Paul Miller: What is impact and how to achieve it?

Paul Miller is a partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, a company that invests in ambitious startups using technology to change the world. He gave a keynote speech at the Helsinki Challenge Impact Camp on how researchers can increase the impact of their work.

How can you save the world and make money doing it?

“By creating a product or service where the more people buy it, the more positive social impact it creates. The more people use it the more it creates positive impact and money. It’s about aligning positive impact with the business model. If they’re closely aligned, things become a lot simpler and you have very few compromises you need to make.

For example Bethnal Green Ventures funded a company that produces appointment systems for the National Health Service. The more they sell their product to health care organisations the more the organisations avoid missed appointments and gain money for health care.”

What kind of idea can change the world?

“It’s very rare for an idea alone to change the world. When an idea becomes a story and when people can understand what that idea is trying to achieve then it often becomes a company or a movement. It begins as a tiny snowball and becomes bigger and bigger as you push it down the hill.”

What sort of cooperation would you like to see between researchers and companies in the future?

“Nothing happens unless researchers and companies collaborate. It feels very obvious yet we’ve only realised quite recently the huge value in connecting researchers with entrepreneurs, startups and bigger companies. What seems to be changing is that both sides are starting to understand the value of working together.”

What is the role of science in changing the world?

“The role of science is to understand the world. Good solutions come from deep understanding of the way things happen or go wrong. The key thing is to get the balance right. We can change the world through science when we have people who play with it and who intentionally try to find solutions to global problems.”

What is your one piece of advice to the Helsinki Challenge teams?

“Keep the way you measure your impact simple. You’re working on very complex topics, so try to measure, demonstrate and communicate your impact in very plain terms.”

Read more about Impact Camp, impact and Helsinki Challenge here.