Formula 1 and Farming

Another week, another no show at the “start the week” meeting.  Instead I had 20 minutes of a dental hygienist testing how far my mouth would open and a cursory examination by the dentist to say that my teeth haven’t fallen out yet.  Also on Monday was a chance to catch up on e-mails.

Tuesday saw the final meeting of the Research Assessment Exercise Chemistry Panel.  It has been a fascinating 3 year journey but I can’t honestly say that it covers the relevance of the profession I chose to everyday life – it’s more about the internal pecking order in a small piece of the academic kingdom.  Then back to Kingsgate House – the 10th floor this time – to run through Zoe’s segment of Innovate.  It’s looking very good, linking the underpinning technology to different applications using “users” to make the key points.  The final duty of the day was dinner with Brian Collins.  This covered the 2 Innovation Platforms that we have with the DfT, an amusing piece of feedback from BERR (they think we don’t recognise they have no money!) and a long discussion on why we don’t have a fuller relationship with the Chief Scientific Advisors.  Oh, and a very nice curry!!

Wednesday started with a trip back to Warwick to make sure I had my car and then drive to Brackley.  The first day of the Governing Board meeting was okay – apart from running out of time. Meredith had to sit outside for about 20 minutes past the allotted time before coming in to make sure I didn’t screw up the presentation on DIIA.  There was real support for the proposal from Joe and Anne Glover – for completely different reasons – and the others all asked questions that suggested that they had fully read the papers!!!  There still seems to be a hankering from some Board members to get involved in operational decisions, most obvious around the KTN discussions, but they obviously care deeply about our (mutual) success.  I am not sure the choice of the Honda F1 team worked for the meeting. Ross Brawn was good, but seemed to have a strange message for us, Gary Savage was good (as always) but is well known on the materials circuit for that talk (his description of the event when Button totalled his car at Monaco – “when our driver ran out of talent” – is a classic), and David Butler gave us a masterclass in cynical marketing.  The tour was also a bit disappointing.  The factory is a lot messier than McLaren and most of the presenters were only fleetingly technological and so could only really give us the “Janet and John goes racing” spiel.

The session at Fawsley all made up for this.  Adrian Smith was a breath of fresh air (although he needs to learn a bit more about Innovation Platforms before he recommends us to use procurement) and Chris Aylett of the Motorsport Industries Association showed us what marketing should be.

Thursday started with a discussion on the agri-food Innovation Platform proposal and (necessarily) included a discussion on how far we wanted to bend the definition of an innovation platform.  The unambiguous answer was that the partner Government department had to actually be doing something to drive the market or we couldn’t do our job.  The session on sustainability, prioritisation and the CSR also went well.  There was strong engagement with and support for the sustainability proposal, offers of help to tackle the CSR and a recognition that the decisions we need to make between wildly differing areas of potential focus is a tricky one!!

By Friday I had finally been caught by the various diseases I have been observing in colleagues and family and had developed a really great croak.  C’est la maladie!!!



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