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The Economist’s TQ | New materials for the factory of the future – insight from world-leading innovation speaker Paul Markillie

Paul MarkillieA greater understanding of the properties of materials at the smallest scale is transforming manufacturing. This is changing the way things are designed and produced, from light bulbs to batteries, cars and aircraft.

In the Economist’s latest Technology Quarterly (TQ) – a special section focusing on recent trends and developments in science and technology – Paul Markillie, the paper’s innovation editor and world-leading expert on the disruptive impact of new technologies, explores how advances in materials science are leading to a new age of designer materials for bespoke factories.

Key findings include:

  • The days of trial and error in selecting materials for manufacturing are ending. The emergence of a “materials genome” will soon enable engineers to choose materials tailor-made for particular applications.
  • Engineering nanoparticles will allow breakthroughs such as rechargeable batteries that store much more power for laptops, smartphones and electric cars.
  • New materials will require very different production techniques. Some cars are already being made from carbon-fibre composites without a weld or rivet in sight, and components for jet engines are produced by 3D printers.

Never before have manufacturers had such a choice of materials to work with. But to take full advantage of a range of novel properties they will have to learn to do things differently. That will mean reorganising factories, building new supply chains and ensuring that their workforce is up to speed.

Click here to check out the full report.

For more information on how to book Paul Markillie as a speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Kemal Derviş: Will Technology Kill Convergence?

Writing for Project Syndicate, distinguished Turkish Economist, Kemal Derviş discusses the slowdown of emerging economy growth.

Derviş explains, countries such as China have seen a decrease in growth after decades of nearly double-digit growth, and as their growth slows, so does it’s demand for oil and commodities, resulting in severe effects for other emerging economies that depend on commodity exports. As advanced economies tentatively recover from the 2008 crisis, the differential growth in the emerging and advanced economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea has declined considerably.

Derviş asks the question of whether the growth differential will remain as low as it is today? Those who believe that will typically rely on the following three arguments.

First, they argue that much convergence has already taken place in manufacturing. Second, “the emerging-market bears point out that these economies have gained major productivity benefits from the migration of surplus rural labor to urban areas, a surplus that will soon be exhausted.” The third argument is that emerging economies are not implementing fast enough the structural reforms needed in order to support long-term growth.” Derviş believes there is some truth to this argument, but there is no proven way to measure the pace of their implementation.

He describes a possible fourth mechanism at work, which was the “shift of activities in both the services and manufacturing sectors from advanced economies to developing countries with lower wages.”

In conclusion, he believes it is difficult to argue that the emerging economies have collectively slowed in their structural-reform efforts, and that “the technology-induced shifts that are underway could portend big disruptions in global value chains.”

“The key to enabling continued convergence – even at a fairly rapid pace – is good political governance. Developing-country governments must implement policies aimed at managing the impending transformation, while maintaining social solidarity and cohesion. That is the challenge they must meet at this time of great disruption.”

Click here to read the full article.

For more information, or to book Kemal Derviş  as a speaker for your conference or event, please contact Alex Hickman at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8004. 

Kemal Derviş analyses: “Is Uber a Threat to Democracy?”

Kemal DervisVice President of the Brookings Institute, and distinguished Turkish economist, Kemal Derviş discusses Uber, and other disruptive companies in our technologically advanced society.

The Rencontres Économiques forum recently convened for their annual meeting, the timing of which coincided with a debate in France about the ride-sharing service, Uber. The forums theme was selected in response to concerns that technological advances will lead to widespread unemployment. He cites Andrew McAfee of MIT who suggests, “We may need to re-build our societies so that, as intelligent machines increase productivity, the declining demand for human work has welfare-enhancing outcomes like higher (and more equitably distributed) incomes and more leisure time”

Uber is one of the disruptive companies driving the shift. Their no-frills service, UberPOP or UberX (outside of Europe), are causing taxi drivers a lot of frustration.

Derviş outlines the problems that must be addressed. First, there are the traditional taxi drivers who have had to pay hefty license fees, and they simply cannot compete with the less expensive Uber pricing. “Taxi drivers are being asked to adjust in a matter of days, rather than years, leaving democratic systems little time to determine how much compensation they should receive, and how it should be distributed.”

The second issue is regulation. Taxis are a source of income tax and sales tax, however the UberPOP software doesn’t make it possible to collect these value-added taxes. Finally, financial returns are going toward the companies leadership, rather than to the service providers, which Derviş believes is contributing to rising income inequality.

Uber is just one example of a disruptive innovation company that is bringing an increase in efficiency, as well as social and regulatory challenges. Derviş concludes, “what is needed now are new social and regulatory policies, often global in nature, that embody a new social contract for the twenty-first century.”

Click here to read the full article.

For more information, or to book Kemal Derviş  as a speaker for your conference or event, please contact Alex Hickman at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8004.

“Disruption” expert Harper Reed says people matter more than technology

In an interview following his commended speech at UBS’s annual China conference in Shanghai this week, Harper Reed, a key player in Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, says a fundamental lesson learned as the campaign’s chief technology officer was that people matter more than technology.

Harper is of the generation of business leaders at the forefront of digital “disruption”, a phrase well known to industries from banking to retail, under attack by new technological players looking to take a piece of the action. It’s an opportunity himself and Modest co-founder Dylan Richard are looking to exploit with their new product, a simple mobile platform for retailers set to be launched in coming weeks. However, Harper notes that “when you hear about disruptive technologies, we often focus on the technology part, but that’s the easiest part. The hardest part is actually getting the people together to do that disruption.”

He goes onto say that “we could not have done the Obama campaign stuff without the people. Every single time you look at a really disruptive technology, there’s always a team behind it that is actually facilitating it and making it happen. Whenever someone says, ‘Harper we want you to talk about technology’, my gut is not to talk about technology.”

Click here to read the article in full (paywall).

For more information on how to book Harper as a keynote speaker for your conference or client event, please get in touch with Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call on +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Paul Markillie discusses the future of innovation

Paul Markillie, a global expert on the disruptive impact of new technologies and Innovation Editor for The Economist Magazine, joins us for three quick questions on the future of innovation as a part of the Chartwell Podcast series.

Paul is particularly excited about the potential of nano-satellite technology (pictured above), which can do much of the same jobs that a big satellite can do but for a fraction of the cost. Listen in to find out more!

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For more information on how to book Paul for an event, please e-mail our Managing Partner, Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Vivek Wadhwa: “Facebook’s moonshot is a wise move in a time of radical change”

Vivek Wadhwa, Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, has written a new Washington Post column, commenting on Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus for $2 billion.

In September 2013, Vivek wrote that Facebook could have the same fate as AOL or MySpace because it wasn’t keeping up with technology changes. However, Vivek says that in recent months Facebook has taken the proper approach, acting as if it’s doomed unless it reinvents itself. He adds that “companies need to experiment with “moonshots” such as these if they are to survive in today’s era of exponentially advancing technologies—when innovations come out of nowhere and disrupt entire industries.”

Clearly Facebook overpaid, according to Vivek, but it is using monopoly money – its inflated stock price (there is an extra digit in the prices of both companies). As such, Vivek believes that the acquisition makes sense.

Click here to find out why.

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