A Nobel view of innovation

In 1895, Alfred Nobel’s legacy was to create what is today the world’s most highly acclaimed prize for brilliance and invention. His vision? To honor achievements that are of “the greatest benefit to humankind.”

As one of five Nobel International Partners, Capgemini’s partnership with Nobel Prize Outreach means it shares a commitment to that original vision and to nurturing innovation and technology to create a sustainable future for all.

Every year, Nobel Prize Outreach runs a programme of events aimed at inspiring people across borders and generations about the incredible possibilities of scientific endeavor. These include the Nobel Prize Dialogues, in which Nobel Prize laureates and other world-renowned thinkers and decision-makers share their knowledge and experience with students and professionals at the start of their careers.

© Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud

At one recent event, three Capgemini colleagues had the opportunity to speak with Canadian astrophysicist and Nobel Prize laureate Professor Arthur McDonald. His prize-awarded work is a study of neutrinos – elusive sub-atomic particles created in nuclear reactions in the sun. His measurements show that neutrinos have mass. As the Standard Model of physics is based on neutrinos lacking mass, McDonald’s breakthrough work showed that the model must be revised.

 

Be part of the solution

Meijun Zhou is a consultant with Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange team in Shenzhen, China, and was invited to the virtual meeting with Professor McDonald.

“We are an innovation team,” she says, “so when I heard I had been selected to talk to a Nobel Prize laureate, it was amazing.

“It’s a rare opportunity. I wanted to ask Professor McDonald about the roles of research and innovation in science – how do we learn from what people have done, taking existing things and putting them together in innovative ways to create something new?

“Professor McDonald reminded us that scientists use existing information to generate new insights, and this can also be called innovation. Not everyone is an inventor, but as long as we can dig out new points from the existing information, we are innovating. He told us that you can’t know everything about everything, but you can be a part of the solution. That insight is very helpful for me and really gives me the confidence to progress in my career. It’s such a valuable experience.”

Have goals along the way

Joseph Tedds was also invited to participate in the meeting with Professor McDonald. Joseph is a quantum algorithm developer at Cambridge Consultants, part of Capgemini Invent.

“I felt a lot of pride that I was representing Capgemini and meeting Professor McDonald,” he says. “One of the key things that I took away from the event was that he spoke about the need for collaboration in science. When he told us about the projects that he had worked on, they have hundreds of collaborators. You might see the name of a Nobel Prize laureate in the media, but it’s so much more of a team.

“I also asked about the external pressures you face on projects when you are working on large timescales. This is of particular interest to me because quantum technologies are something that will take a long time to mature. There will always be someone asking, ‘When will I see results?’

“Professor McDonald’s project had taken about 15 years before he could even start generating data for it. That is the kind of timescale we might be working to for quantum. The answer is to have goals that you check along the way, so you can always see that you are pushing in the right direction. Making sure that I have those achievable parts is very relevant to me.”

Always keep questioning

Working in Toulouse as a software engineer, Imane Souffer was the third Capgemini colleague invited to meet Professor McDonald.

“I do a lot of data analysis and am currently working on a remote sensing project to monitor the flow of carbon in the atmosphere,” she says.

“For me, the most inspiring thoughts Professor McDonald shared were about how, as a scientist, you never give up. If you want to be successful, you always need to keep questioning and keep trying. Everyone has potential, and you are the one in control of your destiny if you keep believing and keep pushing. When you are near the start of your career, you have to have that confidence to keep going and become the person you want to be.”

Imane says that Professor McDonald’s insights reflect the ways of working she is already experiencing at Capgemini.

“There are amazing people at Capgemini who are committed to their work and using science and technology to find solutions to the challenges we face in the world,” she says. “If we mix all that together, supporting each other and sharing our knowledge – like Professor McDonald does – then there’s a greater chance we’ll succeed in getting the future we want.”

 

Watch the full replay of their conversation with the Nobel Prize laureate Professor Arthur McDonald:

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