For nine years, the “Summer Davos” meeting in China has provided an informal space for leaders in cutting edge innovation, science and technology to meet and discuss the pressing issues of the day. The concept is simple: from a diverse gathering of business innovators and science and technology leaders, new collaborations for the global good can be born.
So how can the world’s top entrepreneurs build partnerships with policy-makers, industry leaders and non-governmental organizations?
There is already a great deal to build on. Consider “Internet Plus” – China’s national digital strategy to rejuvenate traditional industries and help drive economic growth by integrating internet technologies with manufacturing and business; or the greenhouse gas emissions cap that China has announced; or scaling the circular economy – which promotes a way of doing business that tries to decouple economic growth from the overuse of resources, all the while creating jobs.
The platforms and networks of innovators that the Summer Davos brings together offers great opportunity to help advance some of this agenda.
The idea has worked in the past: six years ago, El Niño brought the worst drought for four decades to India and South Asia. Many at the 2009 Summer Davos were asking how countries could secure the food they need, given the high levels of water stress and drought many were facing. New partnerships were clearly required that could bring together innovators from across the business community to support governments in facing this challenge.
That year, the chief minister of Karnataka – the ninth largest state in India with a population of 60 million and huge shortfall in water for urban needs – met with industry leaders and took a visionary step to develop a new partnership with the innovative Water Resources Group, a partnership incubated by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the International Finance Company.
Now, the partnership has matured to a state-wide programme to promote drip irrigation in sugar cane. Business innovators and technology providers joined forces with the government and farmers and are helping to drip irrigate 1 million hectares of sugar across the state, to the benefit of 700,000 farmers, mobilizing $300 million of investment and – crucially – saving the chief minister 2.6 billion metres cubed of water a year that can be used to serve towns, or support much-needed high-value industrial activities.
Closing the infrastructure gap is another global challenge being championed by the World Economic Forum, where much activity and partnership has also taken place. New models for public-private project preparation facilities, blended finance and long-term investment models have been developed.
At the recent United Nations Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, the Forum, in collaboration with the OECD and a coalition of public-private actors, launched three blended finance initiatives to help meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Included is a Sustainable Development Investment Partnership between governments and financial institutions aimed at unlocking private capital for financing sustainable infrastructure and other development needs.
These models can be highly appropriate for the challenges facing China today, as growth slows and more innovative public-private ways to fund its infrastructure gap are needed. For example, much potential could be found in exploring the list of more than 1,000 projects that the National Development and Reform Commission presented for public-private partnership in May of this year, in sectors such as transport, water conservancy and public services.
With its new status as the international institution for public-private cooperation, the Forum is committed to providing an impartial and trusted space for this type of public-private collaboration. The hope is that this space will increase understanding among the public and private sector about the key issues driving the global agenda, as well as identify and catalyse innovative new solutions to improve them through public-private cooperation.
The leaders gathered, perhaps amid some economic uncertainty, but also amid an upside of global policy potential with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Summit that follow our meeting. As these leaders of science, technology and innovation come together, they must focus on the long-term impact they can make together in addressing our global challenges.
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015 is taking place in Dalian, China, from 9-11 September.
This article originally appeared in China Daily
Author: Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Image: Students of Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School are suspended in mid-air as they practise in a dress rehearsal for a stunt performance which is part of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, at a stadium in Nanjing, Jiangsu province August 14, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer