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Students trek to India for innovation insights

The opportunity to attend India’s largest social entrepreneurship conference couldn’t have come at a better time for Esther Jiang, the chief executive officer of Gryllies, the winning venture from the 2015 Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative.

[Queen's in the World]
Queen's in the World

As the fledgling company prepares to scale up its line of pasta sauces made with protein derived from crickets, Ms. Jiang (Artsci’15) hopes to gain some valuable insights at Development Dialogue, where ‘Scaling Effectively’ is the theme.

“This cross-cultural experience will be invaluable,” she says. “It will let me see social innovation from a different perspective. I am interested to learn how other companies and entrepreneurs – especially those in India – approach certain problems.”

[Deshpandes speak with students]
Gururaj and Jaishree Deshpande speak to students following the announcement of their gift and Andrew Dunin's gift to support innovation programming at the university. A delegation from Queen's is attending Development Dialogue in Hubballi, India. The social innovation conference is hosted by the foundation created by the Deshpandes. (File photo by Garrett Elliott )

The Deshpande Foundation, founded by Queen’s alumnus Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande (PhD’79) and his wife Jaishree, hosts Development Dialogue, which takes place Jan. 28-29 in Hubballi. The conference brings together 500 delegates from around the world who advance innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to solve complex social challenges.

The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre is leading the university’s delegation, which includes a representative from NorthSprout, another summer initiative venture that is developing a soil additive to improve water efficiency, two representatives from the Queen’s Sustainability Conference, two executives from Queen’s Enactus, a student group dedicated to improving lives through entrepreneurial action, and Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International).

Ann Choi (ConEd’17), a founder of the Queen’s Sustainability Conference, is looking forward to attending Development Dialogue. While she is graduating this year, Ms. Choi intends to share what she learns with other Queen’s students who will continue organizing future editions of the sustainability conference.

“From this conference, I hope to gain greater understanding of the relationship between policy changes and the impact on the daily lives of people,” she says. “I also want to understand better how students can also advocate for more sustainable and ethical ways of living beyond their immediate communities.”

The Deshpandes along with the Andrew Dunin (Sc’83, MBA’87) and his wife Anne Dunin (Artsci’83) jointly provided a significant gift to the Queen’s Innovation Connector in October 2016. Shortly after the announcement, Deshpande Foundation Executive Director Raj Melville invited Queen’s to send a delegation to this year’s Development Dialogue.

“Both Dr. Deshpande and Mr. Dunin are big believers in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to build wealth and transform economies,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for our students to see some of the successful projects in India and hear from hundreds of people about the work going on in other developing countries.”

Ms. Jiang is thrilled by this opportunity and views it as a testament to the growth of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre since she participated in the summer initiative nearly two years ago.

“I was in absolute disbelief when I found out about this opportunity. Extending this invitation to me shows how much the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre cares about its alumni ventures and how much they want us to succeed,” she says.

Visit the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre for more information about its programs.