Eden Project founder at Belfast & Derry festival

Tim Smit KBE, founder of the award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall, which opened its doors to the public in 2000, will speak at the event.
Tim Smit KBE, founder of the award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall, which opened its doors to the public in 2000, will speak at the event.
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Celebrated innovators from across Ireland, the UK and the EU will gather in Derry and Belfast this week to discuss solutions to social challenges.

Keynote speaker for the two day festival, which takes places at the Playhouse on Thursday, October 19, and again in Belfast the following day, is Sir Tim Smit KBE, founder of the award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall, which opened its doors to the public in 2000.

Once a large, disused crater, it was Sir Tim’s vision which saw it transformed into an educational centre which houses a range of projects, including an indoor rain forest, learning college focusing on food production and horticulture and rainforest canopy.

Since opening, the attraction has contributed more than £1 billion to the local economy, and seen over 16 million people through its doors.

Sir Tim will speak on the second day in Belfast and other speakers over the two days will include Deirdre Mortell, Head of Social Innovation Fund for Ireland, Tech Entrepreneur and Angel Investor from the North West, Mary McKenna along with local talent, Alan Mahon, from beer producer, Brewgooder, which donates all its profits to clean water in developing countries around the world.

As well as the keynotes, Fusion Fest will feature nine interactive breakout sessions each day, including social finance, tech for good, corporate social innovation and youth unemployment.

Fusion Fest is being hosted by the Building Change Trust, as part of its work with Social Innovation NI, with support from the Department for Communities. The festival is organised by Innovate-NI.

Tickets are available from www.fusionfest.co.uk, and the festival will continue in Belfast on Friday.

A free shuttle bus will run from Derry to Belfast for the after-party at Belfast Barge on Friday.

Paul Braithwaite, who heads up the Building Change Trust’s work in Social Innovation, said:

“We’ve organised Fusion Fest because we believe Social Innovation is a powerful concept that could find creative solutions to social problems. By bringing together a bunch of people who wouldn’t normally mix, Fusion Fest combines innovators from business, the public sector, and community sector, as well as individuals who have big ideas. Our panel of speakers will be inspiring participants through their own social innovation journey, and the programme includes workshops on specific issues such as youth unemployment and health inequalities, ‘tech for good’ and design thinking. We are hoping to find some great collaborative partnerships emerge from this year’s event, having had previous successes such as with Arthritis Care NI, who, through our Techies in Residence programme, worked with Blackstaff Games to develop a mobile game for young people affected by Arthritis to help them better manage their condition and communicate with health professionals.”

Sharon Polson from the Department for Communities said:“The Department is very pleased to be supporting FuSIon Fest this year. The festival provides an exciting opportunity for individuals and organisations to learn about social innovation and to have meaningful discussions on innovative solutions to the social problems we face in our society. We believe the festival will not only promote the concept of Social Innovation but will also inspire ideas and cultivate collaborations and we encourage organisations across the public, private and third sectors to get involved.”