Borderless business in an era of disruption (Sponsored)

Apr 01, 2020
Trinity Business School hosted its flagship event in early March. The annual Trinity Business + Technology Forum explored the theme of ‘Borderless Business’, with several expert keynote speakers addressing issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, digital transformation and climate change.

The one-day annual Business + Technology Forum brings Trinity College Dublin’s business and scientific communities – industry partners, alumni, faculty and students – together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the two sectors.

Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, and Leonard Hobbs, Director of Trinity Research & Innovation were joined by a stellar line-up of business experts and researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the wider world. Keynote speakers included Frank Sixt, Executive Director at CK Hutchinson Holdings Ltd., Alice Delahunt, Chief Digital Officer at Ralph Lauren, and Brendan McDonagh, Chair of Trinity Business School’s Advisory Board and Non-Executive Director at AIB.

“The main purpose of the forum is to bring the whole Trinity Business School community together,” explains Professor Burke. “We have a huge amount of people in that community who have massive experience in industry and research. What we are doing with the forum is bringing everyone together to address some of the key issues facing business and society today.”

The event began with four alumni masterclasses delivered by school faculty. “We had a really interesting series of alumni masterclasses,” says Conor Edwards, Alumni and Corporate Relations Manager at Trinity Business School. “Some of the topics covered included innovation, managing international subsidiaries, financial reporting, and leadership.”

Designed to promote lifelong learning among the returning classes, the masterclasses were followed by career development workshops on how to futureproof your career with emotional intelligence.

The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic came up for debate in the discussion following Brendan McDonagh’s opening keynote address. It was argued that the pandemic had exposed inherent weaknesses in borderless business.
Drawing on his expertise in international banking, McDonagh noted that there are constant concerns that cyber problems could cause a collapse of new digital banking and mobile apps. “Advances in technology and digitalisation, as well as remote working, have allowed us to negate the effects of the coronavirus quite significantly; despite the uncertainty and varying impact on different industries.”

Professor Burke added: “The coronavirus wasn’t on the radar when we chose this theme, but it is yet another illustration that despite any moves towards nationalism around the globe, the reality is that we live in an interconnected and interdependent world of business where features such as digital technology, climate change, travel and viruses and international trade respect no borders. Any business leader needs to harness these influences and that requires a deep understanding of how they impact business and society.”

Interspersed between the keynotes were a range of interactive workshops and breakout sessions for the wider school community along with a research showcase that highlighted Trinity research from across the university and how it translates into solutions with global economic and social impact. The showcase provided an opportunity for delegates to meet members of the Trinity Research & Innovation unit and Trinity Business School’s thought leaders.

“In addition to the Global Business Forum, we took the opportunity to experiment with showcasing via posters bite-sized ways in which people can introduce themselves and their research,” says Professor Brian Lucey, Director of Research at Trinity Business School. “We had 20 or 25 posters from faculty and PhD students on display.”

Trinity Research Institutes in Humanities, Medical Sciences and national research centres such as ADAPT, CONNECT, and AMBER were also on hand to advise on how they can help and engage with businesses.

Trinity Business School’s focus on shaping business for good was reflected in panel discussions on ethical leadership, sustainable business, and tackling climate change. In the panel discussion ‘What climate science wants business to do’, Trinity Business School’s Dr Norah Campbell discussed the eco-psychological, geo-physical and socio-economic scales of response with writer, Mark O’Connell; researcher in sustainable consumption, Dr Marc Hudson; and Corporate Sustainability Officer, Claire Igoe.

“We were really trying to talk about the scale and the scope of the climate emergency,” Dr Campbell explains. “We talked about a range of responses that are already in existence and then some that are quite embryonic or quite new to the conversation.”
Dr Mark O’Connell, the author of Notes from an Apocalypse, believes such conversations have an important role to play. “Talking about those things is the first step to change; not necessarily a sufficient condition, but it is a necessary condition towards making some kind of change.”

The panel came to a clear consensus that businesses should be leading the way on serious issues like climate change, with Hudson noting that we’ve known about the negative effects of global warming since the late 1950s. He advised that businesses should look to change their business models and lead “progressive, intelligent social movements that can put pressure on governments over a long period of time.”

The environment was also addressed by Dr Mary-Lee Rhodes, Co-Director, Centre for Social Innovation. “One of our very interesting pieces of research is governance for sustainability,” she says. “We’re working on a connecting nature project which is a Europe-wide project around how nature-based solutions in cities can be deployed not only to improve the environmental aspect of the city, but also the social and, in many cases, the economic aspects.”

Leonard Hobbs highlights the importance of events like the Forum. “The relationship between business and technology is borderless and hugely important as both drive each other. Conferences like this provide the opportunity to network, tackle key issues and bring both sides together.”

“While in a small open economy such as Ireland where we have a long history of not being sequestered by our border, the current technological, ecological and socio-political pace of change is sufficiently rapid and disruptive to cause a reconfiguration of many of the norms of business,” adds Professor Burke. “We were delighted that this year’s Forum brought together many students, graduates and staff of the university as well as a much wider network of people who value and indeed enhance this open community, to address the issues of climate change, digital transformation, finance, Brexit and the new Europe.”

(This article is sponsored by Trinity Business School.)