SISU: The Innovation Institute at Northern Michigan University and Innovate Marquette are partnering to present their inaugural Innovation Week, a professional development conference bringing together thought leaders and creative minds in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Registration is now open for the event, which will be held May 8-10 at NMU's Forest Roberts Theatre. The schedule features keynote speakers from Trend Hunter and Virginia Commonwealth University, interactive workshops, innovation quests with curated tours of various U.P. industry sectors, and networking opportunities.
“Innovation Week is going to be a landmark event in Marquette, where we bring all of the region's creators, industry leaders, students and future makers together in one place to connect, be inspired and generate ideas," said Bill Digneit, SISU director. "Innovation Week will offer a world-class lineup of speakers from across North America and has curated an attendee experience that will surely keep people coming back again and again. “
“Bringing Innovation Week to Marquette, NMU and U.P. communities alongside SISU Institute is exemplary of the sort of innovative collaboration that will set our region apart,” said Joe Thiel, CEO of Innovate Marquette and executive director of Invent@NMU. “Resources will be shared, networks will expand, and inspiring content will motivate attendees. If you've got an entrepreneurial spirit, an idea already underway, or know your career isn't going to look like that of generations past, this event is for you.”
Armida Ascano, chief content officer and founder of the Futurist team at Trend Hunter, will deliver the opening keynote address on May 8. According to its website, Trend Hunter leverages “big data, human researchers and AI to identify consumer insights and deep dive opportunities for the world's most innovative companies.” Ascano's passion for trend forecasting, with a specialized focus on generational segmentation, has made her a sought-after expert on Internet culture and consumer behavior in the digital age. Her speech at NMU will address “Micro-generations, Post-Pandemic: The New Formative Years.” Ascano has helped hundreds of brands innovate, including Red Bull, Wal-Mart, Domino's and Mastercard. She has also spoken at conferences such as Foresight and Trends, OmniShopper, Future Festival and Dreamforce.
Her Trend Hunter colleague Sean Watson, director of special projects, will address “Future Tech: AI, Automation, Metaverse and The Super Future” during his keynote on May 9. He has used this topic to show tech startups how they can get ahead. He also helps Fortune 500 brands refine their approach to innovation through Patterned Thinking workshops. Watson has helped brands such as Coca-Cola, Kraft-Heinz and Google to reset and rethink their approaches to innovation. He honed his skills and expertise through his past experience with companies including Rogers, Bertelsmann and American Express.
Garret Westlake, assistant vice provost for innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the da Vinci Center for Innovation, will present two keynote topics May 9 and 10. “Innovation with Lego Serious Play” will discuss a research-backed approach used by Fortune 500 companies to unlock creativity and innovation through structured activities with Legos. “Exploring the Role of AI in Human Centered Design” will show participants how emerging AI tools such as ChatGPT might shape the future of the discipline. As a technology entrepreneur, Westlake founded a social impact company that employed individuals with autism in STEM. He is also a certified facilitator of design thinking and a visiting scholar at SISU: The Innovation Institute at NMU.
Curated innovation quests over the three-day conference will allow participants to connect with leaders in the Upper Peninsula across industries ranging from creative technology, sustainability, and mobility to food, beverage, and hospitality. For more information, or to register for the professional development conference, visit nmu.edu/sisu/innovation-week.
SISU: The Innovation Institute at NMU uses a design thinking framework to support transformational education, encouraging the cultivation of ideas leading to relevant and sustainable university services and academic programs. Learn more at nmu.edu/sisu/
Innovate Marquette SmartZone was created to help coordinate, inspire, promote and lead business, government, academic and community leaders to transform Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula into a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem. The SmartZone supports technology-based innovations, new businesses, new job creation and existing business expansion by leveraging the unique set of resources, experiences and advantages available in Marquette. The mission of Innovate Marquette is to position Marquette as a premier city for innovation and business development through their process of identifying, nurturing, and cultivating the growth and success of technology-based innovators, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups throughout our community. They aim to uplift Marquette's unique business ecosystem by offering access to important resources, funding, workforce talent, and network collaboration. For more information, visit www.innovatemarquette.org.