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Creating a REAL IMPACT with the RIGHT Innovations

Published in Alumni@SP Magazine (Year 2019, Dec Issue, Page 5-7)
· Sustainability,Innovation,Media Interviews

This article first appeared on Alumni@SP Magazine (Year 2019, Dec Issue, Page 5-7) by Singapore Polytechnic. Interview conducted by Florent Chua. Link to original article here.

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Be prepared to ditch obsolete notions of innovation, sustainable development and economic growth after meeting technopreneur Mr Jovan Tan. Read on to uncover what goes on behind his groundbreaking research in Restorative Innovation, among his other accomplishments.

Founder of RIGHT Foundation

Incorporated as a Non-Profit Organisation, the Restorative Innovation to Grow Humanity with Technology (RIGHT) Foundation has been established to advance the body of knowledge for and improve the world through Restorative Innovation. It is also a movement in itself.

“Sustainability is of paramount importance today because the resource strain on Earth is unprecedented. We are extracting more than we can replenish and if this goes on, the ecosystem we live in will collapse” Jovan explained.

Since 2017, he has been working closely with renowned researcher and educator Professor Virginia Cha to develop Restorative Innovation, an innovation economic model that demonstrates the possibility of designing commercially viable solutions that has a greater purpose of doing good across health, humanity and the environment.

His model studies growth patterns, and explains how these innovations goes to market and brings forth a positive impact to the society. “Let’s use Tesla and its electric vehicles to explain how this works. When the first Tesla car was introduced, the initial cost of production was substantially higher, due to scarcity and limitations in resources or inherent inefficiencies,” Jovan said. “However, with time and more consumers using Tesla’s product, Tesla was able to improve on its production efficiency and reduce its associated cost. For impact-driven leaders like Elon Musk, we learnt that overtime, they tend to pass on these cost savings to reduce the overall price of the product and as a result, encourage a greater product adoption by the mass market,” Jovan expounded.

Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees

While interacting with senior business leaders, Jovan noticed that sustainability is often an afterthought for them. “At the get-go, they tend to focus on generating revenue instead of the ecological footprint of their businesses, and though it is not wrong, they should also consider the potential ecological consequences before making a decision,” he asserted. “That is why helping decision makers understand Restorative Innovation and encouraging them to incorporate it into their organisation’s DNA is imperative, as it is evident that innovation is the key to tackle both facets. When business leaders know that it can be done, they will be mindful and act on it when opportunity arises.”

To spread and share this knowledge to as many people as possible, Jovan, together with Professor Cha, inaugurated the World Restorative Innovation Forum in 2018. The forum is a biennial event which brings like-minded people together to engage in conversations and spark ideas around Restorative Innovation. The well-received, highly diverse event in 2018 witnessed over 15 world renowned speakers, 300 international delegates and raised sponsorships worth over $30,000.

Towards Zero Waste

The only fly in the ointment in the 2018 World Restorative Innovation Forum was that the event partners engaged to process the post-consumption food and food packaging waste did not keep to their side of the bargain despite proving the credentials for doing so.

This led a chagrined Jovan to investigate the issue and discovered major gaps in the certification industry. Armed with this knowledge, Jovan vowed to change the state of affairs and subsequently enlisted the help of material scientist Dr Sandeep Tiwari to co-found REAL IMPACT, an impact-driven outcome-based certification body in June this year. Their flagship Zero Waste for F&B certification program works closely with F&B clients to help them go Zero Waste. They do so by deploying a combination of advanced technologies across the end-to-end value chain to continuously monitor the movement of the waste collected and ensured that it is sent to the right facility to be processed accordingly. This approach is radically different from the point-in-time checks on facilities, which are conducted by human inspectors and is widely practised by their competitors. As an uprising startup, REAL IMPACT counts TRIA, a global sustainable food packaging company as its client and has worked with the respectable organisations such as Marina Bay Sands, Grand Hyatt, Food Industry Asia, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Singapore Environment Council too.

“Certifications are an instrument of trust. The data we collect is evidence-based and it allows our clients to make the claim on the outcome they have achieved, as well as to report on their sustainability performance and impact to society,” Jovan further elaborated. He also currently sits on the Singapore Standards Council too, under the Technical Committee for Food Services.

Changing the Game through Fostering Innovative Entrepreneurship

Jovan believes that entrepreneurs should start their businesses with the twin objectives of attaining ecological improvement and profitability. “It’s always more cost effective to start right from day one, rather than try to retrofit at a later stage,” he shared.

He also gives back to the local entrepreneurial community through the SAFRA Entrepreneur’s Club, where he serves as a steering committee member. With the goal of enabling his fellow Singaporean entrepreneurs’ business ideas to take flight, he works closely with the club management team to introduce skill workshops and seminars to educate and equip club members with the necessary skillset before they embark on their entrepreneurial journey. “Beyond learning from our esteemed speakers, we also provide our members with a low-cost, low investment platform - the SAFRA Entrepreneurs’ Marketplace - to test the feasibility of commercializing their product offerings and an opportunity to obtain valuable feedback from prospective customers. Rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty is the fastest way to determine if entrepreneurship is for you.”

Back in Singapore Polytechnic, he is also giving back to his alma mater by advising the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering (EEE) on their upcoming technopreneurship course structure, curriculum and industry engagements.

“Entrepreneurship is a thrill; a rite of passage. If you want to be an entrepreneur, do it. Don’t think too much. If you have something amazing up your sleeve, do it. If you don’t do it, you won’t know the results,” he encouraged.

While some often lament about bureaucracy impeding creativity, Jovan has his own view. “Singapore is a small country state with limited resources. We must be pragmatic and explore strategically our options. We get to where we are today partly because of bureaucracy. We need to have a balance between both innovation and bureaucracy,” he concluded.

#JOgraphy is the personal blog of Jovan Tan where he candidly shares his thoughts and views on a wide range of topics that are important to him. The views and opinions expressed in his writings do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of his companies or his affiliations.