This time it was a lorry and its timing was wrong, but it did kill a bridge!!!

I think I’ve become addicted to “start the week” meetings – that’s 4 in a row!!! It was followed by another go around “Directors Issues” but finally we got to Richard Max-Lino’s review of opportunities in high value services. Having now heard the final presentation, I am intrigued by some of the way-points Richard must have gone through. It seems axiomatic that we continue, so Paul Mason’s oft-repeated need for a decision seemed a bit false, but otherwise it was good productive meeting. One thing that struck me strongly was an early observation by Richard that the insurance industry needed to understand the risks posed by major challenges and what could be done to mitigate them.  

It was followed by a quarterly performance review meeting with Fearless Leader, where he beat me senseless and tortured me. No, honest!!! That led on to another meeting of the Innovate08 steering group (or whatever we are called). It was good and things are moving on well, but on reflection we seem to have missed the non-coms in the development of our thinking. Final commitment at North Star House was a planning teleconference for Friday’s DIIA meeting. Brain is a very thorough organiser!! 

The evening was spent with Tim and Cyrus talking about the process for pre-engaging Julia King with the next LCV IP Steering Group. We had not pre-briefed her last time and wasted a lot of time in the meeting, so Tim has written a set of chairman’s notes – but then found difficulty getting time in her diary to discuss them!! 

Tuesday was the Executioners Meeting. I got away in time to be in the Carling Academy to see John Mayer play an outstanding gig – if he is good enough to close MacWorld and go home with Jennifer Aniston then I guess his song-writing and guitar skills are proven? 

Wednesday saw the 9th meeting of the ITSS IP Steering Group in Reading. It was held there to see demonstrations of the 2 projects funded by SEEDA at the beginning of the IP. The first project was the establishment of a WiMax network between the centre of Reading and Junction 11 of the M4. This could be used to collect a higher density of traffic data but also to feed back information to travellers – initially they are using project members and John Lewis delivery vans, but this will expand over time. The second project was a congestion detection engine (software style) - the neat thing about it I had not seen before was a “snap” function which compared GPS (or theoretically 3G location data) to a map and applied a correction. It seemed to work quite well – although you had to be moving for maximum accuracy. In the afternoon I went back on the train with Brian Collins for the FST meeting on Sustainable Transport Policy – Brian was the opening speaker. He was followed by Bernie Bulkin (Sustainable Development Commission), Ian Dobbs (Stagecoach Rail) and Roger Wilshire (British Air Transport Association). Brian’s case was built on the complexity of the challenge, with the efficiency of each mode of transport complicated by the need for using many of them to achieve one specific journey, and then that complexity compounded by the capriciousness of human behaviour.  Bernie rhapsodised about the possibilities of high speed rail, Ian made excuses about why trains don’t work (It’s the Victorian infrastructure guv, nothing to do with me!) and Roger asserted that science was wrong and that air transport had no effect on climate change and that it made poor people happy (seriously, it was a weird presentation). Questions ranged from the usual confusion from some of the older members of the audience, through thoughtful and relevant questions to a bizarre statement from someone we know from Rolls-Royce about how it could all be solved if the Government gave the aerospace industry £140m a year for a few years. Dinner saw me sitting next to Lord De Mauley (, the shadow BERR minister in the Lords. At the beginning of dinner he admitted he knew nothing about the Technology Strategy Board. Bad move – he got my undivided attention for 90 minutes and left saying he would like to visit – his home being near Swindon, that seemed appropriate. Afterwards, Rachel asked who the nice-looking man sitting next to me was!!! 

Thursday saw the monthly Innovation Platforms meeting. As well as the usual updating, we had a discussion with Richard Max-Lino about how the IPs could work well with the insurance industry for mutual benefit. We also saw real connection between ITSS and NS IPs and the retail and logistics thread of Richards ideas. After lunch Lisa joined us to start building ideas for how the IPs could be built into Innovate08. Lots of good ideas – let’s see how they stand up after a bit of reflection. Then it was Peter Dirken who explained the KTN Review. Feedback was along the lines that the connectors thought they had been “led” a bit by the Technopolis questions and the usual stuff about the overall structure not making any sense. Finally, HR-Man came to answer questions on the pay review – again – does he never tire? We also decided that, since the Staff Consultative Group would be told about the restructuring the next day and since they were all together, we would tell then that there would be a Head of Innovation Platforms as part of the whole exercise. Fionnuala said that the rumours had been around for a month and, when I asked here afterwards what the rumours were, got them almost exactly right!!  

Back to London for a reception as part of the RCA Show. It is definitely a place way out of my usual experience, but a talk on toothpaste tubes I gave 3 years ago has made me recognisable to the RCA crowd and so I had a great time working out the materials they used and talking about the importance of design in modern products and services. 

Friday saw the first real activity on a Phase III Innovation Platform – the workshop for the Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases. This had been put together by Brain and Lisa with lots of help from Zahid – David G, Merlin, Emily and Jackie also helped out on the day. Aside from a boring input by the first speaker, I think we did a great job, all the way from briefing the speakers, selecting the attendees and choosing the location (changed when the attendance got big) to listening to the oddest responses. We have come to describe the first few meetings in a new field as “bring out your dead time” because people don’t immediately engage in the offered ideas but mishear or misinterpret them within their own frame of reference. Thus, people asked questions that had been answered in the talks or already asked in very similar terms. Aside from one guy from GE Healthcare – who was in serious “I have done all this, I know important people” mode – everyone was very keen for us to progress the idea and develop a platform proposal. 


We finished early, so I hoofed off to Marylebone to catch an early train home. 90 minutes later, I was back at Marylebone, having got as far as Sudbury before we learned that someone had driven a tall lorry into the bridge at South Ruislip and damaged it. As luck would have it we got back to the station as the train to Kidderminster was announced, so we all got seats on the train that went to Aylesbury first before backing down the line to Princes Risborough and resuming the trip to Warwick. The normal 90 minute train journey taking 4 hours – a felt a strong bond with my colleagues who deal with GWR on a daily basis!! 

Leave a comment

Remember to include the http://