I am Chairman of the Arup Group and in this role...
The World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos in Switzerland is over for another year.
The annual event took place against the sobering backdrop of the Euro-crisis and the continuing after-shocks from the global financial crisis. However, the mood remained surprisingly upbeat in the circumstances as attendees focused on finding ways to boost the global economy rather than wallowing in the doom and gloom of the latest instalment of Greece’s debt negotiations.
This positivism may say more about the temperament of the typical Davos attendee than it does about the true state of the risks faced by the global economy, but it certainly gave rise to some extremely interesting debates.
The event brings together some of the world’s foremost business leaders, politicians, thinkers and financiers and among the big themes under discussion were reinventing capitalism, restoring fairness and delivering the jobs and growth needed to get the global economy back on an even keel.
This meant there was a great deal of interest in some of the debates I was asked to chair, especially the sessions on reinvigorating capital markets for infrastructure and real estate and promoting a new vision for urban development.
With infrastructure so much under the spotlight, I hope it won’t be too optimistic to imagine we might be set for a mini-recovery in the global construction arena, but if it doesn’t happen it won’t be for lack of interest.
A great many delegates focused on infrastructure, competitiveness and jobs, with many more looking at how we can hard-wire positive solutions for the planet into the building and development work to come.
This agenda fitted extremely well with one of my tasks, which was to launch the WEF “Future of Urban Development Initiative” – a scheme that will form the basis for a ‘mini-think-tank’ to help Mayors, Ministers and Governors in various regions across the globe to tackle challenges facing cities around the globe.
Clearly, this is an area where Arup can offer some interesting perspectives and over the course of the event I was able to talk through the challenges and opportunities with prospective and current clients from countries as diverse as China, Brazil, Indonesia and the USA.
As always, Davos proved to be a strange combination of exhausting events that ran from early morning to late at night and invigorating debates that provided some fascinating challenges for the way we think and work, as well as providing some refreshing insights into how we can help clients even more in the future.
I may just have been caught up in the optimism of the event, but I certainly left with the sense that the road Arup has been following for many years is now seen as the right one to take by a growing number of other leaders around the globe.