Assembling today (Wednesday 29 November) at the venerable Royal Institution in London are some of the UK’s top leaders in business, science, politics and media for the annual Huxley Summit. The one-day event challenges the UK’s top brass to come up with solutions to big global issues.

This year’s Summit, The will of the people? Science and innovation in a post-truth world will look at the role societal acceptance plays in the success of new technologies.  It will explore three case studies: GM - what today’s innovators and regulators can learn from the past; Data - how data breaches and questions around trustworthiness are putting consumer confidence to the test; and AI – how best to navigate the exciting advances of this technology while ensuring the public are engaged, informed and listened to.

Run by the British Science Association (BSA), the Huxley Summit is now a major annual event in the calendar for business leaders in the UK.

Professor Alice Roberts, Baroness Onora O’Neill and Sacha Romanovitch at the 2016 Huxley Summit

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “We are on the cusp of an AI and data revolution which will be transformational for a wide range of sectors, but we need to tread carefully. We believe that these emerging technologies draw many parallels with GM crops. They are largely developed or controlled by small and homogenous groups of people, often within commercial settings where the regulation framework is still being shaped. For some, these new technologies carry an uneasy sense that the genie has already been released from the bottle and can’t be stuffed back in.

“The British Science Association believes that challenges such as these need to be discussed across the boundaries of innovation and regulation, which is why bringing business leaders, scientists and technologists, policy makers and opinion formers together at events like the Huxley Summit is so important.”

EY, the headline sponsor of this year’s Summit, has launched a report today that delves into the views of around 200 leading companies on the upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation and the commercial imperative for trust in data. The independent survey, published to coincide with the Huxley Summit, has revealed that just 13% of companies are ready and prepared for the introduction of GDPR, due in May 2018.

GDPR has been introduced by the EU to bolster and consolidate data protection for individuals. The aim of the regulation is to give back control to people over their own personal data.

The survey aimed to explore the role of trustworthiness in the digital age, and the business case for ethical conduct around data. 

Key findings:

  • 99% of business leaders agree trustworthiness is important to their organisation, but 73% are having to work harder to demonstrate it;
  • 72% of respondents say an ethical approach to data increases trust in a brand;
  • 47% believe GDPR will be sufficient to keep data safe and secure;
  • 31% of respondents have formulated but only partially implemented a strategy on GDPR, and 6% have a strategy but have not yet implemented it;
  • Only 13% of respondents have their strategy for GDPR fully implemented

Ben Taylor, EY’s Chief Innovation Officer for Assurance in the UK, says: “With the explosion in so called ‘big data’, businesses need to strike a careful balance between seeing data as both an asset and a risk. Data has the potential to give businesses a competitive edge, providing insights that help to promote business growth, but can also result in reputational damage and loss of brand equity when mishandled. At a time when there is a widening trust gap between business and society, these issues take on even greater importance.

“The exponential growth in data means that some of the control mechanisms that have traditionally been relied upon, such as regulation and compliance, are increasingly likely to be playing ‘catch up’ as new technologies and data sources emerge. The new GDPR rules are an important development and will encourage businesses to place sufficient focus on data protection. However, an organisation’s corporate culture and organisational purpose can also help to positively influence the development and application of emerging technologies, and their importance should not be underestimated.”

The full report, Trust in data and why it matters, can be downloaded from the EY website:

Ben Taylor, EY’s Chief Innovation Officer for Assurance, speaking at the Huxley Summit 2017 launch in October 

The Huxley Summit is a thought leadership event run by the British Science Association to bring together leaders from different sectors to discuss and debate key challenges facing the UK in the 21st century.  Over 250 leaders from business, science, politics and civil society are expected to attend the Huxley Summit, which is this year, supported by EY, Diageo, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SCI 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.

Speakers at this year’s Huxley Summit include: Lord David Willetts, Chi Onwurah MP, Lord Chris Holmes, Dame Ottoline Leyser, Justin King, Evan Davies, and Pippa Malmgrem.  The day will be chaired by broadcaster Samira Ahmed.

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