Inspiring Innovation at TWIN Global

Northwestern Master of Engineering Management (MEM) student Melissa Albrecht looks back on the lessons learned from growth-minded leaders at the TWIN Global summit.

By Melissa Albrecht

Inspiring. Insightful. Innovative.

That is how I describe TWIN Global, an incredible annual summit hosted in Chicago by The World Innovation Network (TWIN) and featuring growth-minded leaders from all types of industries, ranging from business and government to the arts and academia. 

I first heard about the event during the 2018 Master of Engineering Management (MEM) Industry Night at Northwestern, where Kellogg Professor and TWIN Co-Founder and Chairman Rob Wolcott was the keynote speaker. As TWIN Global 2019 approached, I reached out to MEM Associate Director Steve Tilley and MEM Program Director Mark Werwath to see if MEM was sponsoring any activities in conjunction with TWIN. It turned out that Professor Werwath was participating in one of the Challenge Sessions and was able to get me an invitation.

Challenge Sessions are a central part of the summit and are designed, facilitated working sessions where participants engage in topics of common interest to network and expand knowledge and insights. TWIN hosted five different Challenge Sessions to kick off this year's summit. Topics included Responsible Sourcing, Food, Energy, Digital Health, and Making Technology Work for Humans. I had the opportunity to participate in The Future of Energy Session. 

In addition to my connections through MEM, I learned that my employer, UL, was a foresight sponsor of the summit. I connected with the sponsoring team who extended an invitation to the final day of the summit that focused on Purpose, Vision and Action. 

TWIN was such a unique experience. 

The ability to bring together representatives from diverse backgrounds with deep knowledge and distinct perspectives and then organize them around key topics for our future and our future generations was extremely insightful and inspiring. 

I was a sponge during the Future of Energy challenge session and learned about what some of the largest players in utilities, technology, and oil and gas are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, increase energy efficiency, and what we as consumers can do to contribute or even just become more informed. 

I learned about the significant investments being made by major players like Shell and Exelon in clean energy solutions. It was also interesting to note how the definition of value is changing in each part of the value chain. It is no longer about kilowatt/hour but about reliability, decarbonization of the grid, resilience and security, distributed energy resource (DER) and consumer choice.  

We talked about countries and cities making renewable energy or clean energy a priority, including the relatively recent Illinois bill that targets 100% renewable energy by 2050 and the rise of electric buses in Latin America. Another interesting topic was how nuclear power plants are exploring hydrogen production through the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy Advanced Reactor Development Project.

On Day 3, I confess, I was on the edge of my seat. I laughed, I learned and I cried. The theme of the day was Purpose, Vision, Action, and the day featured it all. We discussed:

Through it all, the experience made me realize it is time to get comfortable with the uncertainty of our future. At the same time, TWIN Global helped show that small but critical individual contributions can help us all navigate uncharted waters and make a real difference.

Those contributions can be made by engineers and technical leaders like my colleagues in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program. We are drawn to understanding the "why" and solving the "how". 

I have continued to emphasize that the greatest value of the MEM program is that it takes the theory and puts it into action. Throughout this experience, I learned first hand how so many global challenges and opportunities are being put into action by passionate and motivated leaders.

The opportunity was extremely positive, and I can't wait to participate in 2020.

McCormick News Article