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Five Rolex Laureates with highly successful projects gave the benefit of their experiences and the challenges involved in changing the future at a public symposium on 14 November presented by the Los Angeles Times, the Rolex Awards and the UCLA Anderson School of Management, The LA Times Summit – The Big Idea: Innovating for Tomorrow – was held at UCLA Anderson.

Also participating in the event, which drew an audience of more than 400 people, were high-profile people from a wide range of domains. Along with film-makers Werner Herzog and Jon Favreau, participants included renowned chef and author Alice Waters, Chad Anderson (Managing Director of Space Angels Network, an investment firm focused on commercial space ventures), Will Pomerantz, who is Vice President for special projects at Virgin Galactic, and Dr Kevin Hand, a key member of the Solar System Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (and 2014 Rolex Awards Jury Member). Other key business leaders and LA Times journalists moderated and took part.

Speaking of challenges of the future, Pomerantz pointed out that only 557 people — most of them roughly the same age — have had the privilege to venture into space. “We want to make it so that if you’re healthy enough to ride a roller coaster, then you’re healthy enough to ride in space.”

The Rolex Awards Laureates were explorer biologist and caver Francesco Sauro (Italy), marine biologist Brad Norman (Australia), zoologist Rory Wilson (United Kingdom), SaveLIFE foundation head Piyush Tewari (India), IT engineer and entrepreneur Arthur Zang (Cameroon). All their projects have demonstrated substantial benefits for humanity, animal species or human knowledge. All of the projects are using new technology.

A recurring theme in the comments of the five Laureates was the challenges they had to overcome to reach their goals.

“[In] almost 20 years of expeditions, exploration around the world, I’ve learnt one very important thing: that while exploring this underground world, reality always overcomes imagination,” said Sauro, who is exploring caves in South American never visited by humans – and is using these extreme environments to find ways to train future astronauts.

Tewari, who gave up his successful career in finance to set up a foundation that is helping to save thousands of accident victims on Indian roads, told participants: “Today, more than ever before in our history, we need a lot more problem solvers in our societies.”

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