Technology struts world stage at Davos

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The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum kicks off in Switzerland on 23 January under the theme 'The Power of Collaborative Innovation'..

The Forum, known as 'Davos' after the small ski resort which hosts the meeting, gathers the world's top political and business leaders to discuss issues such as climate change, globalisation and economic stability.

This year, some 2,500 delegates will attend between Wednesday and Sunday. Most are chief executives of the largest companies on Earth, representing approximately 25 per cent of the world's annual GDP.

While finance heads will be agonising over the knock-on effects of the summer's financial risk-management crisis, it is no accident that this year's theme sounds like it could be a session at a technology conference.

It is recognition that the interconnectedness which the internet has brought to the world economy is a blessing and a curse; capital and information travel from one market to another at wire speeds, but so do crises.

There is growing awareness among top-level delegates that technology counts. Green power-generation technologies can help mitigate climate change, and collaborative computer networks make sense of globalisation for developed and emerging economies.

Consequently, technology-related sessions at the World Economic Forum grow in number and importance on the agenda each year.

The Technology Pioneers, a forum to help identify, develop and finance start-ups in IT and telecoms, biotech and energy, was run as an integral part of the Annual Meeting for the first time last year rather than as an adjunct.

Of course, the majority of the Technology Pioneers, sponsored by BT, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Accel, originate in the US.

But 14 of this year's 39 companies are from Switzerland, Israel, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the UK.

The big ideas include personal DNA-chip analysis, synthetic bio-catalysts for extracting bio-fuels from crop waste, a giant parachute-style sail for commercial shipping and software which recognises faces in online digital photos.

One of three UK-based Technology Pioneers, Garlik, is promoting a service called DataPatrol which helps consumers manage their online identity by trawling the web looking for instances of their details.

No doubt all of these companies will be looking to repeat the success of a previous Technology Pioneer by the name of Google.

Numerous heads of state, government ministers, representatives of influential non-governmental organisations, such as charities and UN bodies, and the occasional celebrity, such as Bono and Angelia Jolie, also gather to tackle the world's big problems.
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