Davos 2024: A glimpse through the eyes of an undergraduate student

Victor Klippgen, an undergraduate student in the Department of Materials, recently attended The World Economic Forum at Davos 2024. In this blog post, he reflects on his experience, sharing more about the insights gained during the event.

What motivated you to attend Davos 2024 and how did you secure the opportunity?

My involvement with Davos stemmed from my past work with Det Moderne India (DMI), a non-profit based in Norway. DMI extended an invitation for me to participate at Davos, where I was tasked with documenting the discussions of their roundtable event on sustainability through video and photography.

How was your experience and did it meet your expectations?

My experience at Davos surpassed all my expectations. I found myself in a melting pot of esteemed individuals, from CEOs to academics. The streets were buzzing with excitement as companies showcased their technological advancements and visions for the future. Everywhere I turned, there was something happening. In one moment, I was having my face scanned for an AI exhibition; in the next, I was listening to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, share his insights on the future macroeconomic outlook during a live CNBC interview.

Were there any particular sessions or speakers that made a lasting impression on you?

Several sessions and speakers left a lasting impression on me. One highlight was having the opportunity to engage with two battery company CEOs over drinks, discussing the future of renewable energy and sustainable technology. Additionally, speaking at length with a graphene expert about AI methods to materials discovery was incredibly insightful, particularly as I plan to pursue further studies in computational materials science.

Were there any significant trends, insights or global challenges that you found particularly relevant to your current studies or future career goals?

AI technology was a major trend at Davos this year, capturing my interest for its potential to accelerate materials discovery and enhance the accuracy of electronic structure calculations. Before AI, computational methods for predicting the properties of materials encountered significant accuracy issues for certain systems and were limited to a few hundred atoms. However, the advent of machine learning is revolutionising the landscape. The introduction of AI to materials discovery and electronic structure calculations is particularly exciting, and I hope to contribute to this rapidly advancing field in the future.

What was your biggest takeaway?

My exposure to high-level discussions on generative AI, sustainability, and the macroeconomic picture provided valuable insights. However, what intrigued me the most was experiencing tangible progress towards a sustainable future. One notable example was NEOM’s presentation of “THE LINE” project—a linear smart city under construction in Saudi Arabia, spanning 170 kilometres and designed to accommodate 9 million people, all powered entirely by renewable energy.

My most significant takeaway from Davos is a sense of optimism for the future. Amidst a turbulent political climate and uncertain macroeconomic outlook, witnessing tangible progress and innovative solutions first-hand instilled a sense of hope. Davos served as a powerful reminder of our capacity for progress and the efficacy of collective action in tackling global challenges.