15 October 2016
Back in early May, the CBI held its annual conference at the University of Warwick. Alongside the plenary sessions, there were two workshop sessions, one on digital skills and one on innovation. From what I saw, the innovation workshop ended up being mainly about the skills needed to be innovative, as many participants said they couldn’t be innovative because they did not have the right skills in their organisation. There seemed to be an assumption that if only they could access those skills, life would be easier.
26 September 2016
One of the stranger ideas mooted in recent months was to replace the grants used by Innovate UK with loans. One of the things I discovered in my time at the Technology Strategy Board was that government views “revenue” and “capital” as different types of money, and for a while they preferred giving out capital to revenue. This may be part of that tactic, but profoundly misunderstands how Innovate UK has an effect on growing companies.
05 September 2016
Long ago, I was taught that science is about understanding the world around me, and being able to predict behaviour in a set of circumstances not yet observed. The ability to clearly communicate that understanding to another human being is an extra, and very important, skill, but is not given to everyone who does science. When I took the route into industrial research, I learnt that science is the start of another process. But whether you call it development, applied research, or innovation, the process of using the understanding to develop new products and services is separate and distinct from science on which it is based.
12 November 2015
Earlier in the year, I went to a meeting that was opened by Sir Mark Walport with a talk about the difference between evidence and values. I think I have watched this thought process grow within the office of the Government Chief Scientific Advisor since Professor Sir John Beddington first pointed out that the clue to the limitations of his role were in the title – he is an advisor – and mostly politicians make judgements based on their values. Mark has developed this theme, and his talk gave examples of not just where evidence was used to make policy, but also where “values” gave rise to policies and (most damagingly) where the reasoning was confused.
10 October 2015
Manufacturing is everywhere in the news these days. It is generally alleged that we were once good at it, but lost our way and that the future prosperity of the United Kingdom is dependent on regaining our prowess at it. But what actually is manufacturing?
12 June 2015
With the increasing political emphasis on innovation-fuelled growth, the question of how to turn the UK’s scientific capability into commercial success is becoming more and more important. With past efforts largely unsuccessful, what is the relationship we need to build between universities and companies to enable a successful UK economy?
07 May 2015
Disintermediation is a word that sounds like it was made up. But it is also a word that scares people in many markets, and with good reason. Disintermediation is the reason why there are virtually no record shops anymore and a diminishing number of bookstores. It is what people call the effect of digital services on a supply chain. And it has not finished its work.
10 March 2015
Last week I attended a very nice “networking dinner” in London. The location was excellent, the food was very good and the cross section of experts collected to discuss the issue were amongst the brightest and best in the area. The people paying for the whole event were interested in how this field of technology would play out – and how they could be involved. I am not sure they got what they wanted. It got me thinking about the various ways I have seen people try to predict, or at least anticipate, the future so that they could prepare for it.
04 February 2015
I have been using the word “innovation” since 2004, when I started working with the Department of Trade and Industry as they developed their plans for what became the Technology Strategy Board, but I’m not sure I ever used the word before that. Throughout my career in the chemical/materials industry, we carried out “research and development” or “product development” or “process development”. To my knowledge, the word innovation only really came to be used to describe these activities somewhere in the 90’s.
29 December 2014
It must be my age, but meeting old friends and colleagues often dredges up the beginning of beliefs and insights I frequently use but whose provenance I had forgotten, and which have been added to over the years and repeatedly demonstrated their value. So it was that lunch with the (long ago) ex Group Communications Director of ICI took me back to the genesis of my interest in branding in unusual places!