14 February 2018
Last year saw a lot of analysis of Catapults. Some, who wondered about the history, made contact with me and other “old lags”, but most seemed to not worry what Catapults had been aimed at, what political constrictions had been applied to change their original goals, and the whole “political” dimension of their existence and how these factors played into their current perceived performance. This was always moderately normal behaviour in government as far as I could see.
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.
30 April 2016
One of the things I have been doing in my enforced inactivity is reading those newsletters that pick up on your past interests and force-feed you their views. I have therefore seen a lot of speculation about my old employer – the organisation formally known as the Technology Strategy Board, but now known as InnovateUK.
22 September 2014
There seems to have been a revival of interest in “state intervention” lately. There are well-argued economics texts and derivative newspaper articles – and politicians vying to lead us into the new prosperity. What most seem to have in common is that they cite Concorde as an example of successful state involvement. Despite just spending 6 years working for a complete Concorde enthusiast, I am still not sure it represents the sort of state intervention that will lead directly to growth.
30 July 2014
Since leaving the Technology Strategy Board, the most common question I get asked is for “the secret” of getting funded by them. In truth the answer is the same for getting any funding – you need to convince the person or organisation with the money that you can make a real impact – and a lot of money – from their investment/loan/grant. Given that when I worked for the TSB, I spent a lot of time trying to explain just this point, I find it slightly bizarre that I am now apparently more likely to give a useful answer!
23 December 2013
One of the attractions of a valedictory post is that it gives me an excuse to look back over the last 6 or more years, and consider what has gone well and what has gone “less well”. Leaving at Christmas also gives me to time to think. This list in personal and very much in the “to do” mode I discussed in the last post! ☺
11 December 2013
We are accustomed to lists. They help us make sense of a complex world. They have a certain familiarity. We have lists of the most popular music, the best-selling cars, the richest people and so on. Many of the lists we construct are a comparison of similar things and tend to have a quantitative ordering.
28 October 2013
At the beginning of the year I tried to explain how our ideas about Catapults had evolved as we designed and assembled the first 7. We realised the importance of alignment with our other programmes – not only so that they could source the “second third” of their funding, but also because our programmes are derived from extensive consultation and represent what our analysis suggest are the growth opportunities for UK based companies.
28 August 2013
Over the last 6 years, the Technology Strategy Board has helped support economic growth by helping innovative UK-based companies. We have done this by sharing a vision of where a particular market or technology could go, by connecting companies with other companies or universities where missing bits of their business puzzle might lie, by providing insight into the way government policy is developing or (if all else fails) funding them for about half the costs of the project to develop new products or services. There is growing evidence that these tools are effective, and becoming more effective, but in the end they are limited by the number of people in the organisation and the amount of money we have to allocate. We need to find a way to extend our support. We think one way is to celebrate the successes of the companies we have supported – so that others can use them as role models