29 April 2020
Today’s unprecedented pace of change is provoking widespread fear and scepticism about the ways engineering advance is affecting our lives. Is improved health care creating an ageing population which cannot be cared for? Will autonomous drones with facial recognition software and lethal weapons soon be used to terrorise or coerce us? Are artificial intelligence and robotics poised to cause massive unemployment, or even wrest control from human leaders? And has our growing demand for energy driven the Earth’s climate to the edge of catastrophe?
In contrast to the hysteria and doom which characterise these topics, Lord Browne will show why it is imperative that society encourages, rather than hinder, technological progress. Engineering is and always has been the lifeblood of civilisation. From the flint hand axe to the quantum computer, it has transformed what it is to be human. Across the ages, engineering has made the world less violent; a place with much less poverty, disease and starvation; where a growing majority of people can read and write and more people than ever have the freedom to build the life they want to live.
Drawing on history, his own experiences and conversations with many of today’s great innovators, he will acknowledge the unintended consequences of progress, but show that it is our also our primary source of solutions. We have the engineered solutions we need to forestall the worst effects of climate change, for example. And biomedical engineering can provide the means to care for the world’s growing populations with sensitivity and compassion. Applied responsibly and inclusively, engineering can deliver a brighter future.
Lord Browne was born in 1948. He holds degrees in Natural Sciences from Cambridge and an MS in Business from Stanford.
He joined BP in 1966 as a university apprentice, between 1969 and 1983 had a variety of exploration and production posts in North America and the UK, and in 1984 became Group Treasurer and Chief Executive of BP Finance International. He held senior roles during the BP/Standard and BP/Amoco mergers in 1987 and 1998 and was appointed Group Chief Executive in 1995. He left in 2007.
He is Executive Chairman of L1 Energy and Chairman of Huawei UK, Stanhope Capital, and the Accenture Global Energy Board. He is a director of Pattern Energy and a member of the advisory boards of Edelman, Schillings and the big data technology companies Afiniti, Kayrros, and Windward.
Lord Browne was voted Most Admired CEO by Management Today every year between 1999 and 2002, was knighted in 1998 and made a life peer in 2001.
He was Chairman of the Trustees of the Tate Galleries from 2009 to 2017. He is currently Chairman of the board of the Donmar Warehouse and Chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He is a member or Chairman of the boards of a number of other organisations, including the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.
He is Chairman of the Francis Crick Institute, and is a Fellow and past President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and an Honorary Fellow of a number of institutions.
He was the UK Government’s Lead Non-Executive Board Member from 2010 to 2015, and chaired the committee that authored the Browne Report, an independent review of higher education published in 2010.
In 1999, The Royal Academy of Engineering awarded him the Prince Philip Medal for his outstanding contribution to engineering. He has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates from a number of leading universities, is an Honorary Fellow of John’s, Cambridge, and is a Senior Member of St Antony’s College, Oxford.
His interests are 16th- to 18th-century illustrated Italian books; pre-Colombian art; contemporary art; music; opera and the theatre; and Venice.
Lord Browne is the author of four books, Beyond Business, Seven Elements that Changed the World, The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good Business and the Sunday Times bestseller Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society. His fifth book – Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering and the Future of Civilisation – will be published in May 2019.
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