The week has been about giving the same presentation to 4 different sets of people and letting others give bits of it to royalty!!

The week started with my customary missing of the “start the week” meeting!! 

Instead I was down to London taking part in an ETI Energy Efficient Buildings Working Group meeting. Participation is down to a small core group, the EDF Chairman, EON, Carbon Trust and ourselves. Intermittent involvement of Caterpillar has been subjugated to their interest in Distributed Energy, BP and Shell claimed illness and Rolls-Royce can’t think of how to shoehorn a turbine into the average semi, so they’re off seeking other bacon. There was a little too much time spent on cutting the housing stock by age and type – with no discernible impact on the final analysis of what was needed. Like many of these problems, the analysis eventually led to the need for a holistic approach. 

Next came a repeat of the introduction to Innovation Platforms. This is the linear descendent of all you have seen and heard before, but with a bit more explicit content in the slides rather than the notes and all done in the spanky new format. This time the talk was to the Strategic Advisory Group from the RDAs. This is composed of the chairs of the Science and Industry Councils as I understand it, people who have extensive business experience but who are experienced in both national and regional government. The majority of the questions seemed a bit self-interested to me, and there had been no obvious exchange of information with the Operational Advisory Group, who had been given the same presentation just over 6 weeks earlier.  

My next appointment was to talk to the European “Open Method of Co-ordination – Public Technology Procurement” workshop – see The invitation to talk about what we are doing in the Innovation Platforms had come through DIUS and, despite a number of very plausible excuses, I was persuaded to go. I will draw a veil over the travel out, but the next morning dawned sunny and warm in Valencia and I gave them a 45 minute version of the Innovation Platforms Introduction presentation and then answered questions for the same length of time. What staggered me was that we are being much more practical in our approach to the various opportunities, barriers and distractions than the rest of Europe appear to have been. I got several invitations to join the innovation chat show circuit of Europe, but my finest moment was when the guy from Vinnova came up to me and said “our organisations need to talk”. When I told him that they had pulled out of discussions a few weeks earlier, I think he decided to go back and claim a few scalps!!! I love corporate responsibility!! :-) The ride back to the airport, with clear blue skies and a warm breeze coming through the open taxi window gave me a glimpse of summer and – since I was reading the disaster e-mails from Swindon – a strong appetite for schadenfreude. 

I got back to Paddington almost exactly 24 hours after leaving it – and in time to join Heidi and Paul Smith for dinner. We have invited Paul (who is head of Materials Science at ETH in Zurich) to be part of the MNT Centre Review Steering Group and the dinner was “borrowing” him from another UK trip to brief him and answer questions. The meal started with him pulling out an annotated version of the tender document and asking a lot of questions. I think he will deliver real tension to the review process. 

Next morning saw a rendezvous with Neil Carpenter and Doug Yarrow and Katie Tearall from BBSRC at St Pancras to visit the Rothamsted Research Institute at Harpenden. In passing, it is worth raving about the refurbished St Pancras – at every level from the engineering splendour of the arched hall to the workflow and signage of the Eurostar hub, the mainline station and the commuter lines. Rothamsted itself was a blast. They started by distancing themselves from the DEFRA proposal for an Innovation Platform on the Sustainable Agri-Food Supply Chain – saying that no-one in the industry would recognise or support it – but putting forward a much more balanced and persuasive case themselves. I gave the same talk on Innovation Platforms and they showed real interest in the mechanism. However, they then took us around the site for a series of presentations by scientists who made no mention of the over-arching goals laid out by their own director. We agreed that Neil would go back to have more discussions. 

Back to London for one of Dougals’ Dinners – sorry, a meeting of the Foundation for Science and Technology. This one was on low impact buildings, so Mike Kelly spoke (without mentioning us, not that I care). He was bracketed by Lord (Adair) Turner, chairman of the Governments Committee on Climate Change, as an introduction, and James Rae of Consensus and Andy Collier of British Gas/Centrica as the venal, self-serving capitalists that were preventing progress. Turner was the undoubted star of the evening, Mike was a bit scattergun, Rae tried to sell a model that meant driving sustainable development on economic and financial grounds (but let his arguments down in later discussion) and Collier basically did a sales puff for British Gas and offered anyone who asked a question a free energy survey for their house. The most fun was had over dinner when Turner explained the reason why those against climate change tend to be from the right (Nigel Lawson was heavily cited as an exemplar). The problem is that dealing with climate change requires concerted effort on behalf of the community, which smacks too much of socialism for those whose religion is to the right. We even got to mention “The most terrifying video you’ll ever see”   

Quote “This is the situation that makes Al Gore look like a cissy Pollyanna with no guts who sugar-coated the bad news” 

The next day was the Duke of Kent and the organisational discussions at North Star House and the Pear Tree. I am really looking forward to Fearless Leader’s thoughts on this. 

Friday was largely a catch-up day, handing out bonuses to those who were in, sorting out the pay review data, reading the BREEAM assessment for Signal Point. It was enlivened by visit by Helen Gresty and Jon Kingsbury (Helen had booked Creative Industries and Innovation Platforms as a double bill in Swindon, Jon had meant only to “do” Creative Industries but was curious enough to stay and fall victim to our Jedi mind tricks about Innovation Platforms!!!) In passing, it is interesting to note that the Microsoft spellchecker capitalised “jedi”. :-) 

Final duty of the day was to join Ian McConaghy in a meeting with Jonne Ceserani of Power and Grace ( I first met Jonne years ago when he was a partner in Synectics but Iain and I met him recently in Birmingham and he has some interesting training packages for creative problem solving and team and individual leadership. I think we will give him a try with a trial course, but unless he has significantly gone off the boil, it would add to our development toolkit to use him.



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