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Old 14-07-13, 10:41 AM
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Default S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia launches it’s first innovation club

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia launches it’s first innovation club

On Wednesday June 26th 2013, during the weekly “Current Affairs Day” S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia launched the “STC-Esto Perpetua, Innovation Club” – the first such innovation club in the long history of the school by the sea. The College was partnered by 3M Sri Lanka and guided by an Advisory Panel, which initially comprised Warden STC, Prof. Indra De Soysa; two old Thomians who conceptualized the idea, 3M Sri Lanka, Vice President Suren Rajanathan and Chartered Accountant and Founder of the Thought Leadership Forum, Ranel Wijesinha (who was a nominee of 3M); Managing Director for 3M New Ventures, Asia Pacific, Ms. Michelle Bellanca who is based in Singapore, Asanka Perera, an electronics engineering graduate from the UK, himself a young old Thomian, now a member of the school’s science faculty and Samadhi Gunasekera, an engineering student from McGill University, a current intern at 3M Sri Lanka.

Suren Rajanathan, who is deeply committed to the project, says, “As a company passionate about innovation, 3M believes that innovation is the creation of new solutions to meet inarticulate needs and to persistently thrive for value addition. It is the ability to rethink the world and challenge the status quo that improves lifestyles. 3M fuels its success with a century of innovation! 3M Innovation Centers are located in over 30 countries worldwide. Customers come to these centers to collaborate with 3M experts through interactive, hands-on demonstrations to explore creative solutions either driven by their true necessities or by their passion for innovation. This proven system has been successfully adapted to the context of many leading academic institutes world over.” Every single person is 3 meters away from a 3M product. I can guarantee, that you use at least 3 different 3M products. Our presence is everywhere. Even the shoes that Neil Armstrong used had a 3M product says Suren.

The guest speaker, at the launch was Ms. Michelle Bellanca who enlightened students with her vast experience in entrepreneurship and innovation. The members of the innovation club had the opportunity to experiment with ideas and display talent through several activities and programmes, which were launched under the guidance of the Advisory Panel. The students were given continuous support by 3M and through corporates who wish to encourage innovation. Every year an annual innovation competition will be held to attract young talent and motivate students to realize their potential. The best innovation will be rewarded and may be given the opportunity to commercialize the innovation in a real world scenario.

Looking forward to the launch and commenting passionately about how the idea began, Ranel Wijesinha had this to say “Suren’s idea of bringing down people from his global 3M family and exposing the Sri Lankan community and the College to people like Art Fry who developed the now famous 3M post it note was a brilliant idea. I am happy we met socially and thoughts converged instantly within a matter of 2 months. But we had a setback. Art Fry fell sick and had to cancel his trip. However we persevered. Suren did not give up but found Michelle. We then decided to do more than bringing people down and showcasing them through seminars but to take thoughts beyond such events –in essence to move from a static one time event to a dynamic long term project. We thought we will begin with the young.”

Reminiscing about previous attempts and parallels, Ranel says “My mind went to the Junior Achievement concept in the US having been a “JA Advisor” myself. Trying to launch JA here in 1990/1991 was not easy. While local school’s showed no interest, I had an unexpected call and a visit from the expatriate teacher of Applied Economics of the then Overseas Children’s School (now the Overseas School). He had heard of my passion to launch JA here. I was invited to do the first ever JA pilot project at OCS. I did so over a 6-week period but with an informal condition that my time be reciprocated by the JA programme being replicated at my alma mater -STC Mount. This however did not happen. The teacher left the country. Repeated attempts to do this at College were met with lukewarm responses.”

Ranel lamented, “Even schools in the outstations have inventors clubs. There is an Inventors Commission. How this is rolled out throughout the country of course is uncertain. It is the JA concept that motivated Patrick Amerasinghe to launch YESL-the Young Entrepreneurs of Sri-Lanka. Patrick and I have discussed this many times before YESL was formed and I have been happy to give him time and support too. With all this background, Suren and I met on just two more occasions, met Warden and all thoughts converged. Thus was born the STC-Esto Perpetua, Innovation Club It has been a pleasure to work with Suren and Samadhi who Suren assigned to this project”

Samadhi Gunasekera who is an intern with 3M Sri Lank is an engineering student from McGill University, and previously from Musaeus College, Colombo 07. “Being a good student, I learnt what was taught and performed well at exams. However, it was after entering university that I realized how alien I was to the concept of innovation and thinking outside the box. I know this is the same for many of my friends” says Samadhi. Warden Prof Indra De Soya’s nominee from the faculty Asanka Perera is an Electrical & Electronic Engineer. With a degree from Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, Asanka came back to the country after gaining Electronic engineering experience in the UK and joined the tutorial staff at S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Asanka is passionate too and says “I want to make a difference at my old school.”
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