sr. Partner at Fleishman Hillard, encapsulates the essence of Ignite: “I take away new thinking. I take away the excitement in St. Louis and inspiration, and I take away the passion from all of these people who are doing amazing things to make their lives, their jobs, their communities better, and it creates excitement and energy and momentum."

The Future of Ignite: Connecting Global Ecosystems for Greater Impact

As we look ahead, "Ignite: Inspiring Innovative Impact" is poised to continue shaping the St. Louis innovation landscape. The next Ignite event is scheduled for October 18 at the Danforth Center, and its theme is "connecting global ecosystems for greater impact."

This theme underscores the event series' commitment to fostering collaboration not only within the local ecosystem but also on a global scale. By connecting diverse ecosystems, Ignite aims to magnify the impact of innovation in addressing pressing global challenges, including climate change.