Foresight Planning – How to Avoid Another 2020

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

COVID shocked the world, but was it really unexpected? In this Falling Walls Circle Table, the panel investigates how well we were prepared for the pandemic, and how we can better ready ourselves with foresight planning for the changes and crises of the future.

Researchers had long predicted the threat of a global pandemic, but it’s clear that this knowledge wasn’t sufficiently translated into action. Indeed, 2020 demonstrated that warnings fail to prepare us for the threats that don’t pose an immediate and present danger. And while COVID has shaken the world, other long term dangers are on the horizon, ranging from climate change to shifts in global power structures.

Avoiding a repeat of 2020, requires us to integrate foresight planning into public and private sector processes. This means better communication with those in power. But those in power also need to learn to listen and act across partisan divides.

Chris Luebkeman

ETH Zurich

Chris Luebkeman’s career to date has spanned professions and geographies. His multidisciplinary education (geology, civil engineering, structural engineering, entrepreneurship and a Doctorate in Architecture) was encouraged by his Mid-Western family of educators. His journey included Vanderbilt, Cornell and the ETH in Zurich. He became an academic gypsy teaching courses on Design and on Technology at the University of Oregon, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and at MIT. He joined Arup in London to lead the Research and Development group in 1999 and became a corporate intrapreneur by founding the Foresight, Innovation and Incubation teams. He established the Drivers of Change program and is proud to have been accused by the Guardian to have a mindset “in league with the future”. He is deeply passionate about curating constructive dialogue, insatiably curious, relishes the opportunity to discover the opportunities which will be created by change and, perhaps most importantly, to evolve positive solutions to the profound challenges we face today. For twenty years he travelled the globe sharing his observations and insights by leading projects focused on the future for Arup, Arup’s clients and for many of the world’s leading institutions. For example, he has spoken at TED, hosted conversations at, and for, WEF and keynoted dozens of conferences around the world. He is a member of the nominating committee for the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, the external advisory Board of the URA and of Brain Trust of the Climate Music Project. He returned to the ETH in Zurich in 2020 as a strategic advisor to the President and Executive Board.