At a rooftop restaurant sitting atop of Singapore’s National Gallery, the room vibrated with chatter as 200 guests, some of the most recognizable faces in their fields—spanning business, technology, and entertainment—gathered for the TIME100 Impact Awards and Leadership Forum.
Outside the restaurant, another kind of rumbling was stirring serious excitement for the evening as teams geared up to race in the 16th stop of the 2023 Formula 1 Grand Prix season.
“It’s one of the most exciting Grand Prix on the calendar,” said former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, who took the stage at the Leadership Forum.
“The Formula 1 is exciting, but when you struggle with a night race in Singapore,” he told TIME Editor in Chief Sam Jacobs, “it’s one of the best weekends of the year.”
The TIME100 Leadership Forum and TIME100 Impact Awards in Singapore was produced in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board, MasterCard, and McKinsey & Company.
“We believe that business is a force for good and it can harness technology, it can harness innovation, talent, and also capital to create a meaningful impact for the community, for society, not just for the economy,” said EDB Chairman Png Cheong Boon in his introduction.
Here are the biggest moments from the forum:
Former F1 Champion Jenson Button: Sustainable fuel in racing is the future
When asked about his favorite car, the British racing driver and car collector said he’s unfazed by newer cars like Teslas: “For me it’s the classic cars that I really enjoy,” he added.
Button, an environmental advocate, has supported Formula 1’s push to make the sport more environmentally friendly. The 2009 world champion, whose career in Formula 1 mostly centered around cars with fully combustible engines, has become one of the biggest advocates for the race to return to combustible engines with sustainable fuel. Formula 1 cars currently use hybrid engines that run on a mixture of 90% fuel and 10% renewable ethanol, but aim to be on 100% sustainable fuel by 2026.
“I love a combustion engine. I love the way it works, I love the way it sounds,” Button said on Sunday. “It’s what gives us excitement when we look at Formula 1.”
McKinsey & Company Asia Chairman: “Business can do real good”
More than a billion people have exited extreme poverty since 1990, according to the U.N. But instead of looking at the poverty line, said a McKinsey report published in August, the more important measure is the “empowerment line.” (That is, the level where individuals have access to basic healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social security).
About 60% of the people in the world remain below this empowerment line—almost half of them are found in sub-Saharan Africa and India, but this also includes about 300 million people in high-income countries like the U.S. and UK.
“That’s where business fits in,” said Gautam Kumra, the chairman of McKinsey’s offices in Asia, citing the power of growth and innovation to address these gaps. The goal of McKinsey is to be “a capitalist for sustainable and inclusive growth in the world,” Kumra added. “The world needs to find a solution that addresses sustainability and inclusion and growth at the same time.”
Bot MD founder Dorothea Koh on AI: Medicine is not just science but also art
Dorothea Koh, CEO of the AI-powered medical assistant Bot MD, wants to help stem the shortage of doctors and nurses. Bot MD, which has been used by 20,000 doctors worldwide and 10,000 patients across Southeast Asia, automates physicians’ administrative work and allows them to monitor and triage larger numbers of patients.
Despite this, Koh’s positive that AI can never replace human healthcare, citing the art required to properly diagnose and treat patients that machines could not extrapolate without the human touch. “It cannot replace the judgment of a doctor who’s been trained on so many years of experience in terms of reading how patients are,” Koh says. But medicine, Koh adds says, would benefit from tools that complement the artistry: “What I believe in is building technology that actually delights.”
BillionBricks CEO Prasoon Kumar on what future homes would look like
Prasoon Kumar’s design company, BillionBricks, eyes developing the world’s first income-generating, net-zero homes and communities—banking on the belief that energy-efficient and self-sustaining housing can be affordable. The company is already collaborating with Philippine housing financing institutions.
Cement, a popularly used home-building material, is currently one of the world’s largest industrial emitters of carbon dioxide. While Kumar believes that homes in the next 50 years will look the same, “the way we build them will become more and more efficient”—and that constructing houses while minimizing climate impacts will become “more mainstream.”
Mastercard Asia-Pacific President Ari Sarker: ‘Leadership comes in many ways and forms’
Wrapping up the Leadership Forum, Mastercard Asia-Pacific President Ari Sarker praised the “grit,” “audacity,” and “determination” of the TIME100 Impact awardees and speakers who graced the event, emphasizing that “leadership comes in many different ways and forms.”
Sarker then talked about the challenge of improving credit access, saying that bridging the gap to small and micro businesses can propel a significant portion of countries’ GDP. “You would be astounded that in the world’s most powerful and most developed country like the United States, what the credit access gap challenge is—and therefore this is cutting across geographies, cutting across social stratas,” he says. “And I really feel that it’s going to take all of us to work this together.”
“Many times it is really [when] the world seems to be collapsing [that] leaders really have to pull through,” he said. “To me, that’s the really inspiring reason for this evening.”
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