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Digital Promise: accelerating innovation in U.S. education


The U.S. president message

President Barack Obama said “Digital Promise is a unique partnership that will bring everyone together – educators, entrepreneurs, and researchers – to use technology to help students learn and teachers teach. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to education, but technology can be a powerful tool, and Digital Promise will help us make the most of it.”

Their mission

Digital Promise is a nonprofit corporation authorized by Congress “to support a comprehensive research and development program to harness the increasing capacity of advanced information and digital technologies to improve all levels of learning and education, formal and informal, in order to provide Americans with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the global economy.”

Their history

In 2008, Digital Promise was formally authorized as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. With an initial Board of Directors recommended in part by Members of Congress and appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Digital Promise was formally launched by President Barack Obama in September 2011 with startup support from the U.S. Department of Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Digital Promise League

The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools is a unique national coalition of 32 school districts in 21 states that serve more than 2.7 million students. Through partnerships with start-ups, research institutions, and one another, League districts are committing to demonstrate, evaluate, and scale up innovations that deliver better results for students.

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  obama HIGH SPEED

Obama: High-Speed Internet by 2018

President Barack Obama thinks American students aren’t connected enough, and that access to faster Internet connections and technologies is crucial in today’s schools. That’s why he wants to make sure that 99% of students have high-speed broadband access within the next five years.


Accelerating innovation in U.S. education

President Barack Obama said “Digital Promise is a unique partnership that will bring everyone together – educators, entrepreneurs, and researchers – to use technology to help students learn and teachers teach. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to education, but technology can be a powerful tool, and Digital Promise will help us make the most of it.”


Innovative way to teach and learn

Science fiction writers and blockbuster movies have been predicting a world run by robots for decades, and for most of us, the fantasy has stayed in the realm of fiction. But artificial intelligence has made rapid progress and robots are becoming more a part of everyday life than many people realize. Those who study robots and their impact on life foresee a day not too far off when many jobs now held by people will be automated.


Innovation at school: Robotics & Poetry

In 2013, French government is trying to find a way to push France to be more innovative. France is considered a moderately innovative country in Europe (see more details with the previous article TOP4 Leaders in Europe). French government is focusing on education aspect: how to infuse the spirit of innovation at school?


Homegrown Efforts to Recruit Women in IT

When Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm, wanted to make sure its job postings were reaching the most diverse audience possible, its partners did what most people in Silicon Valley do when they spot a problem: they turned to software.


Innovation Centre at Singapore

Samsung and NYP have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding to establish the ‘Samsung Digital Convergence and Mobility Innovation Centre’ at NYP, equipped with smart devices, large format display screens, and interactive surfaces from Samsung. R&D in the three areas will be conducted by staff and students from NYP.

7 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation


How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?

Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.

Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.

1. Define your company’s mission around innovation

Many companies don’t have a mission statement, but for those which do, often times statements use generic terms, such as “best product in the world”, “best customer service”… They do not inspire employees to innovate. A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customer’s world, for the better.

2. Create the structure to allow employees to experiment new ideas with unstructured time

Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. Then tap into this creative process.

3. Recognize employees’s contribution to the innovation process

Some companies offer monetized incentives. It is hard to assign a $ value to innovation; this is good for sales teams. Some companies give annual innovation awards; it is a good initiative for a short term, but it creates more competition than it encourages collaboration and creates emulation.

4. Return to the past

No new idea is completely original. Some concepts may not have materialized for various reasons, but it is always good to look at the past and understand why it did not work out. You avoid future mistakes, you can find ways to better the products (new technology, new process, new skill…). Start-up companies which by definition don’t have a past can look at what’s be done in the industry, what did not find success, and bounce off this to create something new.

5. Pay attention to culture, not trends

Culture is mass ideology – a system of values and beliefs that runs so deep we don’t question it. There’s an American belief in personal invention and reinvention. You see that in social products like Snapchat and Instagram, which allow us to invent ourselves in the moment. They may seem like a trend. But they reflect a deep underlying value.

6. Continuous education

Self-development is the key to employee’s success. In the same system where company should create a structure for unstructured time, those same companies should create time for continuous education. Allow employees to seek new interests, learn and develop new skills.

7. Allow failure

The essence of innovation is that it takes multiple experiments to successfully create new products, solutions, services.  Failure is part of the innovation process. When employees are not afraid of failure, they will feel empowered to take risks and be “crazy”.


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Africa: G Days Cameroon IT Innovation 2014


Google Developpers Group ( GDG ) of Cameroon organizes G DAYS Innovative Ideas Open 14 of 1 to 2 March 2014 at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering of Douala.

G DAYS Cameroon Open Innovative Ideas ( GDays IOI) is a national event which aims to create a technological lever arm in the IT ecosystem Cameroon innovation , boost students’ creativity and enhance the ability of firms to enter business opportunities.

G 14 DAYS Cameroon IOI follow the path begun by the first edition by adding a focus on the ( secondary and university ) education as a lever for innovation, the involvement of women in the technology field as strength and thinking work and efficiency in business and entrepreneurship in young as vector smarter management and the introduction of ” just in time” for better capitalizing on business opportunities.

The goal this year is to bring together more than 2,000 IT enthusiasts , students , developers, entrepreneurs and businesses around IT innovation , with an emphasis on solving social issues in Africa, especially those from Cameroon .

Powered by the slogan ” Innovation also be able to adapt existing technologies to the realities of Africa” ​​, the IOI GDAYS 14 promises a rich set of sessions around Cloud Computing , Google Apps, the ” Smart Cities ” , robotics, mobile development , web development , etc. . led by international experts and the best local experts.

Check the web site of the event:

Will we be able to predict natural disasters soonly?


In June 2013, scientists from the NASA’s IFloodS program were on hand to study the powerful storm. The researchers gathered data radar dishes, ground moisture sensors and rain gauges, which they then compared to data and images gathered by orbital satellites passing overhead. Their goal: Double-checking estimates of rainfall based upon satellite data. If they’re able to fine-tune those calculations, they eventually hope to use their weather satellites to spot and provide an early warning of when midwestern rivers may overflow their banks and cause flooding.

The IFloodS program is just one part of NASA’s other, less-publicized but extremely critical mission of trying to find ways to protect humans from various natural disasters on our own planet.

To that end, NASA spends more than $1.8 billion annually on earth sciences — more than it spends upon studying other planets. The agency’s research programs include efforts to predict earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires and powerful storms, and to give us more warning to prepare for them, largely by using data gathered by satellites from the vantage point of orbital space. In addition, NASA’s Near Earth Object Program uses both Earth-based and orbital observatories to identify and track asteroids and comets whose paths bring them close to Earth –including some that might possibly smash into our planet’s surface and cause massive devastation and loss of life, or possibly even trigger a wave of extinctions.

Predicting Hurricane Intensity

If you live in a coastal region in which you’re vulnerable to hurricanes, there are two crucial pieces of information that you want from weather forecasters. The first is what the hurricane’s path will be, so that you know whether or not it’s going to hit the place where you live. The second is how powerful the storm is going to be.

In 2014, NASA is planning to launch a new array of satellites that may give weather forecasters even more help in predicting hurricane intensity. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), developed by engineers at the University of Michigan, will put a constellation of eight small satellites into a low-Earth orbit. The satellites’ sensors will measure various properties in the ocean and the atmosphere, with the aim of coming up with a more precise model for how tropical cyclones form and how they strengthen.

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have one important tell-tale sign in common. As the pressure in them builds up before they unleash their fury, they cause small deformations in Earth’s crust. If scientists could spot those subtle changes, they might be able to predict more precisely when catastrophic eruptions and quakes will occur.

In 2011, Song and Ohio State University professor C.K. Shum used Japanese GPS data to analyze the particularly destructive tsunami generated by a March 2011 earthquake off northern Japan, and discovered that the wave actually was composed of two different wave fronts that merged and doubled in intensity as they passed over rugged ridges on the seafloor. That knowledge may help forecasters in the future to predict similarly super-powerful waves, and hopefully speed evacuations of coastal areas.

Killer Asteroids

In February 2013, a 60-foot-across (18-meter), 11,000-metric ton (12,125-ton) meteor exploded in the sky over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring more than 1,200 people. Coincidentally, that same day, an even bigger object–an asteroid half the size of a football field–passed about 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) from Earth. Had it struck, it would have exploded with a force of about 2.4 million tons (2.2 million metric tons) of dynamite, the equivalent of hundreds of Hiroshima-sized A-bombs.

To hunt for them, NASA has repurposed an existing satellite, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, originally launched in 2009 to search for distant stars and galaxies. NASA envisions that WISE will discover about 150 previously unknown near-Earth objects and gather information about the size and other properties of about 2,000 more.

WISE and the NEO program hopefully will give NASA advance warning of an object on a collision course—and time to implement a defensive strategy, whether that means diverting the asteroid with gravity tractors, solar sails or other future technologies, or simply destroying it with a nuclear blast. That might help us to avoid the worst natural disaster ever.

Women in Science & Technology: Critical for Innovation


Since 2001, the National Science Foundation has invested more than $130 million to support ADVANCE projects at nearly 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related, not-for-profit organizations across the U.S. CONNECT@RIT (Creating Opportunity Networks for Engagement and Collective Transformation) focuses on improving conditions for female STEM faculty, with a unique emphasis on women who are deaf and hard-of-hearing at the university. RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) will address issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty through reassessment of some of its academic and human resource policies, expanding a newly established faculty mentoring program and increasing professional development and leadership opportunities.

Part of the NSF research included looking inward at RIT where a climate survey and examination of HR data trends led to the identification of barriers for women faculty. These ranged from the recruitment and advancement of women faculty to balancing work and life. RIT had only 23 percent of its female tenured and tenure track faculty in STEM disciplines, below the 30 percent average represented in U.S. colleges and universities, even though the number of female faculty had tripled at RIT over a 15-year period. Further data revealed gender-based, average salary gaps existed at each faculty rank, and that women left the faculty ranks at a rate nearly twice that of their male colleagues. These findings mirrored national trends for women in STEM careers in academia and in industry.

Among the Connect@RIT project goals includes attracting 30 percent female applicants for RIT STEM faculty positions, at least 75 percent of STEM departments achieving a critical mass of female faculty, retention rates for female faculty that closely mirror those of male faculty, and an increase in the percentage of women in academic leadership positions to a level which maps to their overall representation at RIT. The finish line for the project is five years out and the researchers have plenty of work ahead. But we are confident they will have a similar finish to last year’s race team.

In summary, a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. This is especially true for colleges and universities, like RIT, that specialize in innovation. RIT has historically been a leader in developing new technologies, systems and approaches. RIT faculty and research teams often partner with business and industry leaders on research and development initiatives. In order to effectively continue in this capacity – to cultivate the best and brightest minds and to be an innovation resource for industry – everybody must proactively encourage diversity.

Diversity isn’t an altruistic aspiration; it’s a competitive demand.

Emotiv: BCI for less than 1K$


BCI, what’s that?

BCI means Brain Computer Interfaces. Using sensors, the brain can control computer programs. These man-machine interfaces are developed, and their operation reveals a huge potential.

Emotiv company

Emotiv is a neuroengineering company that has brought to market affordable, consumer friendly, high-resolution, multichannel, wireless EEG systems. Their advanced algorithms allow these headsets to detect subconscious emotional states, facial expressions and user-trained mental commands which can control existing and custom applications and games.

This technology utterly transforms the way we interact with computers. Emotiv is revolutionizing human-computer interactions (BCI) by allowing computers to react to your moods and deliberate commands in a more natural way. This capability is available to consumers with a range of new and existing applications. Using their SDK, developers and researchers can integrate Emotiv data directly into new applications, driving an exciting range of novel uses.

Emotiv’s vision

Emotiv’s vision is to democratize brain research by enabling access to affordable, user-friendly, high-resolution brain measurement systems; and encourage and catalyze innovation in this field.

Applications for the Emotiv technology and interface span an amazing variety of industries – from gaming to interactive television, everyday computer interactions, hands-free control systems, smart adaptive environments, art, music, accessibility design, market research, psychology, medicine, robotics, toys, automotive, transport safety, education, self-improvement, defense and security.

Emotiv is established with developers and researchers in over 90 countries already working with the technology.

More Information about Emotiv

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Poland: innovation can be pushed


Poland not so innovative?

The 2012 Global Innovation Index ranking, prepared by the World Intellectual Property Organization, ranked Poland as the EU’s third-least innovative economy in 2012, with worse results recorded only by Greece and Romania.

In parallel, the 2012 edition of the Technology Fast 50 Central Europe ranking from consultancy Deloitte features an impressive number of Polish companies. In fact, six positions in the top 10 of the list are held by businesses based in Poland.

A shift to innovation?

For the past 20 years, Poland has been very successful at building economic growth through attracting investments such as assembly plants or off-shore outsourcing centers. Those, however, require low production and labor costs – but those are gradually approaching EU averages in Poland. To compete, Polish companies must therefore focus heavily on innovation.

But in his recent book, “The Rebellion of the Net,” Edwin Bendyk, criticized the overall lack of interest Polish businesspeople have in innovative activities and in developing lasting relationships between the academic and business worlds. He places blame on the short-term vision of Polish business owners. The country’s private sector has until now been successful at developing simple products and services, in which the creativity of employees has lower priority than, for example, professional discipline or clear procedures.

There is no escape from a knowledge-based economy. While we can avert a discussion or difficult decisions, we will sooner or later face the challenges this new reality is bringing.

Success stories

This is not to say, though, that Polish businesses and institutions have no desire whatsoever to develop innovative ideas. Take the case of VIGO System, a company which produced infrared detectors for NASA’s Curiosity rover, which is now exploring Mars. To get a jump-start on a new project involving the production of high-tech sensors, the company sought financing from banks. The procedure took over a year and although VIGO did receive the necessary funds, the time-sensitive project was seriously delayed.

The Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) discovered a new method to produce a one-atom thick film of carbon known as graphene, which was classified as one of the nine most interesting findings in the field in 2010-2011 by technology consultancy Future Markets.

The material is strong, transparent and conducts electricity, which could make it a perfect material for touch screens for smartphones. The CEO told Reuters how his institute has been trying for nearly two years to get state funding for equipment to help research the discovery. He also said his institute was barred by the Economy Ministry, which oversees it, from entering a joint-venture with a foreign investor to commercialize graphene. For now it seems the state does not really care.

The general opinion of experts involved in Polish science is that when Poland made its first steps to becoming a market economy two decades ago, few people were interested in investing in a research project when it was much easier to just import foreign technology. The direct effect is a system that fails to support innovation.

End of the tunnel?

But change may be on the way. According to recent data published by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, business spending on research and development has jumped by over 800 percent this year. The ministry explains that the leap in R&D expenditure comes as a result of recently implemented programs that encourage cooperation between business and academic circles.

The ministry itself is also contributing more. At a press conference at the end of October, Science and Higher Education Minister Barbara Kudrycka announced that the government plans to create a venture capital fund which would provide financing for Polish inventions. The program will be called Polish Innovations and aims to focus on providing financial support for private companies and institutions looking to introduce Polish technology to the market.

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Innovative way to teach and learn


How learn if robots run the world?

Science fiction writers and blockbuster movies have been predicting a world run by robots for decades, and for most of us, the fantasy has stayed in the realm of fiction. But artificial intelligence has made rapid progress and robots are becoming more a part of everyday life than many people realize. Those who study robots and their impact on life foresee a day not too far off when many jobs now held by people will be automated.

Computers & incremental creativity

As artificial intelligence improves and slowly takes over aspects of daily life, the only way for people to continue to be useful is to “up-skill” — and that takes creativity. “Incremental creativity is just improving on something, but radical creativity is thinking something up,”. We can believe that, in time, computers will be capable of incremental creativity, slowly improving a process and building on its success. What they will never be able to do is generate a radically new idea.

The role of educators

“The role of the educator is to channel and guide what is fundamentally an improvisational process”. Education has to focus on learning how to learn – metacognition. School will still be important, but not to impart what happened during the Revolutionary War or to teach the quadratic formula. School, he said, should focus on teaching young people the intangibles, the things that make humans unique: relationships, flexibility, humanity, how to make discriminating decisions, resilience, innovation, adaptability, wisdom, ethics, curiosity, how to ask good questions, synthesizing and integrating information, and of course, creating. In the future, computers and humans will be working together to create the next big invention and when that happens, people can distinguish themselves by controlling the process and the strategy. Humans will define the goals and will think creatively about solutions.

To produce more creative thinkers

Most political leaders and education experts agree that the education system needs to adapt to the technological realities of the age and work to produce more creative thinkers. “The whole culture is coming out with support for more and greater creativity in students,” said R. Keith Sawyer, professor of education and psychology studying creativity and learning at Washington University in St. Louis, at the same conference.

Recognizing that much of the creative work generated comes out of collaborative group work, teachers can think about their classrooms as places for improvisational flow, where teachers and students are building knowledge together. Structure is needed, but some flexibility as well.

An incremental learning model

To arrive at an improvisational classroom, educators can move away from an instructional model for the classroom. The traditional model clings to the notion that children need to learn particular facts and it’s the teacher’s job to impart that information to students. Facts and information build incrementally and turn into more complex ideas, and learning is measured by testing knowledge of facts.

But many argue that this model results in superficial knowledge and low retention, weak transfer to new situations, inability to integrate facts and apply to other situations, Sawyer said.

Sawyer proposes that schooling should be constructionist, focusing on a deeper, conceptual understanding of topics with the ability to build new knowledge in new situations. To do this, students need to take facts, skills, and concepts and apply them to real-word problems. Learning should start with a driving question. This way, students can explore the topic through inquiry and discussion, working in teams, just as they would in the workplace or other life situations. Students create a tangible product that addresses the issue at hand, and along the way an instructor guides the process.

Every teacher as creative professional

Every teacher is a creative professional,” Sawyer said. “And in the ideal world, every teacher is contributing these small ideas, engaging in mutual tinkering. But we have to share with others, we can’t keep it in the classroom.” The creative act of teaching needs to be a collaborative one, like a startup team working on the next innovative product. If each teacher continues to tinker and offer ideas to the larger group, a creative breakthrough will emerge.

“It’s going to be every one of us that contributes ideas along the way,” Sawyer said. And in doing so, teachers everywhere can create the institutional change that stands between them and implementing the ideas that to many are obvious and instinctual.

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Fermob: to innovate & to internationalize


In April, Reybier Bernard, CEO of Fermob, returning from the Milan Furniture Fair, the Mecca of designer furniture. For fifteen years, the company exhibits his collections. But beyond the commercial present on its stand, four people in-house design studio and house technicians have turned down the aisles, camera in hand. They came back with eight cents for tracking shots in this world high creative talents and lines tomorrow concentration. Because the value of Fermob, one of the pillars of its development, the bold design of its furniture.

Iron, a source of creativity

Bernard Reybier bought in 1989 the company installed Thoissey in Ain, a region of France. It manufactures furniture iron since 1953 and reduced to a workshop of 10, suffers from devastating competition from plastic. “What interested me was the whole creativity induced by a material such as iron. From the outset, the design has become an added value. ” This choice requires collaboration with external designers. Pascal Mourgue, one of the most industrial designers French side, who had already signed in 1983 the chair Silvermoon long collaborated with Fermob. Patrick in June also with the chair Facto 1998. Off to the Fair of Milan, Bernard Reybier also identified Harald Guggenbiechler who signed new models … We understand that sees pioneer, immersing themselves in exhibitions, competitions schools, to find “new blood.” However, its position in respect of departure: simple lines, accessible and non-statutory. What state in the time an image and brand.

Fermob has revolutionized the furniture

Around its internal design studio, Bernard Reybier also ensures look of a “broader creative sphere” involving fifteen engineers, technicians and marketing experts. The creative dimension inscribed in the DNA of the brand also involves the color. In 1996, Fermob upsets the small world of furniture, confined to green or white, featuring lime green, tangerine and vanilla. Then come poppy, black, eggplant … When in 2000, retailers (garden centers, stores, outdoor furniture specialists) bristle at the fuchsia, education and determination are needed to convince. Accompany, build loyal relationships with their network is actually a prerequisite for getting this message condition for innovation.

No place in supermarket

“Innovation must be backed by distributors, there must be arguments. That’s why from the beginning I took Fermob circuit supermarkets, there was no place. ” This commitment also requires accepting the risk and failure. In 1993, “Tutti Frutti” chair becomes, against all expectations, a commercial failure. And it will only fall 2012, two years late, that can be marketed chair Andrée Putman: some elements were found defective, not meeting the specifications require that the manufacturer is required.

12,000 chairs in the streets of New York

This approach leads quickly to the international Fermob. In 2012, the company exports 44% of its total turnover (35 million euros in 2011) to 36 countries, including the United States and Germany, two countries attractive for manufacturers of French furniture.

The strategy involves investing consistently and persistently country, mostly through trade shows, before turning to another: “We have to wait three years to be profitable.” The manufacturer has indeed in its catalog folding chair “Bistro” with lines dating from the nineteenth or mythical chair the Luxembourg Gardens reinterpreted in 2004 by Frederic Sofia. In late April, Bernard took off for New York Reybier for a project to store the sign.

These outlets exclusively Fermob, apply only a few very large cities in leading countries. After Paris, Munich, Cologne, New York was required. Established for fifteen years in Atlanta through a sales office, a meeting Fermob marked overseas and particularly in New York success: 12,000 chairs made in Ain discover in public parks, along the streets .. . Bistro chairs deployed in Bryant Park on behalf of the foundation kicked off this American onslaught.

Market season

This company operates in a free market world leader, but each geographical area has given rise to a leader, a potential competitor. Beyond its design and its “French touch”, the company relies on the “environmental” aspect to compete. The industrial process claims to “zero waste” Bistro chair is recyclable to 30%, “These arguments are,” according to the CEO. Remains a major challenge: the production for an outdoor environment knows the vagaries of seasonality: do not miss the boat on sunny days.

This requires an ultra fine control of deadlines and therefore production, and also justifies this production is integrated: it is one of the major pillars of the development strategy. However, the challenge becomes more complex for further afield. To invest more heavily in the Asia-Pacific region, where it makes a small percentage of 3% export, the company has signed an industrial partnership with a Chinese. Part of the range will be manufactured locally from a tool for the design which Fermob teams competed. Besides export Fermob turns to the professional market to diversify its business, and fits the standards of the hospitality industry. Today, this pillar represents nearly a third of its sales, and helps to balance its growth.

Fermob, whose capital is held overwhelmingly by Bernard Reybier, strongly embodies through him. He laid the groundwork for its development, inscribed in stone and its basic door again. He built a company of 200 people, located in rural areas and low turnover in its management of human resources. This strong incarnation can still be a source of weakness as leaving little room for others and ultimately threatening the sustainability of the company. Bernard Reybier is well aware that recently surrounded himself with two assistant general managers. He now wants to devote himself mainly to development. Without releasing his hunt for the design, his personal brand.

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