Iris Córdoba of Microsoft’s Global Sports Innovation Center on ensuring women’s visibility in the sports tech industry

The Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC) powered by Microsoft is based in Madrid and in Singapore and it’s a non-profit association that has been promoted by Microsoft since 2015. They recently launched a manifesto titled  GSIC for Women’s Visibility in the Sports Industry to empower women in sport by ensuring their visibility in the sports tech industry.  The Playknox spoke with Iris Córdoba, Managing Director of GSIC to know more. Excerpts:


Tell us more about the Global Sports Innovation Center and the vision behind it.


The GSIC was born as a meeting point for all economic sectors linked to sport (performance, health, fitness, commitment to fans, IT, sporting goods, wearables, tourism, and education …). We have become a global reference for the sports industry connecting solutions, needs, talent, and opportunities.


The purpose of GSIC is to support companies and sports organizations to promote projects and activities that strengthen the sports industry and also allow people to achieve a better quality of life, both through the experience of sports (professional and amateur) and spectators. The Center represents a space where the ecosystem of experiences is developed, which allows innovation and the establishment of technologies in services, devices, and sports places.


The philosophy of the GSIC is based on 7 pillars: Business Network; Startups and companies; Applied research, training, and education; Showroom; Microsoft Partner Solutions; Consulting in digital transformation; Sport for Good. These are the categories in which we work with our associates and partners to boost the sports industry worldwide.


You work with quite a number of start-ups, and sporting organisations. How do you manage to help them all?


We are helping our members to create synergies and take advantage of opportunities. Our facilities also include an exhibition area where the latest technological solutions and devices developed by our members are displayed.


GSIC is financially self-sufficient thanks to the contributions of our partners, from new companies to established ones. These contributions depend on the size of the company/organization. GSIC partners benefit from networking, access to services, visibility, and exclusive events. They can also use the center’s facilities for their own events and meetings. Our 281 organizations located in 50 countries are involved in a wide range of activities (performance, health, training, IT, clubs, etc.) and have already joined the GSIC.


The work of the GSIC is focused on supporting the entrepreneurial sector, as well as helping sports entities in their digital transformation processes. To this end, we are constantly promoting different projects on a global scale to create business opportunities for technology-based companies and we promote open innovation projects together with the most relevant organizations in the industry.


Among the partners of the GSIC are companies & brands such as Signify, Mediapro, LG, Porsche, IMG, Microsoft, Adidas, HCL, Kaizen, U-Earth, Underarmor, sports entities such as FIFA, LaLiga, US Soccer, World Table Tennis, Real Madrid, Cricket Australia, ONE, ABC FIBA, Concacaf, European Handball Federation, Fundacion Atletico de Madrid, among others, and dozens of the most innovative startups in the sector.

What are the most crucial verticals in the sports industry from a technology innovation perspective?


In recent years, the intersection of sports and high technology has led to significant advancements in the sports industry, transforming how athletes, coaches, and teams operate. Performance tracking and analysis have been revolutionized by high-tech sensors, cameras, and devices that capture real-time data on athletes’ speed, acceleration, heart rate, and sleep patterns. This data is then analyzed to identify areas for improvement and create personalized training plans.


Equipment design and testing have also benefited from high-tech materials and manufacturing techniques, resulting in advanced sports equipment such as lightweight and aerodynamic bikes, skis, and tennis rackets. High-tech testing equipment allows for performance analysis and continuous improvement.


Broadcasting and fan engagement have been transformed by high-tech broadcasting equipment and software that capture and stream sports events in high definition, making it accessible to fans worldwide. Social media and online platforms have also become powerful tools for engaging with fans and building communities around sports teams and events.


Virtual reality and simulation have emerged as thriving technologies in the sports industry. High-tech virtual reality and simulation tools create realistic training environments for athletes, enabling safe and controlled practice before real-world competition. Virtual reality also enhances the fan experience by allowing them to immerse themselves in the game from the athlete’s perspective.


The relationship between sports and high technology continues to evolve, with ongoing innovation expected in the coming years. Industry events that facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices are crucial in driving the sports industry forward.


How important is APAC for you?


GSIC acknowledges the significant transformation taking place in Asia’s sports industry. The region has witnessed rapid growth, development, and modernization with major events such as the Olympics and world cups being held in Asia within a five-year period. This has attracted international leagues, clubs, media rights owners, sports brands, and sports technology companies to explore opportunities in this market with immense potential.


Recognizing that entering the Asian market may pose challenges for outside companies, GSIC is pleased to have a stronger presence in the region. With the support of Sport Singapore and other regional partners who have joined GSIC APAC as members, we aim to provide valuable opportunities for our current and future members. Our goal is to connect with local sports tech ecosystems in Asia interested in establishing contacts in Europe and America, and collaboratively build a bridge between the continents to foster innovation and growth in the global sports industry.

Is diversity being practiced enough within the sports industry or it still remains a buzzword?


While progress has been made in recent years, diversity and inclusion within the sports industry are still areas that require ongoing attention and improvement. While many organizations and stakeholders in the sports industry have acknowledged the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and have taken steps to promote these values, there is still work to be done to ensure that they are effectively practiced and not just treated as buzzwords.


There are still significant disparities in areas such as leadership positions, coaching and officiating roles, media representation, and sponsorship opportunities.


It is important to note that diversity goes beyond mere representation, but also includes creating inclusive and equitable environments where individuals from diverse backgrounds feel valued, respected, and empowered. This includes addressing unconscious biases, providing equal opportunities for advancement, promoting diversity at all levels of decision-making, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging.


It requires ongoing commitment, education, and action from all stakeholders, including sports organizations, athletes, sponsors, media, and fans, to create a truly inclusive and diverse sports industry that reflects and represents the diversity of the world we live in.


As a woman in sports, what are the challenges you have had to face? Also, shed light on the ‘women in sport’ manifesto you recently shared.


I grew up in Argentina together with my two brothers and our father was always treating us equally, teaching me the same things he was teaching my brothers, so I was already raised in the environment of respect and equality.


In my career I never had to face challenges of unequal treatment or lack of opportunities, I was lucky enough to be supported and treated as a professional accordingly to my capabilities.


I’m proud that in my position today I can support young professionals and provide space for visibility to all the women in the sports tech industry in the GSIC through the different initiatives we are promoting.


Since 2021 we have created a special manifesto that shares our vision on the situation of women in our industry and expresses our commitment to support female professionals with the resources we have access to. For example, we have adopted a philosophy “no woman, no panel”, meaning that every event we organize has to feature at least 1 woman speaker.


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