Dr Bertrand Piccard (Switzerland)

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Aviation Pioneer

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Bertrand made history when he circumnavigated the Earth in the Breitling Orbiter balloon. He continued his pioneering work with Solar Impulse, successfully completing the first ever entirely solar-powered round-the-world flight by aeroplane: “If we can fly day and night without fuel, everybody could use these same technologies on the ground to halve energy consumption.” As a trained psychiatrist Bertrand talks about the teamwork in any pioneering effort, and how to manage fear of the unknown.


Dr Bertrand Piccard and his balloon co-pilot Brian Jones made history when they circumnavigated the Earth in the Breitling Orbiter. Bertrand then went on to break a number of records co-piloting (as well as chairing the entire project) an entirely solar-powered plane around the planet.

Hailing from a family of noted scientific adventurers, Bertrand followed his grandfather Auguste (who invented the pressurised cockpit and the stratospheric balloon), and father Jacques (who executed the world’s deepest dive). Bertrand emulated his grandfather by taking to the skies, becoming the first person to cross the Swiss-Italian Alps in a micro-light.

Bertrand also followed the family’s scientific tradition, becoming a doctor and then a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy. After a period as senior consultant, he worked with Belgian aviator Wim Verstraeten, who asked Bertrand join him in the Chrysler Challenge, the first transatlantic balloon race, which they went on to win.

The next challenge was to travel around the world, non-stop by balloon. Bertrand and his team failed twice in their attempts before the Breitling Orbiter finally triumphed in travelling over 28,000 miles in just under 20 days with no refuelling. He then conceived the Solar Impulse project. Bertrand and his co-pilot and sponsor André Borschberg would fly around the world in an entirely solar-powered plane. After years of design and testing the pair and a series of pilots around the world finally took off and over the course of a year circumnavigated the globe without any fuel.

Bertrand recounts an incredible and inspiring story of never giving up, even when the odds seem impossible and no-one else believes. He looks at the successes and failures from his projects, the lessons for both individuals and businesses, as well as looking at a future of clean technologies.

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