Innovation as a driving force for the future of BRICS

Today leading figures in emerging markets are sharing their thoughts and experiences at the first edition of the innovaBRICS Conference, hosted in London. A great location to gather thought leaders on innovation in the BRICS countries, as it is no surprise that the London Olympics is ‘sandwiched’ between guest cities Beijing and Rio, according to Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor of London. As a business hub, London is embracing their relationship with the BRICS countries. The thought-provoking conference agenda – with speakers ranging from Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Vodafone Group to FIFA – inspired me to share some highlights of the first sessions.
Topics ranging from the ‘State of the Emerging Markets Union’ and the macroeconomic elements that foster innovation focus our attention on two important messages. Axel Tillmann, CEO of Russian Venture Company-USA, emphasizes the need for BRICS countries to focus on innovation to sustain their growth.
The future of these countries isn’t in the export of oil and gas, but in fostering creativity to create a more innovation-driven economy. To give an example, Abhik Sen, Managing Editor at The Economist Group, shares the story of how mobile phone services had an impact on farmers in India, giving them access to the real-time information on the price levels of their produce for the first time in history. Of course, tapping into natural resources and innovation can also be combined, as green energy could be the key to create a sustainable answer to climate change and employment in Africa.
In addition to local innovation and as a result of the growth in these countries, a new group of consumers is coming forth. As Jim O’Neill, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management – who originally coined the term ‘BRICs’ in a 2001 paper entitled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” – states; the days of China being the world’s low value added exporter are finished. With China in the lead, with an economy the same size of the other BRICS countries combined, BRICS consumers are becoming increasingly important and global brands are focusing their attention on entering these markets.
For both evolutions to be successful there’s a need for both global and local organizations to understand and even collaborate with their consumers. This learning curve will be extremely exciting as the daily life of people from Brazil to South-Africa can be a true inspiration for the development of relevant and impactful products and services. In this context I’ll be presenting a project together with Jonne van Wijngaarden at the end of this conference on how Philips connected with Chinese consumers. By conducting an online research community, we uncovered unique insights about sleeping behaviours and health in China. You can already have a look at our presentation below.

Looking for more BRIC news? Keep an eye on our blog as on Friday we’ll share an article on how to build Research Communities in Brasil.

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