Ideas Network 2030 activities

Launched in September 2018 at Rhodes House, the Ideas Network 2030’s mission is to create an informal platform for centre-right individuals in British politics and other stakeholders to discuss long term trends.

The Network focusses primarily on trends in:

• Geopolitics
• Migration and demography
• Digital transformation
• Sustainability
• Trade and economics

The goals of the Network are to:

• Promote innovative ideas and thinking about global developments
• Ensure continuous exchange between the UK and EU
• Engage young thought leaders and new generation of thinkers
• Propose policy changes and ideas based on long term trends

The Network collaborates with stakeholders across politics, business, academic and civil society. Our main partners include the Wilfried Martens Centre, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Conservative European Forum.

The Network’s main platform, its website ( is designed for continuous interaction on key topics, access to previous discussions. It also allows visitors to tap into the European Strategic Policy and Analysis System (ESPAS) using the Open Repository Base on International Strategic Studies (ORBIS).

Last year in 2023, the Network hosted two main events, the Spring and Autumn Seminars. These two events, one held online, the other at Unipart Group in Oxford focussed on two main trends respectively, with the Autumn Seminar examining trade and the economy and the digital transformation, and the Spring Seminar geopolitics and sustainability.

The following are the most significant ideas that emerged from the two seminars, which are likely to be the most important things to consider over the next five to ten years. The Network will be further developing these ideas in its programme this year and beyond.

Geopolitics and security:

Democracy under threat – the UK and other democracies exist in an increasingly contested and rapidly changing world. Those who do not share our values are increasingly assertive and aim to resist democratic values in the international system.

Working with middle powers – in an increasingly contested world, the UK must work more with similarly sized powers to exert influence. The UK has strong networks and convening power and should work alongside allies and neighbours to further shared goals.

NATO remains vital – NATO remains central to UK and European security but requires increased defence spending and political alignment among its members to address emerging challenges and threats.

UK’s involvement in European security – despite Brexit, the UK remains a key player in European security and should cooperate closely with the EU and other European countries on defence issues.

A comprehensive approach – UK and European security should encompass not only military aspects but also economic, energy, and technological dimensions, including in the digital world. Collaboration in research and development and a robust cybersecurity strategy are essential.

Digital transformation:

Technology advances are unremitting and spreading at an unprecedent rate – we have become ever more reliant on them in an interconnected and digitally enabled age. Furthermore, the global digital economy risks fragmentation through the emergence of national digital rules that stem from competing value systems, notably in Russia and China.

Digital transformation and competitiveness – technology and digital technologies are central to creating jobs as well as making the UK innovative and competitive. The UK needs to do more to put science, innovation and technology at the heart of its economic strategy, otherwise, it risks falling further behind the US and countries in Asia.

AI and disruption – converging technologies, often powered by digital networks, such as AI, quantum computing and biotech will transform business and industry as well as disrupt traditional economic, labour and social models. More assessment is urgently needed of their consequences for the UK. Education, geopolitics/values and jobs/skills will need rethinking – traditional approaches may not suffice.

Regulation and governance of digital technologies – regulators need to address the challenges and opportunities posed by social media, data, AI, etc. in a fast and effective way. There will be a balance between acting quickly to reduce risk and ensure safety, often in the face of considerable uncertainty, while retaining space for innovation and development. A “common law” approach of addressing risks as they arise may work better than heavy up-front regulation.

Digital cooperation and supply chains – countries will need to work together to regulate emerging technologies. This will mean finding commons ground and frameworks to reduce risks. At the same time the UK and EU need to reduce their dependence on China for strategic technologies, digital infrastructure, and critical minerals.


Rethink net zero – a new approach to achieve net zero by 2050 may be needed, as we are failing to reduce emissions and preserve natural carbon sinks. Continuing to chase impossible targets at the expense of industry and consumers may not sustain popular support for net zero.

Define and assess targets – spending limited money on the most effective solutions for climate change is necessary, currently, there is a real lack of strategy in selecting what we can specialise in terms of climate tech.

Reduce consumption emissions and increase international cooperation – we need to lower our emissions from the goods and services we consume, not just produce, and align our trade policies with our climate goals. This will require international cooperation between those who have made most progress in reducing carbon emissions.

Provide certainty for businesses – we need to create stable and supportive policy frameworks that enable businesses to invest in low-carbon technologies and innovation. Constant changes of policy and direction hamper investment over the longer term.

Balance emissions and growth – we must successfully demonstrate that reducing emissions can go hand in hand with economic growth and competitiveness and avoid offshoring our carbon footprint. This will be vital if we are to convince those countries who have not made significant progress to keep doing so.

Economy and trade:

Slowing global growth – the world economy is facing low growth projections, especially in advanced economies like the UK and EU. Emerging markets are growing faster but China continues to slow. Many advanced economies are struggling with debt and shrinking labour forces and pragmatic policy will be needed to drive productivity and growth.

China’s slowdown and impact – China’s growth is declining and its expectations need adjusting. China’s economic performance and policies have significant implications for the rest of the world, especially on trade and security issues. This will be a challenge that affects the UK, EU and US in different ways depending on the openness of their economies.

Digital transformation and trade – digital technologies are driving innovation and competitiveness in the economy while digital trade and services trade are growing rapidly and will offer new markets and opportunities for UK firms. Goods trade continues to disappoint, and trading relationships must be developed and deepened to increase flows with new and old trading partners.

Industrial policy and subsidies – are increasingly distorting international markets, with geopolitical competition now driving changes in supply chains and trade flows. The UK must work with others to reduce distortions and tensions while ensuring that it has reliable access to key goods and materials.

Automation and AI disruption – automation and AI will continue to displace jobs and transform work, while also changing the shape of international trade flows. This poses challenges for employment, education and reskilling. This requires policies to empower workers and maintain public support.