Innovation Lab
Denmark 2017

UNLEASH had its inaugural event during August 2017 in Denmark.  

Before the innovation process began, Talents had the chance to explore Copenhagen. They visited a range of innovative companies around the city, before meeting at the City Hall where the Mayor welcomed all of them. 

The Innovation Lab took place in Folk High Schools, unique learning institutions located in the Danish countryside that focus on personal development, open collaboration, and hands-on learning.  

Finally, Talents gathered in Musikhuset in Aarhus, where innovators and thought leaders celebrated their work and launched the global UNLEASH movement. 

Watch this video of the first UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab! 

Our Innovation Process

In our programs, we use the unique UNLEASH Innovation Methodology to enable young people to translate sustainability challenges into impactful solutions for the SDGs. Our methodology is built around a collaborative innovation process, based on human-centered design principles. In a nutshell, human-centered design starts with focusing on the people you want to design for and ends with tangible products or services, developed to suit their specific needs. The process follows five steps:

Problem Framing
Defining a problem based on user needs and clear insights

Brainstorming and selecting ideas to solve the problem

Creating simple versions of the idea to understand how it will work in real life

Testing the solution with users, learning, and adapting

Planning and launching impactful solutions

The Program

Days 1-2 :August 12-14th 

Welcome Tour | Meatpacking District &Train Workshop 

Day 8-9: August 19-21st  

Solution Festival | Dragons Den | UNLEASH Awards Show Presented by BESTSELLER in Aarhus  

Days 3 – 7 :August 15th – 18th 

SDG Innovation Lab facilitated by Deloitte 

Days 1-2 :August 12-14th 

Welcome Tour | Meatpacking District &Train Workshop 

Days 3 – 7 :August 15th – 18th 

SDG Innovation Lab facilitated by Deloitte 

Day 8-9: August 19-21st  

Solution Festival | Dragons Den | UNLEASH Awards Show Presented by BESTSELLER in Aarhus  


In 2017, Talents worked on seven different themes.  

Food (SDG2)

WASTE AND SPOILAGE: About 30% the food produced every year, or approximately 1.3 billion tones, is lost or wasted, with fruits and vegetables having the highest wastage rates.  In industrialized countries, consumers and retailers waste an estimated 222 million tons of food each year, while in developing countries the wastage often comes during production.


NUTRITION AND FUNCTIONAL FOODS: While most developing countries have the raw materials to produce functional foods both for domestic consumption and international exporting, they lack a clear regulatory framework for production, quality control, sales, and certification of these “hybrid” food products. Meanwhile, despite nutritional benefits, no generalizations about consumer choices regarding functional food consumption have been determined. 

Health (SDG 3)

MEDICAL SUPPLY CHAINS: An estimated US$2 billion worth of unexpired medications discarded at long-term care facilities in the US, while at the same time one in four adults can’t afford prescriptions. Meanwhile, an estimated 40% of the 1 million health centers in developing countries are stocked out of supplies or medications. 

Education & ICT (SDG 4)

ACCESS TO EDUCATION: Despite significant progress since 2000, an estimated 59 million children of primary school age and 65 million adolescents of lower secondary school age – of whom girls remain a majority – were still out of school in 2013. Poverty continues to be one of the most significant factors when it comes to access and inclusion and exacerbates gender gaps. The problem of access is even greater for learners with disabilities and for displaced communities. 


LITERACY AND SKILLS: Many school children are not acquiring basic knowledge and skills. More than 50% of the 250 million primary-school-aged children who have spent at least four years in school, cannot read, write or count well enough to meet minimum learning standards. There is also a globally acknowledged skills gap for STEM related jobs. 

Water & Sanitation (SDG 6)

WATER TREATMENT FACILITIES: Water and waste water treatment facilities use 2-4% of the total electricity used in the US. While electric utilities have been focusing efforts to improve efficiency and provide grid services, water and waste water treatment utilities have been disconnected from these efforts. Water utilities’ lack of a relationship with electric utilities, coupled with low financial incentives for providing grid services, has limited the effort to improve energy efficiency. 


WATER ACCESS: More than 50% of the 663 million people worldwide who lack access to safe water live in Sub-Saharan Africa, predominantly in rural areas. This leads to poor health due to various water-related illnesses. However, access alone is not enough to guarantee better health. Insufficient hygienic practices can lead to the contamination of safe water after it leaves the water point, making it unsafe to drink. 

Energy (SDG 7)

RENEWABLE ENERGY: If all planned coal plants in six countries – China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Pakistan – are built, they would over their lifespan account for “almost all” of the global carbon budget that the world cannot exceed if it is to meet the 2°C goal. While the share of coal in China’s energy mix will decrease up to 2030, Vietnam’s will almost double. 


FINANCING: Over 30,000 solar-powered irrigation units were installed in India 2015-2016, more than doubling the previously installed capacity. Diesel pumps for irrigation are still widely used and substituting 50% of the country’s diesel units with solar alternatives would require loans of approx. US$15 billion. 

Urban Sustainability (SDG 11)

URBAN PLANNING: By 2050, urban areas will account for 70-75% of the world’s population equaling 3 billion more people than today. 60% of the areas expected to be urban by 2030 have yet to be built. As existing cities sprawl, people move to the urban fringe without services, amenities and infrastructure are largely due to the absence of urban planning strategies and legislation at the national or sub-national level. 


URBAN MOBILITY: Automobile sales are expected to increase from 70 million a year to 125 million by 2025 where more than half of them will be bought in cities. The result of following this trajectory can lead to a doubling of the current global fleet of 1.2 billion cars by 2030. Meanwhile, congestion is already close to unbearable in many cities and can cost as much as 2-4% of national GDP, by measures such as lost time, wasted fuel, and increased cost of doing business. 

Responsible consumption and production (SDG 12)

RESPONSIBLE SUPPLY CHAIN: Corporations with global supply chains have the potential to generate growth, employment and skill development through their operations and sourcing. However, cross-country production, short lead times, and short-term buyer-supplier relationships can make supply chain visibility difficult, both for internal and external purposes. This reduced supply chain visibility creates challenges for corporations to meet their responsibilities within human rights, labour rights and the environment. 


WATER-USE: For the fashion industry, access to water is essential for cotton cultivation, textile dyeing and finishing. Every kilogram of textiles requires on average 11,000 liters of water throughout the production cycle, and in a world of scarce resources, where textile production is often located in water scarce regions, this presents a growing issue that needs to be addressed. 


CONNECTIVITY: Remote patient monitoring, telehealth and electronic medical records constitute some of the largest market opportunities related to delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, in developing as well as developed countries. The spread of eHealth solutions intensifies the challenge of interoperability, across platforms, devices, apps and databases. 


Ashton Kutcher

Actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur 

Achim Steiner

Under Secretary General and Administrator of UNDP

Anders Lendager

Architect & Founder, Lendager Group

Bjarke Ingels

Founder & CEO, BIG

Dee Poon

Managing Director of Brands and Distribution, Esquel Group

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

Lars Kroijer

Founder & Managing Director, AlliedCrowds.com

Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Former Prime Minister of Denmark

Juliana Rotich

Co-founder, BRCK Inc. & Ushahidi Inc.

Olafur Eliasson

Artist, Studio Olafur Eliasson

Salman “Sal” Khan

Founder & CEO, Khan Academy

Trisha Shetty

SDG Young Leader & Founder, SheSays

Jorge Wong-Valle

Advisor, International Finance Corporation (IFC) 

Kirsten Dunlop

CEO, Climate-KIC

Tommy Ahlers

Entrepreneur & “Dragon”

Anders Runevad

President & CEO, Vestas

Charlotte Mark

CEO, Microsoft Development

Peder Holk Nielsen

President & CEO, Novozymes 

Aja Guldhammer

CEO, Reshopper

Claus Stig Pedersen

Head of Sustainability, Novozymes

Elisabeth Haslund

Spokesperson Denmark, UNHCR Northern Europe

Jacob Bundsgaard

Mayor of Aarhus 

Laura Lochman

Chargé D’Affaires, U.S. Embassy in Denmark

Lykke Friis

Pro-Rector, Copenhagen University

Ulla Tørnæs

Minister of Development, Denmark 

Solutions from previous Innovation Labs

Do you have any questions for us?