Davos provides an excellent view of where the world is heading

The mood at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting was one of careful optimism

If the WEF’s annual gathering is anything to go by, the United States will continue to power ahead, especially in terms of innovation, while Africa will start to emerge as a real economic player. China will focus more on quality growth and on the environment, and Europe still needs to find its way.

That’s a snapshot of my impressions after spending three days in the surprisingly down-to-earth atmosphere of Davos.

What really struck me is the sense of careful optimism in many parts of the world, and especially in the US. Frankly, it’s amazing how optimistic everybody is in America today and how that is being driven by research, science and cheap energy. The Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, showed us the speed at which innovation is moving, and it is truly staggering.

What was also striking at this year’s meeting was how strongly Africa was represented. The way some of the continent’s leaders presented themselves signaled clearly that they are open and ready to participate in the opportunities for growth.

By contrast, China was under-represented. The country is very clearly focused on quality growth, with a stronger focus on renewables and on the environment.

European countries were this year not strongly represented by their governments, and on the issue of energy policy especially, companies were agreed that the clarity and reliability of a long-term solution is urgently needed.

On the automation side, there are grounds for optimism, and we can expect a lot of investment driven by the need to continuously become more competitive.

As far as ABB is concerned, it’s clear that in the US we have to go for full growth and early penetration. I had a meeting with Tim Geithner and he confirmed what we knew: the US is strong and American companies are extremely confident. At ABB, we need to participate and use the investments we have made in the last few years to get to the next level of growth in the US.

In Europe, our approach should be to help increase competitiveness and to influence policymaking on the energy and electricity side.

Looking at the competitive landscape, the clear trend is a resurgence of the big players. There is a lot of confidence among the large companies that we are going to get it right, and of course ABB will be one of them. Energy and automation are high on the global agenda, and ABB is very well positioned.

Image: WEF, Swiss-image

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Ulrich Spiesshofer

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