On the 19th October 2017 we, in collaboration with Warwick in London, hosted our Showcase Event at The Stanley Building in King’s Cross, London. The London event stands alongside our Exclusive Networking Event held in November 2017 to exhibit the breadth that we have beyond the university. Set up as a question time panel debate, we brought together four high calibre speakers, delegates from across the country, student brand ambassadors and our corporate partners. In line with this year’s overarching theme, Innovation, the panel debate focused on the environmental challenges the world currently faces, and possible solutions to those challenges through infrastructure. The engaging panel discussion was lead by Siobhan Benita who perfectly opened our theme by adding “we have institutions and political leaders who are all struggling to cope with those problems that are facing”, and “these problems open up opportunities for the future, but also come with risks.”
“What makes Warwick Congress different is its ability to mobilise around the big issues of the day, create a forum for us to debate these issues, and bring some very different opinions and very different perspectives”
– Noel Gordon
Each of our speakers offered valuable insights into the topic, Noel Gordon speaking first on the “multidimensional theoretical problem and multidimensional policy problem” of healthy ageing. Noel addressed the 4 main vital areas of policy; the exponential growth of genomics – the production of which will enable us to predict critical illnesses across mass population, AI analytics implications, how big data will allow us to monitor the lives of the elderly and thus increase life expectancy, and new healthy towns which will be wired up in ways to accommodate people living until the age of 102. Noel’s main point of discussion was how these four areas greatly challenge the future of a digital world working harmoniously with our physical world as we know it; by acknowledging the benefits as well as potential issues of using technology alongside our physical problems.
Our second speaker, Alina Averchenkova, focused on the impact of climate change and the paramount need for action; if no change is made within our societies, we are heading towards a shocking 5*C of warming. With infrastructure being the only solution, she noted “climate change affects development, technology, … health and it is on the political agenda”, particularly addressing the phenomenal success of the Paris Agreement earlier this year, adding it has taken far too long for leaders to finally come together and discuss this pressing issue. Alina argued that the world needs to be heading towards zero emissions. To do so, the relevant technology is already there – with renewables as just one example, and with 1,400 worldwide laws to combat global warming, there is no reason we cannot reach international goals. Investment is the obstacle to reaching those goals, and Alina noted that “up to 2030, the world requirement for infrastructure investment is about $90tn. We need to invest an additional $5-6tn, less than 8% of the total world requirement” into greener technologies to reach these goals.
Julie Meyer went on to discuss versions of the emerging future, particularly considering the impact of digital enablers transforming traditional business. Her view on the subject is that “innovation has always been about economics”, and “our model of ecosystem economics is about how Goliaths will change by engaging with digital Davids” considering the digital transformation of the world. The perhaps threatening prospect of dominant technological companies replacing our current sovereign institutions, and how they will certainly surpass traditional businesses like BMW, who will need to adopt a digital playbook in order to survive the new world, characterised by technological innovation.
Finally, Roberto Casoni ended on a perceptive speech regarding the financial difficulty of investing into ‘innovation’ as a concept. Spain’s huge investment into solar energy that resulted in market failure due to costs of moving too quickly is just one example of the monumental market failures. In order for progression, “we need to be attracted economically by a new investment”. Due to the complexity of the argument, there is largescale scepticism around investing into environmentally friendly innovative ideas, giving the example that; “at the moment, we are not entirely convinced that the current technology for electric cars and charging is investable”.
Following such thought provoking threads of topic, Siobhan opened up the panel debate for the opportunity for delegates to engage directly with the speakers. Our further exploration focused on the impact of President Trump’s decision to retreat from the Paris Agreement, unsuccessful foreign aid channels, the repercussions of big data, and quantum computing. Alina Averchenkova relevantly noted that President Trump’s retreat from the Paris Agreement has in fact had a counterproductive effect and created an environmental movement throughout the US population. Julie Meyer ended on the note that the reason for this movement, not just in the USA but throughout the globe, is because companies are finally successfully aligning their financial interests with those of society. By finding the solutions to today’s problems, Julie argued that those companies could build a better tomorrow. The success of the evening came to a close with a drinks reception whereby Noel Gordon commented that what really makes Warwick Congress different is it’s ability to “mobilise around the big issues of the day, create a forum for us to debate these issues, and bring some very different opinions and very different perspectives”.
Chairman of NHS Digital and a non-executive director of NHS England.
Lead for Governance and Legislation and a Principal Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE
Julie Meyer, MBE
Founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital and founder of EntrepreneurCountry
Portfolio Manager and Partner at Otus Capital Management
Moderator Siobhan Benita
Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London (WiL) and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab at the University of Warwick.
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