Is your programme failing, never mind, with new added TSB every programme runs whiter!!

I could not think of a good enough excuse, so I took part in the “start the week” meeting. I think it had everyone who ought to be there, so might come again!! :-)

We then went into a meeting to prepare for the phantom Board Meeting, which really meant we prepared for the Away Day. 

This was followed by a quick meeting to make sure Iain was prepared for his dinner with the ABPI and friends.  This was their attempt to advance the cause of their idea for a stratified medicine innovation platform.  I had talked to them some time ago and told them the requirement for a properly specified societal challenge and (ideally) sponsorship of a Government department. They have not got back to us since then – until this invite to Iain.

Lunch was scrounged by joining a meeting between the Council for Industry and Higher Education and the EPSRC.  It wasn’t worth it!!  CIHE seem to be stuck in a parallel universe where companies sit around wondering what to do and need universities to give them ideas.

Next came a planning meeting for Innovate 08.  A bigger and more varied turn-out and Lisa invigorated by her holiday meant that that the energy levels were high and things got done.  It is shaping up well!! (that’s a pun on the strap line!)

The final meeting of the day was with David, Paul and Walter to discuss the progress of the merging technologies work stream.

Tuesday saw the train down to London – and an early morning rendezvous with Cyrus at Banbury. Heidi had also made the trek to London to pin me down on some details about the handover, but then it was into the three part executive meeting.  Tuesday was “money” so we went through the progress on spending the enormous accrual Cyrus ended last year with, how the new structure impacts on the budgeting process and so on.

Then came an interesting meeting with the DIUS glitterati about Board membership.  I sensed a difference of approach between David E (who seemed to want more “names”) and Fergus (who seems to want new people who can give more of their time to our goals).  We debated the problem of having busy people who can’t attend all or any of our meetings – a situation emphasised by the cancellation of this month’s Board meeting just before it went inquorate – and the need for omniscience and insight.

The evening was at the Design Councils pleasure in Somerset House of the launch of their Delivery Plan.  Philip Esler was there, but the real star was Philip Greenish of the RAEng, who well out of his normal milieu but getting stuck into to meeting a new community.  I spent a lot of time talking to David Godber, Ellie Runcie and David Kester before the speeches – Kester himself, Michael Bichard (who was fairly ruthlessly taking the piss out of Kester) and then Pearson (the Minister of Innovation and Design) who mentioned NESTA but not us – despite me hanging around in his eye line for most of his speech!!  Once the important people left we relaxed and started a more intense mixing process – I had a long chat with Sebastian Conran, Eddie Obeng of Pentacle, the virtual business school ( ), and John Bound of RCA.

Next morning it was back to Fortress Kingsgate (yes, still no pass) - but I had a plan. The plan consisted of arriving in the same taxi as Iain, which meant someone could take me in.  Cyrus had gone off to move house or whatever, so we were a depleted crew to discuss the various actions that the Sainsbury Review, Innovation Nation, the BERR Magnum Opus and so on had given us.  David G had prepared a matrix showing what we were supposed to do and what we had done.  Laid out in this manner, it was interesting how many actions were given several times with marginally different wording.

Iain was in demand as a trophy (for Ministers) and an icon (for a DIUS video) so the Directors took a long break in the middle of the day to catch up with e-mails.  We resumed in mid afternoon to go through the operational progress.

Thursday was a Swindon day, starting with Heidi’s first Innovation Platforms meeting – or was it my last?.  Along with the progress, we had invited Guy in to talk about how to manage a “chair”. The Steering Groups of the Innovation Platforms are an important part of their governance and we need to appoint and support suitable external people as chairs, and then make sure they help get the right decisions made.  We also had Brain in to talk about working with the RDAs.  I had sensed a slight disconnect with the work of the SAG and OAG and what I knew to be going on at the grass roots level.  The prospectus process carried out by the OAG, with its conclusion that the RDAs already had more that the target £180m aligned with our activities, seemed to still be defensive and the work under the LCV IDP felt like it was on a different plane.

We also managed to have a debate on “monitoring”.  The existing IPs have all taken the opportunity of starting from scratch to do some detailed monitoring of their own in the early stages – which has resulted in them getting a really good feel for the projects that make up their programme.  The balance seems to be between requiring the consortia to manage themselves properly, us knowing the technical progress so that we can assemble the overall programme, and making sure the processes are discharged properly so that people can get paid and so on.  Whatever the final scenario, many of the current monitoring officers are the wrong sort of people – and too expensive – and the monitoring liaison officers (who were bought into being to get us through the lack of “technology managers” (that’s’ DTI speak) or “lead technologist” (in new money) seemed to have become a self-sustaining part of the structure and act as a prophylaxis for those who ought to know what is going on.

The day ended with a discussion about the head of technology!!!

Next day started with most of the meetings being cancelled.  I therefore got more time to catch up with things.  The only real meeting I went to all day was with the EPSRC to hear about their Digital Economy programme.  As with LWEC, I must have been missing e-mails, because they came across to tell us about a fully formed programme and wanted us to provide the link to business.  It sounded to me as though they have largely ignored the content of our ICT strategy, the Assisted Living, Intelligent Transport Systems and Services and Network Security Innovation Platforms, but maybe I being too broody.  Not an uplifting way to end a week.

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