Feeling lonely or bored - hold a meeting!!!!
16 March 2018 by David Bott
What with all the meetings about strategy this week, I haven’t had much exposure to the real world, but did manage to sneak in some clandestine interactions.
Monday saw what felt like an almost continuous meeting on the Delivery Plan. Cyrus has done a good job reducing the evolving strategy to actions and Fearless Leader seemed quite exercised to get on with it!!
On Tuesday, I had a quick coffee with an old colleague from the Crystal Faraday Partnership. He left the KTN because it thought it was getting too much like ICI and is now the CEO of an SME that is looking to develop an aerobic digester system. It appears to be on hard times and he was looking for connections. I made some suggestions but wished him poor luck because he would be a great person to get in to set up any new sustainability Innovation Platform.
On Tuesday, after another interval meeting, Cyrus and I were on the same evening train. We were having a robust and colourful discussion about our goals and how to achieve them, when a very polite man sitting next to Cyrus (it was crowded!) asked whether we were in “the innovation business” because it sounded like it. Worried that we had been indiscrete (as if!) we engaged in a conversation. It turns out that he was an early stage venture capitalist, and he gave us a short tutorial in where the problems were. We explained what we did and our backgrounds, so that by the time he got off the train at Bicester he seemed marginally cheered by the fact that seriously hard-nosed businessmen were now in charge of the Governments interaction with business. What’s the saying - “you can fool some of the people, some of the time”?
Wednesday was the day job. Brain had got us another meeting at the Department for Children, Schools and Families to meet their “expert consultant” (no, it really does say that on his card) who was about to move to BECTA to try to reduce the ideas of immersive education to practice. We had the usual 30 minutes going over the role of the Technology Strategy Board and how Innovation Platforms worked, but they once again warmed up and got quite excited. It turns out that they have tried this all before (twice) but the first time the technology wasn’t ready and the second time the Minister got cold feet. This means that we have to go carefully and warm up the community via a series of meetings to define a roadmap and then launch when the planets are aligned. This is in fact how we would have done it – but they have ownership of the plan. There are apparently a series of high profile luvvies ready to back this area including Lord Puttnam. Also Anthony Lilley, our favourite hybrid luvvy-geek was on the board on BECTA and is still advising DCSF in the area.
Thursday, I worked at home – which gave me the opportunity to read the Budget and the BERR, DIUS and King papers. As a senior civil servant once observed to me “too many adjectives, not enough verbs”. That said, the Technology Strategy Board gets mentioned so often it probably goes to Fearless Leaders head, and they haven’t screwed up the Low Carbon Vehicles Integrated Programme, so we now have to get on a fill in the blanks left by the rapid development process. I was also struck by how many times any individual good idea was mentioned. Innovative re-use of ideas – is this sustainable?
Friday was once again back in the Swindon Gulag – more on the Delivery Plan I seem to remember – then a meeting with Paul Mason on tying together the KTAs and the future Innovation Platforms. I then had a meeting with Doug Yarrow and Karen Lewis of BBSRC. Although the meeting was about the whole interaction between the Innovation Platforms and the BBSRC, we started off with the Agri-Food proposal from DEFRA. I had returned it an “not good enough” earlier in the week and this had initiated a flurry of e-mails about how we were wrong and invoking the names of several senior people “who were very supportive”. BBSRC started by pointing out that DEFRA had rejected all their suggestions (which amusingly would have covered some of my reservations) but also hadn’t actually read my e-mail which said that we recognised the importance of the area but the goals and the Government actions which might be used to drive the markets were woolly and vague. Once they understood our position, they came up with several ideas to get the proposal back on track. We then talked about the other Innovation Platforms on the table, none of which had been mentioned to them by the potential partner Departments. We agreed to meet monthly to ensure better co-ordination going forward.
Friday finished with yet another meeting on the Delivery Plan – with a focus on its funding. I have had an idea.....
Since I left work I have added about 350 kgs of carbon to the atmosphere – I am truly ashamed!!