PUBLIC POV: Innovation is a key ingredient in the profit with purpose recipe

As World Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW) kicks off this Sunday, PUBLIC shares examples of companies that exemplify innovative thought, and deliver social impact.

Innovation it’s a word you’ve likely seen splashed across newspapers, sector reports, government speeches, business plans and more. Some see it as being overused, but at the same time, it’s also arguably one of the most important concepts for any business that wants to stand the test of time.

As World Creativity and Innovation Week kicks off this weekend (and the inevitable stream of “innovation” think pieces ensue), it’s worth noting the difference between creative and innovative thought. While creativity is all about imagining new concepts, innovation takes an idea and puts it to action.

Earlier this month, SXSW (an annual film, interactive media, and music festival) published their 2018 list of top companies using interactive media (creativity) to solve a problem out in the world (innovation).

Here are PUBLIC’s top picks from SXSW’s interactive innovation finalists. These projects demonstrate what innovation is all about and act as a blueprint for companies wanting to improve the world around them and profit, too.

Toyota Mirai

Toyota has a vision for a hydrogen future, and their car, the Mirai, is a big part of that vision. The Mirai runs on hydrogen fuel cells, emits only water vapour, and is able to travel 312 miles on a full tank. Following Toyota’s prius prime plug-in vehicle, the Mirai is a further commitment by Toyota to mitigate the effects of climate change and generate revenue by providing these options to consumers.

Even though Toyota has lost money on each Mirai sold since 2014, they remain committed to selling 30,000 fuel-cell vehicles per year by 2020. Now, Toyota is focused on building a hydrogen refueling network to make the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle a more appealing option.


EksoWorks, a leader in the field of robotic exoskeletons, created the Eksovest in response to the high rates of chronic pain and injury coming out of the construction and manufacturing industry. Nearly $21 billion is spent on workplace-related injuries in the United States, with a significant portion of these costs arising from the “severe pain” that 20 per cent of construction workers report. In fact, a 2012 study indicated that 40 per cent of construction workers over 50 years of age experience chronic back pain.

The Eksovest is a wearable vest that takes the demand off of the worker’s shoulders and augments the endurance of the worker by providing an automated lift assist. The vest is in place so that workers will experience a reduced risk of injury, and construction companies will have increased productivity and fewer out of commission employees.

Microsoft Hands-Free Music

Individuals affected by disabling conditions, such as ALS and spinal cord injuries, do not always have the ability to adequately express themselves, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Through human-centred design and tech application, Microsoft developed three technologies to address this challenge. The three “Hands-Free Music” Microsoft products work together to enable those with disabling conditions to perform and compose music.

Hands-Free Sound Jam and Hands-Free Sound Machine are eye-controlled applications for composition and performance, while Expressive Pixels is a visual platform that the artist can use to “augment stage performance” through lighting and other expressions to coincide with their music. You can check out how the suite works here.

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