Katherine Foster: CSO BLOC
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Katherine Foster: We are addressing the overlooked yet significant global environmental problem of contaminated and high-sulphur fuel and emissions in the shipping industry which pose enormous health and safety threats, and millions of dollars in engine damage. Shipping is the backbone of our economy yet there is no way to track fuel and its quality. We are solving this key problem of fuel traceability in the shipping industry so that ship owners, insurers and authorities can transition to cleaner traceable fuels and stay competitive.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
KF: When our consortium of partners successfully tested our solution and we then saw it working in the real world to capture biofuel deliveries for the shipping industry, as well as winning the MIT Solve award and being nominated for the Lloyd’s List innovation award, we knew we had a breakthrough for this and other industries.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
KF: We needed to create technology from the bottom up to help the shipping industry meet new regulations, move to lower emissions and cleaner fuel without losing their competitive advantage. There were many complexities and challenges but we wanted to prove that sustainability can still be profitable for the industry.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
KF: We are inspired to build systemic solutions to real-world problems by working directly with the problem holders, our diverse team of experts, and our collaborators. We are committed to a team approach focused on good governance and inclusive development for building accessible and secure critical infrastructure for global change.
We are inspired to think big, but to act locally, develop collaboratively, build modestly, and to verify cautiously.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
KF: We hope that young women see that just because it hasn’t been done before, or that there are what seem like overwhelming barriers, does not mean that it is not possible. We believe that collaboration and support for each other is essential as is a diversity of perspective and inputs.
We are not defined in the technology space nor in male-dominated industries by our gender; yet the fact that this is achieved by a management team mainly composed of women is a point of pride.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
KF: Our global challenges are systemic and therefore require diverse perspectives and inputs. Women, and more importantly all genders, backgrounds and personalities, are essential for real innovation to happen. Diversity is key.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.