News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Arctic Innovation Lab: Bright Ideas for the Future of the Arctic

| Mar. 14, 2022

What if we could repurpose oil and gas pipelines to supply remote Arctic communities with clean water? What if Arctic entrepreneurs could connect with investors and raise capital over an online crowdfunding platform? These were some of the novel solutions to Arctic challenges proposed by Harvard Kennedy School students during this year’s Arctic Innovation Lab in January.

Sara Olsvig

The event opened with remarks by Sara Olsvig, Member of Greenland’s Human Rights Council, who stressed the importance of research, science, innovative solutions, and respectful and equal partnerships with Arctic Indigenous peoples. “In a world where power and influence stream south, we must all have the courage to, at times, go against the stream and make sure that Arctic development is based on the diversity and history we share in the region,” said Olsvig.

Since its launch in 2014, the Arctic Innovation lab has given students from around the world the opportunity to pitch their solutions to challenges facing a changing Arctic. “We want to train students to think about solutions, to always have a solutions-focused mindset when approaching challenges in the Arctic or elsewhere,” explained Halla Hrund Logadóttir, nonresident Senior Fellow and Co-Founder of the Arctic Initiative. This year, an Arctic Innovation Lab served as the capstone to IGA-671M, “Policy and Social Innovation for the Changing Arctic,” a week-long course taught by Logadóttir during the January term. Twenty-four students enrolled in this year’s course, including students from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Medical School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School of Education.

Each student had just two minutes to pitch his or her idea for addressing a specific challenge facing the Arctic. The pitches were judged by a panel of Arctic experts, including Alice Rogoff, Publisher of ArcticToday; Sara Olsvig, Member of Greenland’s Human Rights Council; Svend Hardenberg, Founder and Chairman of Greenland Invest; Marisol Maddox, Senior Arctic Analyst at the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute; Terzah Tippin Poe, Lecturer in Sustainability and Environmental Management at Harvard University; and Cristine Russell, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program.

Some of the judges’ favorite student pitches are available to watch below. The Arctic Initiative congratulates all of our participating students on their excellent work, and we look forward to seeing them develop these ideas further over the coming year.

Bryn de Chastelain – Giving Pipelines a New Life: Bringing Clean Water to Inuvik

The Challenge: Imagine waking up in the middle of the night desperate for a drink of water. You head to the kitchen to quench your thirst, but then you remember: the grocery store was out of bottled water this week. You try the tap, but sure enough, the water is still muddy. This is the ongoing reality for residents of Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Judges’ Comments: “It’s realistic. It’s specific. It could be done in many different locations. And of course, it’s vital for human life.”

Mariana Jordano – Arctic Crowdfunding Initiative

The Challenge: After working for seven years in investment banking, I was struck by how desperate investors were for more green opportunities. But the lack of climate-related funding in the Arctic is still something that is incredibly puzzling. Why is the region that is suffering the most from climate change not receiving enough investment?

Judges’ Comments: “While perhaps unworkable in the short-term, an Arctic crowdfunding platform is definitely an idea worth exploring to see if someone can really make a go of it.”

Jayaram Ravi – Catalyzing Indigenous-Led Research in the Arctic Region

The Challenge: Indigenous people have said, “No research about us without us.” Yet for decades, academics from outside the Arctic have set the research agenda with little to no Indigenous input, leading to research that is not always relevant to Indigenous communities, unethical experimentation on Indigenous peoples, and the appropriation of Indigenous knowledge.

Judges’ Comments: “The reality is that many Arctic peoples have been colonized and are still struggling to decolonize themselves, so the next step will be for research institutions to figure out how to ‘uncolonize’ themselves in order for Arctic peoples to decolonize their own research.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hanlon, Elizabeth. “Arctic Innovation Lab: Bright Ideas for the Future of the Arctic.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 14, 2022.

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