Flew BA to Porto, from Gatwick, on 5 November – before fireworks got out of hand. Met at airport by Gualter Chrisóstomo of CEiiA, who I know through our work for the UN Global Compact on Project Breakthrough.
Wonderful supper of salt cod (bacalhau) in every conceivable form alongside the River Douro, then a walk across the bridge to the other side.
Next day, off to CEiiA, where I was taken around by Gualter and Carlos Almeida. Introduced to teams working on things like submersible platforms, fire-spotting drones, mobility-as-a-service and satellite remote sensing. And met the Deputy Minister for Environment, José Mendes.
Then flew to Lisbon for the Web Summit, for me kicking off with a very interesting dinner at the Palacio Nacional.
My session at the Summit had the title: “The planet is under threat. Does tech have the answer?” With Vann Newark II of The Atlantic in the chair, my co-panellists were Constantijn van Orange of StartupDelta, Jyoti Kirit Parikh of India’s Integrated Research and Action for Development, and Kathleen van Brempt of the European Parliament.
An intriguing group, but a squeezed session, billed as invitation-only (which put a fair number of people I talked to later off coming) and with a great deal of background noise. But perhaps that’s a suitable metaphor for the world-at-large at the moment?
Among interesting conversations later in the day was one with Christoph Gebald of Climeworks, whose business it is to capture carbon dioxide from the air. Fascinating venture.
The next morning, I had breakfast with Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of one of my early influences, Commander Jacques Cousteau. She is an explorer, film-maker and water activist. Releated issues are very live in my mind at the moment thanks to David Attenborough’s extraordinary new series, Blue Planet II.
Then we were joined by her colleague at Good Impact, David Diallo, who we have known for quite some time. Wish all breakfasts could be something like that.
One memory that came to mind while we were talking was a ceremony we conducted in all seriousness when I was at prep school. Someone’s hamster had died and we decided to organise out version of a Viking sea burial.
A piece of cork was duly extracted from one of the life-rafts that sat by the river that ran through the Glencot School ground. Then the hamster was laid in state, surrounded by small blue plastic aqualung divers that could be found at the time in certain cereal packets. And off into the afternoon he/she/it went.
Then on to a session with Manuel Heitor, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, alongside Rich(and) Johnson of Volans and Carlos Almeida of CEiiA. Amazing how deep the links are between our two countries, though it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Came away determined to explore ways of bridging between what we’re doing on Project Breakthrough and what Portugal is doing in a growing range of sectors.
Once back to London, highlights included final interviews for the new Executive Director slot at Volans and, yesterday, a lunch in Barnes with Clément Huret of the Social Stock Exchange and his partner Julie, both from France. Another timely reminder of how lucky London (if not the rest of this country) is to be tucked in so close to the rest of Europe – and how inane and self-destructive the continuing BREXIT chaos is.