White City leads Davos debate on 'inclusive growth'


Alice Gast with will.i.am and other leaders at Davos

Imperial's work to engage non-traditional communities in start-ups and enterprise at The Invention Rooms grabbed the Davos spotlight this morning.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum alongside entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, Cresent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar, and Black Eyed Peas star and technologist will.i.am, President Alice Gast explained how initiatives like The Invention Rooms are strengthening confidence and opportunities for young people in communities that have previously had little interaction with higher education.

YouTube placeholder

In a blog for the World Economic Forum, also published today, Professor Gast said: “We need to broaden our collaborative networks to more actively include those who doubt us the most, but know us the least.” The Invention Rooms in White City “invites members of the local community to join Imperial’s academics, students, alumni and partners to test out creative ideas, build real prototypes and share in the joy and gratification of creation and discovery,” she wrote.


The Makerspace within Imperial's Invention Rooms

This “offers a model for regaining trust with left behind communities. This means listening to our neighbours’ needs, tapping into their talents and opening our doors. We want to forge genuine partnerships with the people of White City,” Professor Gast added.

During the Davos panel on ‘The State of Start-ups’, chaired by R May Lee, Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Management at ShanghaiTech, President Gast said “It’s important that we get the discoveries in research out into society as quickly as possible” whether that’s through start-ups, corporations or Imperial academics working on low-cost “frugal innovations”.

Alice Gast at Davos

That’s why Imperial has developed so many initiative to give “students the freedom to take risks while at university… they should have the opportunity to try some really outlandish things, some risky things, and really learn how to get their ideas out there.” This includes mentoring, incubators, hackspaces and competitions, including the Venture Catalyst Challenge and WE Innovate, as well as the Enterprise Lab.

YouTube placeholder

The panel went on to debate the challenge of scaling up inclusive and high potential ideas like The Invention Rooms, the issues around leaders in Silicon Valley embracing ‘failure’ as a model, and how new groups are set to create the next generation of game-changing businesses. will.i.am said: “The Elon Musk of 2040 is a woman. The Steve Jobs of 2040 is an African.”

The full Davos discussion can be viewed at the World Economic Forum and Professor Gast’s blog can be read on WEF’s Agenda.


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Email: press.office@imperial.ac.uk
Show all stories by this author


Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, International, Strategy-decision-makers, White-City-Campus
See more tags


Comments are loading...

Leave a comment

Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.