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Belfast invited to take part in top economic conference for the first time


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

Getty Images

Bono at The World Economic Forum

Bono at The World Economic Forum

Getty Images

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

Belfast will have a chance to sell itself to the world’s largest economic conference for the first time later this month.

The World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, brings together leaders and pre-eminent thinkers from across the globe. It has previously played host to Bill Gates, Bono and more.

This year, Northern Ireland is one of 16 venues taking part in a live debate that will be broadcast to the forum in a discussion format chaired by a leading figure from the world of business, such as Mr Gates.

Belfast will host a discussion at the BBC’s Blackstaff House in the city centre.

Afterwards, one speaker will join the debate that will be live-streamed at the conference in Switzerland on January 18.

Deloitte Digital is the strategic partner for Belfast’s involvement in the event. 

Kain Craigs and Peter Edgar, the pair behind the Northern Ireland leg, are hoping to pitch to host one of the Shaping Davos events in the near future. “There was an opportunity to bid to be a part of Shaping Davos,” Mr Craigs explained.

“We put in a bid document, and the theme of our bid was that Belfast is a city for the next  industrial revolution.”

Around 200 hubs applied to join the panel, and Belfast was selected alongside 15 others. The main conference will run over four days, and each day four cities will stream a virtual panel to delegates in Switzerland.

“The theme we have been given is hubs of innovation, and we have been asked to hold a local activity, which will be conducted on January 16 at Blackstaff,” Mr Craigs said. “That is to create something to share (with Davos) on the 18th.”

At the preliminary debate, delegates will discuss issues around how post-conflict societies can transform into vibrant digital economies. At the main event, one delegate will be part of a 75-minute discussion with Davos, alongside other cities such as Seattle and Vancouver.

The Global Shapers Community was founded in 2010, and is aimed at widening the forum’s engagement outside Davos.

It has a network of 430 city hubs, including Belfast, designed to target and engage business leaders under the age of 30 who are making an impact on their community.

“This is a brilliant opportunity for Belfast entrepreneurs in the digital economy to cost effectively build their business knowledge and connectivity on a truly worldwide scale,” Mr Craigs said.

He added that the ultimate target was to host the Shaping Davos event in 2018.

The World Economic Forum, which was founded in Geneva in 1971, is a think tank and leading advocate for sustainable economic growth.

Belfast Telegraph