The Boss sees the value of duplicity!!

The normal start the week was supplemented by a 2 hour “aerospace strategy” meeting.  This proved (to me at least) once again that we don’t discuss and agree positions often enough, but that when we do our different experiences can lead to novel approaches to problems that have been around for some time! This was followed by a lunch for the Innovation Platforms and Catherine Coates.  Catherine has overall responsibility for the “business exploitation” part of the restructured EPSRC and we wanted to make sure she knew of the good joint work already done and that which was in the pipeline from before the changes.  Lots of good ideas also surfaced. Tuesday was a Board Meeting.  I thought it was a bit subdued and that they were quite exercised by the finances and not really concentrating on the other issues.  Once again, their advice to set our goals at an achievable level and not over-promise came through clearly – especially during the “international” discussion. It was also apparent that different Board members had quite different views on where our limited international engagement should focus, and we would probably never have enough time to gain consensus!! I ducked out early to take part in the launch of the Resource Efficiency KTN’s report on Materials Security (link).  Although this was largely derived from my banging on about the subject in the guise of Materials Man, Arnold Black had recognised easy points for the KTN and asked me to say a few words on the report.  This led to an amusing discussion with Lord Lewis on the merits of organic metals and some lobbying from people from the EEF, Policy Connect and WRAP.  There is little doubt that this subject has gone from the fringes to mainstream over the last 4 years.  It was also interesting, and not a little sad, that the Materials KTN was not involved in this report or represented at the launch.   The day finished with a meeting with Colin Brown, Technical Director of the IMechE, which was interrupted by a phone call from Julia King - to Colin not me – which exposed the fact that Jools felt that the DIUS response to the financial situation was a touch self-interested. The next day was the Executive Committee.  The discussion of the progress reports through up the usual set of issues, but the extra items – the Strategy Launch and the KTN Review – gave a chance to develop and codify what we are actually trying to do.  Cyrus and I ran off to London to a meeting at the IET organised by Jeremy.  They have just combined the “control engineering” and “research and innovation” panels to form an “innovation and emerging technologies” panel.  The logic was a bit woolly!!  The vast majority of the panel were academic and older than me, but they had got David Gann to try to set the scene with a presentation on the role of professional bodies in innovation.  David was as good as ever, but the main discussion ended up being between the panel and the Technology Strategy Board as represented by Anne Glover and me.  Jeremy seemed to be able to turn every question into a “what does the TSB think about this?”  (I counted that he owes us £16).  Over dinner I sat next to David Gann and attempted to charm him – probably setting back the cause of the Technology Strategy Board by years! The dawn of Thursday – which I saw – was catching the first train out of Euston to Brum to rendezvous with Fearless Leader and Brain.  We started by FL launching the i-House.  I have to admit I originally backed this because I thought it was another Apple product, but it is really a demonstrator of a range of currently available Assisted Living technologies.  At this point I need to explain that Assisted Living has divided into 2 camps.  The one we are in is about support for old and/or chronically ill people outside institutions.  There is a parallel universe which adds support for all disabled people into the target group.  The DoH do not use this definition, so neither do we.  Medilink WM do.  The technologies on display would also make a yuppy very happy (mostly) but it was their inclusion in a real house that made the morning so good.  There is really no substitute for kicking the tyres!  On our return from the wastelands of West Brom we met briefly with the indefatigable Simon Bennett who seems to be using the Chinese water torture method of lobbying on the QinetiQ Quantum Campus.  Although basically a great idea, the current proposal feels too much like an attempt to get support for a marginal QinetiQ programme - there are still no other companies involved and Simon’s colleagues seemed adamant that SMEs would not be involved.  Phil Extance, another target for funding seemed to be in a similar place – interested but not convinced.  This was followed by a CBI lunch and another lecture in the “Iain Gray World Tour 2008” series.  As a reward we got to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Serious Games Institute in Coventry.  I am not sure I could do justice the breadth and excitement of the stuff we heard.  We over-ran by almost an hour but still had to be dragged away.  Fearless Leader seemed to undergo a seriously damascene conversion to Second Life (I should admit that I went through the same catharsis at Innovate 2006 and exist there as Innovato Charman) and we got a glimpse of the intersection of technology, education, entertainment and psychology.  Brain and I were taking copious notes as this is heartland “immersive education” territory. Friday started with a catch-up with Ian McConaghy, followed by a meeting with BSI inspired by my clandestine activities for Materials UK, but very relevant to what both Alan Hooper and John Whittall are doing.  It is blogged elsewhere ( so I won’t labour the points, but it is an area where we could work in partnership with BSi to advance our joint cause.   Lunchtime was a teleconference with David Kester.  I had written to him asking permission to quote a partnership with the Design Council as part of the launch of the Low Impact Building Innovation Platform next week.  A group of us had met with the Design Council on April 2nd to agree the recommendations of Graham Hitchen’s audit of potential partnership options, and all concluded that a potential problem was the availability of resource within the Design Council given its existing commitments.  David seemed not to have caught up with his own people and it took some time to get him to agree how to go forward.  Nevertheless, I think we will have them signed up in principle by Thursday. Friday afternoon was Fergus’s procurement workshop.  As with all these things, it struck me that most taking part were not fully aware of the goals of the meetings and hadn’t prepared sufficiently.  This gave the initial brainstorm the air of a “bring out your dead” session.  Once we did start listening to one another, the nostalgia for the equivalent meeting in ICI – over 10 years ago – came flooding back and the need for people in any function to understand the drivers and underlying culture of others before they can take part in meaningful discussions reasserted itself.  Whatever happens next, I believe it is vital that they engage those in large companies with similar procurement experience and those in small companies who marvel at the ability of government to confuse simplicity of structure with simplicity of use.  Plus ca change....

Leave a comment

Remember to include the http://