Varadkar and Irish hedge fund chief on WEF young leader list

Irish citizen Barbara Ann Bernard named as leader under 40 changing the world

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (39) is among 100 people under the age of 40 invited to join the World Economic Forum's (WEF) community of young global leaders.

The so-called 2018 class of young global leaders includes artists, business leaders, public servants, social entrepreneurs and technologists invited to help “shape an inclusive and sustainable future for the world”.

Mr Varadkar isn't the first world leader joining the list, with Emmanuel Macron gaining an invitation in 2016, New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern in 2014 and Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto in 2007.

His addition comes on the back of his election which WEF said “marks many firsts”.


Mr Varadkar is joined on the list by fellow Irish citizen Barbara Ann Bernard (38), the founder, chief executive and chief investment officer of the Bahamas-based Wincrest Capital.

Ms Bernard, also the chair of clean energy company Ultera Technologies, is a Bahamian resident who worked at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Deutsche Bank before launching Wincrest.

Former Arsenal footballer Mathieu Flamini (34) is also on the list, having founded GF Biochemicals, the only company to produce levulinic acid at commercial scale directly from biomass.

Considered the world's richest footballer on the back of his biotechnology investment, Mr Flamini, who recently signed for Getafe in Spain, is involved in the production of a chemical seen as addressing performance-related issues attributed to petroleum-based chemicals.

People who have achieved significant firsts were also named, with Sarah Al-Suhaimi (38) being picked for her role as the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange.

Technology leaders

Technology leaders given the nod by the World Economic Forum included Kanika Tekriwal (29), the chief executive of JetSetGo, India's largest private jet company, often called the Uber of air travel. In the UK, Mustafa Suleyman was added for founding DeepMind, an artificial intelligence lab acquired by Google in 2014 for a reported £400 million (€457 million).

The 100 young leaders will join a community and a five-year programme to “challenge them to think beyond their scope of expertise and make a stronger impact as leaders”.

“They have been nominated because of their creativity and innovation; their ability to build bridges across cultures and between business, government and civil society; and their pioneering work in arts and culture, business, design, energy, health, public policy, sustainability and technology,” the World Economic Forum said.

More than half of this years young global leader class are women, with the majority of the cohort from emerging economies. Both this year and in previous years the forum has included heads of governments and fortune 500 companies, Nobel prize and Academy award holders and have become United Nations goodwill ambassadors.

John Dutton, the head of the forum, said, "we're challenging these 100 women and men to do more and be more.

“They’ll join a community of enterprising, socially minded leaders working as a force for good, and highlight the potential for innovation to correct the shortcomings in our economies and societies.”

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business