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WTW Research Network Annual Review 2021: Science for Resilience

February 17, 2021

The WTW Research Network is an award-winning collaboration supporting and influencing science to improve the understanding and quantification of risk, with the aim to improve the resilience of our clients and society as a whole.
Climate|Credit and Political Risk|Cyber Risk Management|Medioambiental|Willis Research Network
Climate Risk and Resilience|Risque de pandémie|Geopolitical Risk

The purpose of the Willis Research Network (WRN) is to help society better prepare and cope with the types of events we have all experienced in 2020. Since our formation in 2006, the Network has focussed on developing the science of resilience to support the management of extremes from natural, man-made and hybrid risks.

Through the WRN, and our related activities such as the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, we are working hard to support development of expertise and provide wider adoption across the public and private sector.”

Rowan Douglas | WRN Chairman

Despite the operational challenges of 2020, the following pages illustrate another remarkable year in scientific collaboration, real-world application and impact across our research themes and geographies, including North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Long standing academic partners such as NCAR, Columbia University, NOAA SSL Oklahoma, San Diego State University, University of Exeter, University of Cambridge, Newcastle University, NU Singapore, Tohoku and UCL have been joined by partners from beyond the university sector including Cloud to Street, Mitiga Solutions, RUSI, Temblor and Metabiota. Over the last few years, our scope has continued to expand to encompass risks such as pandemic, cyber and political risk.

COVID-19 illustrates how we should all consider high-impact, low probability events within our core operations, planning and finances. Engineering and re/insurance risk management techniques, such as scenario development and stress testing, are now entering the mainstream. The WRN is at the heart of that integration, driven by our engagement with policy makers, regulators and market practitioners. Structural reform is underway on how markets evaluate, disclose and manage contingent risks and liabilities. Until these risks are effectively accounted for, resilience cannot be sufficiently valued and incentivised. The tragic results will be additional lost lives, livelihoods and assets in the years and decades ahead. Through the WRN, and our related activities such as the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, we are working hard to support development of this expertise and its wider adoption across the public and private sector.

Looking ahead, we have a busy year driven by mobilisation in response to the Climate Emergency, the upcoming CoP26 meeting in Glasgow and the needs of Governments, regulators, investors and others. The role of the WRN is to fill in the gaps between high level roadmaps and the practical implementation of the methods, metrics and models to integrate these risks into mainstream valuations and management. In December 2020, we propelled this process with a WRN Challenge Fund competition to support financial sector climate stress testing methods and models.

A decade ago, in September 2011, the WRN co-hosted a three-day summit in Washington DC with the National Academy of Sciences on Managing Extreme Events. Bringing together leaders from science, finance and public agencies, it played a significant role in catalysing the resilience agenda in the U.S. and beyond in the following years. Assuming the COVID situation allows, we aim to hold a second meeting with the National Academy in 2021 to mark the ten-year anniversary and identify the themes and approaches to help us all manage the coming decade.

To underpin all this progress, the Network has also undergone significant internal growth and development this year to prepare for its future. Its success owes most to Hélène Galy, Managing Director, WRN and her growing team. Our thanks also to Carl Hess, Vickie Sefcik and fellow members of the WRN Steering Group, the wider Willis Towers Watson team and WRN members, who have driven our collective projects and programmes. A special thank you to our clients whose engagement and support enables us to maintain our global research programme as a client service and a public good.

Willis Research Network Brochure Topics 2021

Weather and Climate

  • A re-invigorated emphasis on climate risk research
  • Downscaling climate change impacts on Atlantic tropical cyclone landfall rates
  • Projecting changes in severe thunderstorm frequency
  • Quantification of potential climate change impacts on Tropical cyclones
  • How do fishers asses and manage the risks related to extreme storms?
  • Wind vulnerability


  • Rising levels of flood risk
  • Quantifying the climate change impact on flooding: scenario approach
  • Providing a view of risk in emerging markets
  • How remote sensing technology is becoming the key component of analysing flood risk


  • Terra Firma, a year of significant achievements
  • Harbour Waves
  • Tsunami fragility of buildings
  • Seismic resilience of telecommunication networks
  • Do earthquakes interact with each other, and how do we account for it?
  • Earthquake risk in realtime for Japan
  • 2019 Ridgecrest: can earthquakes cause a chain reaction?
  • Quantifying the tail risk from very large earthquakes.
  • Better earthquake modelling for (re)insurance decision-making


  • People risk management in the modern world
  • Industry focus: towards a net zero and more resilience aviation sector
  • Pandemic models are evolving quickly; pandemic insurance needs to as well
  • Understanding and quantifying political risk
  • Exploiting globalisation


  • Understanding the digital acceleration
  • Understanding the startup landscape using knowledge spaces
  • Cybersecurity as strategic asset
  • Underlying and consequential costs of cyber security – cost of equity
  • Loss prevention technologies

Emerging risks

  • Dealing with change in an interconnected world
  • Emerging risks and resilient futures
  • Geopolitics of risk
Title File Type File Size
Willis Research Network Annual Review 2021 PDF 9.4 MB

Hélène Galy
Managing Director of WTW Research Network
Head of People Risks Research
email Email

Stuart Calam
Programme Director of WTW Research Network
Head of Technology Risks Research
email Email

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