The Thinker
We're looking for innovative thinkers to join our global conversation

The University of Birmingham is looking for innovative thinkers to join our global conversation and submit a world-healing idea for the Forum for Global Challenges.

From 3 to 5 May this year, some of today’s most influential thinkers and doers gather in Birmingham for the Forum – a major international meeting to showcase and generate solutions to some of the most pressing challenges faced by the planet and its people.

Potential participants have until Monday, 7 February to submit a summary of their idea – full details are available at . Successful applicants could present their ideas at the Forum either in person or virtually.

Experts at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Global Innovation (IGI) have launched the new multi-disciplinary forum – which will meet every two years - to help provide solutions to resolve critical global challenges and make the world a fairer, more sustainable place.

Professor Hisham Mehanna, Director of the IGI commented: “Our world faces multiple challenges – from living with the devastating impacts of climate change and the destruction of the natural world to the effect of pandemics on jobs and livelihoods. This makes finding and creating new solutions to these challenges an urgent priority.

“We’re looking for ideas from around the globe on how to solve challenges around a range of critical topics. The Forum is a great way for innovators to showcase their policy, societal and technical solutions - interacting with global thought-leaders and making new connections and building partnerships. So come and join us! We look forward to hearing your ideas.”

Francis Pope, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham is one of the research leaders taking part in the Forum.

He led the team of environmental scientists who worked with the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay to help create a hi-tech ‘heart’ for the Baton, which is currently travelling the Commonwealth.

The Baton contains atmospheric sensors with laser technology that analyses the environmental conditions wherever it is in the world. Augmented Reality (AR) will be used to visualise creatively data captured throughout the journey to invite conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth.

Data collected on the Baton’s journey will contribute to ongoing University of Birmingham research projects being conducted across the globe.

Professor Pope commented: “Atmospheric data captured during the Baton’s global journey will be highly valuable in starting important conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth. In a similar way, the Forum for Global Challenges represents an opportunity to kick start important conversations around issues that pose an existential threat to our world. I look forward to some innovative and thought-provoking discussion in May.”

A 3,000-delegate, hybrid event, combining a face-to-face conference at the ICC Birmingham with a fully online interactive format, the Forum’s hybrid design means that people from around the globe can take part with low-carbon impact.

It brings together world leaders, business and thought leaders, policy makers, practitioners and academics from around the world to find solutions to problems in the following areas:

  • Green Economy
  • Food & nutrition
  • Education & employment
  • Gender Equality
  • The future of cities
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Restoring nature
  • Mobilities & migration

The Forum aims to create a far-reaching legacy in five main areas:

  • Helping to create better policy and practice locally, nationally and globally
  • Discovering effective partnerships that focus on solutions
  • Educating the next generation of leaders, practitioners, policymakers and the public
  • Developing international initiatives
  • Inspiring young people to get involved in overcoming these challenges

The Forum for Global Challenges is supported by The World Bank, Unesco, The Association of Commonwealth Universities, UNDP, CBU, West Midlands Combined Authority, UK Research and Innovation, and Thomson Reuters Foundation.

  • For more information, interviews or an embargoed copy of the research paper, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • It hosts the Institute for Global Innovation (IGI), a research institute focused on world-leading, multi- and inter-disciplinary research that seeks to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The IGI’s research themes revolve around understanding and finding solutions to factors that challenge, and sometimes threaten, the sustainability and resilience of individuals, communities, societies, and the world as a whole.
  • IGI’s main themes now include clean air, resilient cities, water challenges in a changing world, gender inequality, and 21st century transnational crime. IGI’s emerging themes include clean cooling, antimicrobial resistance, and ageing and frailty.
  • Notable speakers taking part include: Dr Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah, CEO Oxfam GB, Liv Garfield, Severn Trent CEO and Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director, Oxford Martin School; author and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, World Bank Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel, and Vice President for Compliance Sandie Okoro, and former UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell.

For more information, interviews or an embargoed copy of the research paper, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Birmingham research experts taking part in the forum include:

  • Fiona Nunan, Professor of Environment and Development
  • Dr Gabriela da Silva Xavier, Metabolism and Systems Research
  • Justine Davies, Professor of Global Health
  • Peter Kraftl, Chair in Human Geography
  • Stefan Krause, Professor of Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry
  • Jeannette Littlemore, Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics
  • Professor Raquel Ortega-Argilés, Chair, Regional Economic Development,
  • Francis Pope, Professor of Atmospheric Science
  • Professor Nando Sigona, Chair of International Migration and Forced Displacement & Director of IRiS
  • Professor Ian Thomson, Director Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business
  • Clive Roberts, Professor of Railway Systems and Head of School of Engineering