The Huxley Summit is a new, high profile thought leadership event from the British Science Association (BSA). The inaugural event took place in London (at BAFTA) on 8 November. In this first year - the theme was: Trust in the 21st century.

The invitation-only event – for an audience of 200 C-suite representatives from business, the arts, and science – aims to bring non-scientists into the leadership and decision-making structures of science; giving leaders from other sectors a mandate for being involved in discussions about science and its impact on society and the world around us.

The highlights film for the 2016 event has landed, which you can view below. We're also developing a series of "TED-talk style" videos for each of the speakers and these will be released in the New Year.

Huxley Summit 2016 Highlights Film

Why a Summit?

For centuries Britain has been at the forefront of science and engineering. Science is not just part of our past, a venerable heritage of a bygone era – it is part of our future; the UK’s competitiveness and economy depends on it.

Other sectors of our society – including business, politics, media, art, or sport – are seen as being collectively owned, whereas science remains the exclusive domain of professionals and experts.

We want to develop links between scientists and non-scientists, to ensure science and its applications are understood and owned by society as a whole.

We want influencers in all levels and sectors in society to see science as part of their domain, and their responsibility.

The Huxley Summit brought together 250 of the most influential people in the UK. These people influence our democracy, our spending potential and where we spend our money, how we communicate, how we learn, what we understand about our world, the public services we use, how we get around and they reach everyone in society.

The objectives of the event were to:

  • Create the space for key decision and change makers, both within and beyond science, to debate and agree radical new ways of using science to advance society;
  • Become a significant, agenda-setting moment in the national psyche, standing alongside gatherings such as Davos, the party conferences, TED, Hay or the Edinburgh Fringe;
  • Attract influencers far beyond the boundaries of science; deliberately blurring the lines that separate science from business, politics, media and the creative industries; and
  • Act as a key vehicle for achieving the BSA's vision of positioning science at the heart of UK culture and society.

What's in a name?

At the BSA's annual meeting of 1860, Thomas Huxley ('Darwin's Bulldog') and Samuel Wilberforce (the Lord Bishop of Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society) debated the still-tentative matter of evolution. The debate took place just months after Darwin had finally published On the Origin of Species, and was arguably instrumental in helping the public - or at least some sections of it - engage with evolution as an idea at the same time as its scientific merits were being debated.

We wanted to capture that spirit of public debate, engagement, and interest in a high profile arena – and, crucially, involving people from beyond the boundaries of science.

The 2016 programme

The UK is at a crossroads. The result of the EU referendum has led people to question who and what we trust. There has been a breakdown of trust in experts, expertise and institutions.

We live in an interconnected world, where one decision or development can have far-reaching social and economic impacts.

The Huxley Summit provided a space for 250 leaders both within and beyond science, to question, debate and agree radical new ways to build trust in science and technology to advance society.

The day-long event was centred around a main plenary programme with high-profile speakers, but – in addition to ample open networking opportunities throughout the day and at the evening drinks reception – there was also roundtables and small group discussions taking place for selected delegates on key topics.

Speakers included:

  • Lord David Willetts, Chair of the British Science Association
  • Professor Alice Roberts, anatomist and broadcaster
  • Sacha Romanovitch, Chief Executive of Grant Thornton LLP UK
  • Baroness Onora O’Neill, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge
  • Lady Barbara Judge, Chair of the Institute of Directors
  • Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge
  • Dr Julia Shaw, lecturer in criminology and psychology at London South Bank University
  • Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, founder of and Chair of
  • Vinay Gupta, technologist and policy analyst
  • Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton
  • Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Oxford
  • Richard Wiseman, Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire
  • Matt Ridley, journalist and author
  • Daniel Susskind, author and lecturer in economics at the University of Oxford
  • Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England
  • Karen Blackett OBE, Chair of MediaCom UK
  • Edwina Dunn, co-founder of dunnhumby and Chair of the Your Life campaign
  • Ed Williams, Chief Executive, Edelman UK

The full line up of speakers and agenda for the day can be found on the Huxley Summit website

Who is behind the idea?

The BSA has developed the idea with support from government and leaders from science and business. Its high profile Advisory Board is:

  • Sir Paul Nurse (Nobel Prize winner and Director and Chief Executive, Francis Crick Institute)
  • Lord Paul Drayson (CEO, Drayson Technologies)
  • Professor Dame Wendy Hall (Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton)
  • Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell (Vice Chancellor, University of Manchester)
  • Professor Christopher Bishop (Laboratory Director & Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft)
  • Fiona Fox (Chief Executive, Science Media Centre)
  • Mark Henderson (Head of Communications, The Wellcome Trust)
  • Trevor Williams (Chief Economist, Lloyds Commercial Banking)
  • Sir Peter Bazalgette (Chair, Arts Council)
  • Matthew Taylor FRSA (Chief Executive, RSA)
  • Baroness Martha Lane-Fox (Chancellor, The Open University)

Huxley Summit 2017

Following the success of this year's Huxley Summit, planning for 2017 is already underway. Watch this space for further updates and information in the coming months.

How can I get involved?

For sponsorship and partnership enquiries, please contact Amy MacLaren, Director of Development & Communications.

For enquiries around content and event invitations, please contact Jon Fitzmaurice, Head of Cultural Development.

To be added to our press list, please contact Louise Ogden, Communications Manager.