I am Chairman of the Arup Group and in this role...
Another year, another World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As an attendee, the first thing you notice is just how busy it is. Economists, politicians, business leaders, journalists, trade groups and NGO specialists, all rushing between meetings, presentations, panel discussions, networking events and receptions.
This year, as in others I've attended, the frenetic pace of activity spanned a huge number of intellectual fields, from the implications of increasing antibiotic resistance to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, on top of the usual economic discussions. But since the major theme for Davos this year was ‘Resilient Dynamism’, there was also a focus on many of the issues that we deal with every day at Arup.
My colleague, Chris Luebkeman, and I had to struggle to keep up with the sheer number of sessions covering opportunities in fast growing markets, energy, mobility, resources, resilience and infrastructure financing, as well as the sessions I chaired on smart cities and the future of urban development.
Reflecting on this flurry of activity on the plane home, it occurred to me that Arup is right at the heart of the ‘big conversations’ taking place around the world right now. For example, how infrastructure investment can help spur jobs and growth on the economic side and the practical challenges of building a world we all want to live in. At the core of it all is how to embed sustainable, resilient design in a world that allows people the freedom to be creative and secure in taking charge of their own lives?
Needless to say, there were no definitive answers. But for me there were some big positives. An ambition to make a difference. And optimism that people really understood the issues and challenges involved.
The first step in solving a challenge is to understand the problem, in this case: how do we best work together in a creative way to improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world?
Of course, the commentariat are always interested in what the financiers have to say and the good news is that the economists at Davos took positive signs from the declining likelihood of Euro meltdown, higher stock markets in the US and European banks repaying their emergency loans.
This financial recovery may take a little time to feed into the ‘real’ economy, but in the meantime it was extremely positive to see so many people having a proper debate about how to build a resilient, dynamic future. That is already a big win.