Our stated task was never going to be easy: to positively disrupt our political and societal landscape to help the UK embrace the sea-change of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
There is no road map, no linear path in how to meet this objective. However, six months after starting this journey – and four business plans later – we are on the cusp of beginning to execute our vision.
The core of our focus is going to remain the same: to explore the limits of innovation and technology whilst building a coalition of people who can turn big ideas into reality.
We’re not talking about things like building a base on the moon; we want to create practical, joined up thinking that finds solutions to the problems we face, and makes our society incrementally better in the process.
One area that we want to tackle early on is the UK’s digital infrastructure. Whilst HS2 may be always catching headlines, the most important infrastructure projects that we’re currently undertaking today involve fibre roll-out. Just as roads and rail move physical products around our country, fibre should be moving everything digital. In order to have a fully-fledged digital economy, it is critical to have universal high-speed access, no matter what part of the UK someone lives in. The government set a target that by 2025, 100% of the country would have fibre access. Currently, this target has no chance of being met – we’re way behind where we should be, and vast swathes of the countryside are yet to see any fibre exchanges being installed. The good news is that a fibre network has already been built and runs throughout the UK. However, no one knows about it, and it doesn’t have public access. A change in policy is all that is needed – ISPs could do the rest, giving them a massive step-up in terms of reach and capability.
A second area that we believe needs to be disrupted is the housing market. Sky high housing prices, which are continuing to rise, means that currently, one in three millennials will never own their own home. Schemes like Help to Buy have compounded the problem, leading to the large home builders building more (but not enough) housing stock, which they then sell off at exorbitant prices. This, coupled with a decline in social housing, is leading to an unsustainable and unhealthy housing bubble. What happens if we could liberalise our planning laws in line with Japan, and build better, more sustainable houses for less? Sounds like a fantasy? It isn’t. There are already players on the periphery who can offer these kind of solutions – we just need to bring their solutions into the mainstream.
A third area that we want to address is the notion of green technology, and more specifically, how we as a country meet the government’s target of being net carbon neutral by 2050. Ultimately it is going to be business and technology that is going to invent the solutions that save our planet. We believe that government needs to start acting as a catalyst, setting industries bold challenges, in order to make them move faster and further with research and then implementation. If we do this correctly, then we could have our cake and it: secure long-term economic growth whilst saving the planet. We want to use our platform to find and give voice to some of the game-changing businesses and scientists who are at the cutting-edge of this field.
In all, we’ve built a manifesto (of sorts), that spans everything from healthcare, automation in the economy to big data and how we could reskill our workforce for the 21st Century. We call it Vision 2020 and we envisage we’ll spend at least the next decade tackling these issues.
Whilst we will be building an online community of disruptors, innovators, policy makers and businesses, our primary output will be content. We want to tell thought-provoking, positive stories, about how our society and economy could look in the future, whilst documenting the pathway to change. All of our content will be freely available and sharable via social media. Ultimately, we want to not only find solutions to problems, we want to help fix them. We’re not always going to be heading down the right path – often when innovating you have to head down a hundred wrong paths to find the right one – but we hope that our focus on solving problems rather than political ideology, will bring together a broad and eclectic group of thinkers and doers who will help us get something done. Above all, we want to make people feel positive about the future again. Negativity sells nothing.
If you would be interested in joining our project, then head over to our new website (eo925.uk), and say hello on the data capture form at the bottom of the page. We’ll keep you updated on our first pieces of content and our community as it begins to grow. If you want to get in touch in the meantime, then please don’t hesitate to send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Below I’ve listed some of the other topics that come under our Vision 2020 umbrella. Ultimately, we envisage that our membership will define our agenda, but we think we’ll definitely need to address the below in order to transform our economy and society for the future:
Reskilling the Workforce: Keeping People Relevant
In an age of mass digital disruption and automation, can we keep people’s skills relevant?
We will take a look at education, life skills, in and out of work opportunities to retrain and develop a skillset that can adapt to a rapidly changing economy.
Can we incentives business to train and support those wanting to work, but lacking the skills? We will look to see if government can provide a framework to support this initiative.
Meet the Disruptors: Regulating the Unknown
How can the government identify and effectively incubate the digital icons of tomorrow?
Can we develop a toolbox for government and business that would easily help start-ups to flourish while giving government long-term tools in which to regulate a disruptive industry?
Government is stuck between a rock and hard place: stifle new enterprises or help destroy established industries.
At what point should the government look to provide regulation, how should it consult and what level of involvement should it have?
Automation: Society’s Oldest Problem
We think of automation as a new phenomenon, but it isn’t; we’ve been automating our industries for centuries.
What are going to be the main issues and opportunities in the latest wave of automation, and is there anything we can do to slow it?
As AI and robots take over more and more jobs, is there a model we can build for taxing machines or are we looking at a century of deflation?
Health is Wealth: Mental Health & Entrepreneurship
There is a mental health crisis in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are twice as likely to suffer from depression than the average adult, three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse, ten times more likely to suffer bipolar disorder and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts.
And yet they are crucial for economic development, job creation and monetising innovation. How do we, as a society, help them to operate in a state of optimal mental health?
We will take a look at how we can de-stigmatise the issue of mental health in entrepreneurship and practical ways to help identify and curb ‘founder burnout’.
Big Data: The World’s Most Valuable Resource
Big Data has quietly become the world’s most valuable resource, but thanks to its incessant harvesting and cynical utilisation to create ad revenues by tech giants, it’s not seen as a positive development for humanity.
What are the benefits of this resource and how can it fundamentally change the world that we live in?
We want to explore opportunities for how the UK could utilise the wealth of data that the government has access to in order to become market leaders and fund services, such as the NHS.
Ending the 9 to 5: From Factory Floor to Living Room
The way we live and work is changing, yet our working practices remain largely the same.
We will look at how a variety of companies are utilising flexible working to increase their productivity whilst making their workforce happier.
We also want to take a look at the Gig Economy and ask ourselves is this increasing trend a bad thing, or merely presaging what tomorrow’s workforce will look like?