It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life.... And I'm feeling intercoursed!!!

A weird week in many ways. Over the weekend, I had twisted my back and was feeling a bit pathetic. I made it down to Swindon – the new office – to find that there hadn’t been a “start the week” meeting, so I didn’t miss the first half because of traffic. Monday was mostly taken up with working out which way was up in the new office, broken only by a couple of meetings with potential new people, one who was not right for the role they were after but might well have wider usefulness and the other who was spot on and is now being courted by wrongly spelt Ian.  

By Tuesday, I think we were all feeling more at home with the new office. I sat in a different seat to express solidarity with the “hot desk liberation front” and got down to meeting some new people, discussing the mechanics of implementing the “Drayson response” plan and finding things from my crate. The afternoon was blessed with a visit by Oracle. We had been inviting various people from Oracle to our corporate events, but they didn’t think we were relevant to us so it hadn’t gone that far. Then, last November, by a series of coincidences and quaternary networking connections, Iain, Zoe and I found ourselves at the Oracle HQ in London helping launch WebMission 09. We had hatched a plan (so devious etc.) and offered to take some of the management team from Oracle out to dinner afterwards.  Although I missed most of the dinner (because I am an old man and needed some sleep that week) Iain and Zoe bonded with them and this visit was the result. As well as the ICT team, we had Nick from EPES and (later, when he arrived in Swindon) Andrew from Network Security. It was an amazing insight into the way Oracle thinks. They have a series of programmes that support small companies to develop their ideas. This is not altruism. The ideas have to be in the business areas that Oracle is targeting and the delivery is usually based on an underpinning Oracle database. Thus they get revenue through licensing. As they are fond of pointing out, Larry Elllison didn’t develop the original technology, he saw what an IBM researcher had done – and published – and realised the commercial potential. We also discussed their attempts to harness the creative potential of their own employees. They have developed a series of interactive databases that capture, analyse, categorise and communicate both the challenges and capabilities of their own people, and those “collected” through interaction with their customer base. I could have sworn they offered it to us for free, so will wait until they have had a chance to reflect upon this offer and check that is both still available and consistent with our own plans. We agreed another meeting with a different membership on our side to explore our understanding of “challenge areas”. 

Wednesday was an Executioners Meeting and we ought to have learnt by now that 9 hour meetings are never productive. I suspect that by the end, we were agreeing to everything because we had lost the will to live. After that and a difficult drive home, I decided that the rapidly diminishing number of meetings in London on Thursday didn’t warrant insulting my back any further, so worked at home – tackling a wide swathe of my outstanding actions in the process. 

Friday started with a discussion of our relationship with BBSRC. Em produced a “warts and all” analysis of the problem and we began to address the issues. I have to admit that many of the problem they think they have with us are more problems we have with ourselves – unclear lines of responsibility and evolving implementation plans – so we agreed what and how we would do going forward and will now se if we can make friends with them. That led into a review of the paper for the upcoming Governing Board meeting. Then , in the afternoon, I hosted a lobbying visit by Sue Armfield of BERR, who came to talk about the (soon to be) recommendations of the Industrial Biotechnology IGT. This is not the same as the Review and Refresh of the Biotechnology IGT, which has already been published. We talked through the various aspects they thought were relevant to us. There were some wonderful misinterpretations – like KTN Special Interest Groups would have budgets to run CR&D competitions – but overall the suite of recommendations make real sense and shows the value of a pragmatic chairman (Ian Shott of Excelsyn). One thing we might actually like to get involved with is their recommendation for an open access small scale biotechnology manufacturing capability in Wilton. I talked a bit about our evolving understanding of what did, and didn’t, work in the MNT Centres and suggested she spoke to Mike Oldham before she committed too much to a specific path. 

I came out to join a telephone conference with DfT about the LCV Demonstrator Programme. We have a 3 fold oversubscription even after the assessment and as well as the “possibly £5m” we got out of Mike Hurwitz, Fearless Leader - in a burst of pre holiday activity – had called both ONE and AWM to strong arm them into coughing up real money. Tim and I will catch up with his efforts next week. A bit more e-mail attack and a discussion with DG about the Low Carbon Summit and home beckoned.


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