Event Programme 2021

Building resilience
The role of science and innovation in creating a sustainable future

All of the 2021 events will be delivered online. Each event will feature panel discussions involving high profile speakers and experts. Invited attendees will then have the opportunity to network, exploring the topics in more depth in small groups. All timings are subject to change.

The final Summit, Build better, took place on Wednesday 16 June. During this event we launched our report of the same name, based on the roundtables and events taking place in February and March 2021.


Click here to read the For Thought report ‘Build better


To see highlights from the Chapter events, and watch the Summit, visit the British Science Association YouTube channel.


The speaker line-up from the Summit: Arunma Oteh (Former Treasurer and Vice President, World Bank), Lord David Willetts (Chair of For Thought), Kumsal Bayazit (Chief Executive Officer, Elsevier), Steve Varley (Global Vice Chair for Sustainability, EY) and Sheila Rowan (former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland).

For Thought - Build better summit - speakers banner



The global shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inbuilt weaknesses within society but also demonstrated that rapid change is achievable. The pandemic has fundamentally changed how citizens, organisations and states perceive risk and questioned who we trust.

The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Social Inclusion has called the pandemic a “human, economic and social crisis”, “attacking societies at their core”. COVID-19 has demonstrated how precarious some human-made systems and infrastructures are to unexpected shocks.

This event will bring together leaders in business, policy, science and the media to draw out concrete recommendations to create resilient leaders, organisations and nations for the future global shocks.

At the start of 2020, there were no deaths from an unnamed, novel disease found in China. Within four months, the virus had spread to 170 countries and over three quarters of million people had been infected.

In December 2020, the first person in the UK received the Pfizer vaccine following emergency use authorisation. Never before have we seen such rapid development or  clinical approval of a vaccine.

As the world looks to recover from the pandemic, how can we learn from innovating in a crisis to use economic and regulatory drivers to stimulate growth in technologies that do not yet exist? How can we share the benefits of new technology, products and systems more equitably; broaden participation to include people and places that have traditionally been underrepresented; and include more voices in decision making?

This event will bring together leaders in business, policy, science and the media to draw out concrete recommendations to create innovation ecosystems to build back better and share the benefits of new technology, products and systems to create a more balanced and resilient economy.

The shock of COVID-19 lockdowns have led to unintended environmental consequences. Despite a dramatic 5% drop in greenhouse gas emissions (UNCTAD),  the consumption of disposable plastic used to reduce transmission of and control the virus has seen plastic pollution increase exponentially.

In the wake of the pandemic and in the lead up to COP26, governments, business leaders and scientist have acknowledged the importance of a ‘green recovery’. But is the focus on achieving net zero, whilst sidelining issues such as biodiversity, enough to create environmental prosperity?

How do we balance the immediate social and economic demands to return to ‘normal’ with the opportunity to shift towards a more resilient and sustainable future? What levers and coalitions can be used and created to turn pledges to action?

This event will bring together leaders in business, policy, science and the media to draw out concrete recommendations to put environmental prosperity at the centre of post-pandemic recovery plans in the lead-up to COP26.

The final Summit, Build better, ties together discussions from the three Chapter events. What calls to action should be implemented to address, and start solving, those challenges?

Having experienced devastation and disruption throughout 2020, leaders from all sectors must now work towards a society that is better prepared for unknowns. Better cooperation across industries is vital to rebuilding a more resilient post-pandemic world. The advances made during COVID-19 vaccine development demonstrate reactive innovation at its best – what lessons can be learned and applied to achieving environmental targets for instance?

This invite-only, virtual event will bring together leaders in business, policy, science and the media to launch a report with concrete recommendations drawn from the roundtable and Chapter events.


14:00 Introduction and welcome

14:05 Keynote interview with Lord David Willetts (Chair of For Thought) by Samira Ahmed

14:25 Panel discussion and Q&A on building resilience with Professor Sir David Omand (Visiting Professor, KCL and former Director of GCHQ), Professor Tolullah Oni (Public health doctor, urban epidemiologist at University of Cambridge), Gillian Tett (Chair, Editorial Board and Editor-at-large (US) – The Financial Times) and Kate Bamford (Partner, Advisory Services at EY)

15:05 Discussion on the future of resilience with Ann Cairns (Executive Vice Chair, Mastercard) and Samah Khalil (Youth Mayor, Oldham)

15:25 Networking roundtables (optional)

08:30 Introduction and welcome

08:35 Panel discussion and Q&A with Ksenia Zheltoukhova (Acting Chief Scientist, Nesta), Ben Osborn (Managing Director, UK at Pfizer), Amanda Solloway MP (Science Minister and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) and Lopa Patel MBE (Digital Entrepreneur and Non-Executive Chair)

09:25 Networking roundtables (optional)

10:00 Keynote interview with Professor Muhammad Yunus (Founder, Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize winner) by Samira Ahmed

10:30 End of programme

16:00 Introduction and welcome

16:05 Panel discussion and Q&A with Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE (Director, Cambridge Zero), Sir David King (Former UK Special Envoy on Climate Change and Founder of Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge), Afsheen Kabir Rashid (Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Repowering London) and Duncan Burt (COP26 Director, National Grid) by Samira Ahmed

17:00 ‘In conversation’ with Aliza Ayaz (founder UCL Climate Action Society and UN Youth Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals) and Nero Ughwujabo (Former Special Adviser to Theresa May on Social Justice, Young People & Opportunities)

17:20 Networking roundtables (optional)

18:00 End of event

13:00Introduction and welcome  

13:05 Report launch with Katherine Mathieson (Chief Executive, British Science Association)

13:10  Panel discussion with Lord David Willetts (Chair of For Thought), Arunma Oteh (Former Treasurer and Vice President, World Bank), Kumsal Bayazit (Chief Executive Officer, Elsevier), Steve Varley (Global Vice Chair for Sustainability, EY) and Sheila Rowan (former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland)

14:00  Short break 

14:10 Moderated roundtable discussions with other participants in small groups 

15:00 End of event 

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For Thought (formerly the Huxley Summit) provides a platform for a diverse range of speakers and attendees to debate cross-cutting themes such as pandemics, climate change and cyber-security.