Forbes Middle East hosts its first sustainable Innovation Summit 2021 At Expo 2020

Senior executives and industry leaders from local and international organizations gathered at Expo 2020 to discuss how innovation is driving the sustainability agenda

Forbes Middle East hosts its first sustainable Innovation Summit 2021 At Expo 2020
  • The hybrid event hosted over 1,000 participants in total throughout the day, with people tuning in from across the world via online and social media channels.
  • Speakers included representatives from the region’s biggest technology companies, including Schneider Electric, Etisalat, Viatris, Ericson, Boeing, Palladium, Etihad Airways, Virgin Hyperloop, Nissan, and Cisco. 

Dubai, UAE: Technology experts, business leaders, and innovators from across the world gathered in person and virtually at the Dubai Exhibition Center at Expo 2020 yesterday for Forbes Middle East’s first Sustainable Innovation Summit. Throughout the day, five panels featuring experts and executives from businesses at the cutting-edge of industry transformation explored how organizations are reimagining the future through the lens of sustainability. Discussions centered around some of the biggest and most debated issues today, including diversity and inclusivity, connected smart cities and travel, climate change, and Fintech.

The summit began with an informative address from Ayman Mokhtar, Regional President for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Viatris, about how the healthcare sector has faced the challenges of the last two years and the lessons the industry needs to take forward into the new era. “The pandemic has reinforced the need for sustainable and resilient health and healthcare systems,” stressed Mokhtar.  “This can be achieved by prioritizing healthcare funding and investment, incentivizing digital innovation as a pillar for better health, and harnessing the power of public and private dialogue and partnerships.”

Starting the day by tackling a topic that underpins every positive business change, the “Mission Possible: Opportunity for Everyone” panel raised the challenges and benefits of diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace and questioned how business leaders are using their roles and initiatives to make a difference to the health and happiness of their people. Panelists discussed issues ranging from gender representation in the office and ensuring equal opportunities and pay for women to the importance of work-life balance while large portions of the workforce continue to work from home. The conversation revealed that many businesses are seeing evidence of burnout among staff. As such, it is vital that going forward leaders consider the needs of their people as well as their businesses if they want to continue to see positive results. “The future is hybrid and flexible,” said Rosanna Duncan, Chief Diversity Officer at Palladium.

Looking beyond the workplace to explore movement and travel, “Multimodal Mobility: The Digital Fix for a Connected Tomorrow” discussed theimplementation and development of new automotive infrastructure for a sustainable future. With autonomous vehicles, the creation of new modes of travel powered by electricity, and increasingly accessible shared systems powering smart vehicles, issues such as safety and regulation are paramount. With innovation driven by necessity, the entire automotive industry is currently at a crossroads and going through an exciting transformation. Lucky La Ricca, VP and Head of Digital Services at Ericson Middle East, stressed that all this change is being powered by connected networks and 5G. “Ericsson has been actively investing in leveraging cellular technology to enable sustainable transport systems and to make safe autonomous vehicles a reality,” he revealed. “We strive to empower a thriving ecosystem in the region and globally.”

A future-focused thriving ecosystem must have sustainability at its core to enhance the environment in which it exists. Looking at the responsibilities of commerce and industry in this evolution, “Technology-Driven Sustainable Business Practices” explored how leaders are implementing change to positively impact communities. Panelists agreed that the future of the planet would be shaped by our capabilities, whether that’s in engineering, construction, or healthcare. “To build a brighter, more sustainable future, it is paramount that governments, changemakers, and business leaders continue to employ project management and build environment capabilities along with the future skills that help accelerate the shift towards a sustainable knowledge-based project economy, making a bigger societal impact,” said Grace Najjar, Managing Director of PMI MENA. Speakers acknowledged that everyone has a moral obligation to drive a sustainability agenda, and consumers want to see this in the services and brands that they engage with. The challenge is time, with many people now expecting new products within months, whereas development takes years.

Some developments can be seen to be progressing in real-time, and “Driving Sustainability Through Smarter Cities” raised a hot topic for the Middle East in particular as the region continues to invest in the systems that are creating smart, super-connected, and networked cities. This subject looked at how organizations are working to not only power these metropolises of the future but also ensure that sustainability values remain at their core from day one. “Sustainability is the issue of this century, and we all have to play our part in reducing our resource needs. And we believe that technology will play a major role in making our homes, buildings, factories, and infrastructure more efficient and productive,” said Caspar Herzberg, President for the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric. Speakers discussed how security remains a key issue as cities become more digitally reliant. Connected systems face more risk as if one device is compromised the whole network becomes exposed. The challenge for leaders now is satisfying our growing need for connectivity while securing privacy and safety and considering the urgency of our need for efficient and sustainable communities.

Finally, delving into how technology is creating opportunities for previously underserved consumers, “Fintech: A Positive Step Towards Financial Inclusion” looked at how the future of financial transactions and payments could further equality by making money management more accessible to unbanked populations through digitization. Therefore, investment in Fintech not only means that displaced people and refugees can control their finances and support themselves, but it also drives economic growth. However, the need to ensure security, consistency, and efficiency makes it a complex industry. “We created an ecosystem in Fintech,” explained Salmaan Jaffery, Chief Business Development Officer at the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority. “To do that requires regulatory change, policy development, and partnership with the private sector.”

The conversations throughout the day uncovered sustainable innovation from five distinct angles. From its importance in business management, its role in the future of the movement of goods and people, its power to impact communities, its necessity in the reimagining of our cities as technology-driven hubs, and its value in giving people control of their finances at their fingertips. Amidst the spectacular backdrop of Expo 2020, where 192 country pavilions showcase the world’s greatest inventions and the endless possibilities of human imagination, the summit highlighted how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

About Forbes Middle East 

Forbes Middle East is a licensed edition of Forbes for the Arab world, championing inspiring business journalism and entrepreneurial capitalism. Its online and social platforms break news covering billionaires, business, investment, technology, economy, entrepreneurship, leadership, and luxury lifestyles. The monthly magazine, featuring in-depth interviews with the Middle East’s most influential and innovative leaders, is published in print in English and Arabic, with digital versions available to both regional and global audiences online.

Forbes Middle East extends the Forbes brand of journalism across the Arab world, conducting its own comprehensive research to publish original lists that adhere to strict methodologies. Its content attracts business leaders, investors, active and potential entrepreneurs, and a wide audience of ambitious and influential executives.

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