The British Science Association (BSA) and its partners yesterday announced the programme for the 2017 Huxley Summit. The one-day event is for leaders, influencers and policy makers from across multiple sectors. It aims to stimulate debate and challenge leaders to break out of their usual silos to advance society and will take place on 29 November at the Royal Institution.

The programme, which was announced at the official launch party in London yesterday evening, focuses on the role that the public plays in innovation and technological advancement. The day will explore the ways in which business leaders, policy makers and other influencers can better engage the public to ensure innovation continues in an open and acceptable manner, including looking ahead to upcoming developments such as AI, which have the potential to divide opinion.

Chair of the British Science Association and former Minister of Universities and Science, Rt. Hon the Lord David Willetts, will host the Huxley Summit, giving a keynote address on the day imploring leaders, policymakers and scientists to learn from previous mistakes when driving innovation. He strongly believes that the public wield the power when it comes to technological advancements and that more should be done by heads of business, science and policy to ensure the voice of the wider public is considered as part of the debate.

Rt. Hon the Lord David Willetts, host of the 2017 Huxley Summit

Lord Willetts said: “The UK has a fantastic history of being at the forefront of human endeavour and technological innovation. From the discovery of the structure of DNA to the development of vaccines, the UK’s scientific and technological community have long been known for their successes in advancing our society. That being said, not all of these great achievements in research have always led to widespread uptake or approval. The public response to GM crops is a recent example.

“We as leaders, policy makers and scientists, should not be so arrogant to think that the public will accept all that we put in front of them. Human acceptance of scientific advances is not a given. It is clear to me that we are on the cusp of a technological revolution and we must be prepared for it. It is our responsibility to ensure that all of society have a voice in this conversation, and I hope that this year’s Huxley Summit will be another important moment in Britain’s leadership in this area.”

Speakers at this year’s Summit will include:

Evan Davis, journalist, broadcaster and author of Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central

David Croft, Global Sustainable Development Director, Diageo

Jerome Pesenti, CEO, Benevolent Tech

Dr Tali Sharot, Director, Affective Brain Lab

Dr Sophie Scott, Neuroscientist, UCL and Presenter of this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

Ben Taylor, Chief Innovation Officer (Assurance), EY

The day will include a keynote speech from Justin King CBE, Vice Chair and Head of Portfolio Businesses at Terra Firma, who will discuss the importance of the customer and consumer in business growth and innovation.

Ben Taylor from EY is one of the speakers that were announced at the launch event 

Speakers at the launch event included:

Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Dan Enachescu, Head of Public Policy, Diageo

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “As the UK prepares to leave the EU, how can we ensure that we remain a leading force in creating innovative solutions to the 21st century challenges the world faces? Whether that be developing ethical A.I, harnessing the power of big data, or combatting the spread of microbial or non-communicable diseases, I believe we need to listen to the public’s views when we conduct these debates.

“The Huxley Summit has been developed to enable leaders and influencers across a range of sectors to discuss these themes in greater depth and develop a joint response to the challenges ahead. This year’s programme will focus on the role that societal acceptance plays in the success of cutting-edge innovation.”

The programme will focus on three key areas:

· What can we learn from the GM story? Despite a huge amount of scientific research into GM crops and their impact on human health and the environment, the public remain resistant to their widespread introduction to agriculture and industry. What learnings can be gleaned from this story? And what does this mean for the public, business leaders, scientists and policy-makers in relation to new technologies and scientific advances in the future?

· Current challenges: the data explosion and the commercial imperative - Just over 10 years since the phrase ‘data is the new oil’ was coined, the data rush is gaining momentum, with 90% of the data in existence today created in the last two years alone. Fuelled by an increase in the use of smartphones, AI, connected machines, online social interaction and the lower cost of storage, this exponential growth of data is expected to continue. How will the emergence of new technologies and disruptive business models that leverage data in innovative ways lead to more creative commercial opportunities in the future?

· Future challenges: preparing for artificial intelligence - How does society overcome the challenges of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and a potential breakdown of trust in technology from the public? New technologies – such as AI, driverless cars and gene editing – are challenging the relationship between the public and the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Over 250 leaders from business, science, politics and civil society are expected to attend the Huxley Summit, taking place in London on 29 November. This year’s Huxley Summit is supported by EY, Diageo, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Royal Institution. It is delivered by the British Science Association, in collaboration with a high profile Advisory Board, and will be hosted at the Royal Institution.

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