I can say without fear of being proven wrong that when Eric Schmidt he was the CEO of Google, he helped change the world as we know it. But now he seems to have got a taste for it, and is on a mission to change the world again, this time through the search for transformative ideas. To do this, in 2019 he created a program called RISE (Recognizing and Investing in Serial Entrepreneurs), which annually funds 100 extraordinary inventions with the potential to become as many epochal breakthroughs.
Hunt for the ideas of the next Leonardo
They might have the face of Jacqueline Prawira, a California high school student who invented a way to use fish scale scraps to remove heavy metals from wastewater. Or that of Kambiré Cyé Antonio Angelberg, the founder of a group called CMath which organizes national Olympics in mathematics and physics in Burkina Faso. Or maybe that of Rishabh Ambavanekar, a teenager who built a brain-computer interface that helps stroke victims communicate. There are already so many (the complete list it's here).
The search to find a "new Leonardo" with great ideas starts early: RISE's monitoring starts at the age of 15, a moment in which the lives of children sometimes change decisively.
It is the case of James Chau Nguyen, one of the selected. Among the ideas examined, his is the one that has an important history behind it. In May 2019 he emigrated to the USA, starting to study in a Californian high school. In March 2020, his grandmother who remained in Vietnam is diagnosed with brain cancer: she is already too old to be operated on. A terrible blow. Which gave James' ideas a big boost.
A toothbrush to detect cancer
"It was a difficult time both financially and emotionally," says Nguyen. Devoured by the need to read cancer research, the boy ended up designing the prototype of an electric toothbrush that uses a nanochip to separate cancer cells from saliva.
The scheme, as simple as it is effective, has become a real prototype (and is now being tested) thanks to a Californian biomedical startup and the support of RISE. In the boy's intention, he will have a small compartment (built into the charging station) where to collect the samples for analysis, which a laboratory can interpret using CAR-T cells.
If James Nguyen's ideas turn out to be right, we may find ourselves a commercial product capable of early cancer detection. Something extraordinary.
New ideas for a new world
James, Jacqueline, Antonio and the others are the guys of 2022. Among them there could be one, or more than one, who solves important problems in our world. This is why it is important to help them: like them, millions of fresh minds give birth to revolutionary ideas every day. Almost always without the support of a state, or a scholarship, of a private individual who wants to invest, even if only to save taxes.
But it is indispensable. Because Eric Schmidt himself, with a personal fortune of almost 18 billion dollars, has arrived where he has arrived thanks to the support of his tutors, colleagues, experts in the sector.
RISE is an exceptional program, one of those that (to borrow a term from the US) "shoot the moon". It can receive a sea of criticism due to its nature of seeking radical ideas, which tackle problems with extreme creativity.
The biggest challenge is to listen
If you want my opinion, the greatest quality of a program like this is its goal of perfecting a talent identification process. If they told me that eventually we will be able to find a method of some kind to identify exceptional people since they were little girls, and help their ideas grow up without repressing them, I would say that alone is worth well over the billion dollars that RISE has put in. at stake.
This is a great experiment, which does credit to the future. And we will see what fruit it will bear over the next few years. Putting these kids' ideas together will bring a change sooner or later.
Putting together the ideas of ALL the kids changes the world, regardless.