Making the same travel related mistake twice in one week is probably not a good sign

Another “start the week” meeting, not as efficiently done as the week before but, what the hell, you just can’t get the help these days!

Then on to a Board Preparation meeting, including some mid process Delivery Plan discussions. I managed to get a quick chat with Nick and Paul from CoEBio3 (why do I want to call it C3PO) in Manchester. I think I learned that they are an integrated bio-incubator and are bidding to be part of the outcome of the Industrial Biotechnology IGT that I thought was so good a week or so ago. Then down to London with Fearless Leader for the launch of the Home Office Science and Innovation Strategy. It was a curious event, in the Strangers Dining Room of the House of Commons, with lots of Research Council people, quite a few other Government department types and very few business people. I got a masterclass in schmoozing from Fearless Leader but it was a contact from Network Security gave us the link we wanted to get a high level meeting. One guy I met said that he had “met all three of your SBRI people” - meaning Neville, Will and Mark. 

The next morning it was an early start to catch Lord Carter’s first speech since the launch of his review of Digital Britain at NESTA. We went mob-handed to cover all the bases and the team worked the room well. Carter used an interesting approach by saying that normally these reviews are led by someone outside Government, so they can be aspirational and visionary, but that since he was “in Government” he had needed to be pragmatic. I think a large number of people in the room wanted to describe the review as unimaginative and a waste of an opportunity, but that’s all politics. You can catch the webcast at 

I made a quick escape to get down to 1 Great George Street for the second meeting of the Joint Food Research Sub-Group. This is chaired by John Beddington, who is trying to corral all the various threads of work in the food supply chain across Government into a coherent whole. We are still at the definitions and terms of reference stage, and it is developing a very “Sir Humphrey” feel to it, but we continue to plug in our rampantly capitalist business viewpoint in the hope that they will listen in the end. It helps that we are the only ones with “new” money. 

The day got weirder as the next meeting was to chair the Royal Society of Chemistry Industrial Innovation Awards selection. This is one of those jobs that I picked up years ago and can’t seem to get rid of – apparently because I always get 100% coherence from the committee in half the allotted time!!! I wasted about 30 minutes this time trying to convince an academic that an entrepreneur who won the prize really ought to have made some money, but then discovered that all the contenders were pre-revenue so we had to award a poor choice. Some of the other selections were easier, particularly the “young industrialists” award, where we had a winner and a highly commended. 

I then got a chance to catch up with e-mails at Fortress Kingsgate for a while before rendezvousing with Fearless Leader at the Treasury for a meeting with OSCHR. It was a little strange. We met with Sir John Bell and Liam O’Toole and John spent the first 30 minutes going over the story of our discussions with the pharma guys about Stratified Medicine. His basic pitch was that they had dropped the ball and he was hoping that we hadn’t got bored and gone off somewhere else with people who knew what they were doing. He is such a gentleman!! We assured him that Stratified Medicine was still very much on the agenda, but had been pushed back into next year by our “economic downturn” plan and we ended up agreeing that we would work with OSCHR to produce an engagement plan that would build to a credible innovation platform bid in the area by next summer (that’s 2010 Paul don't panic). I have a funny feeling that all the unrecorded actions will end up as mine, but why else did Fearless Leader take me?   

To round a complete multimedia day, I had dinner with David Godber of the Design Council. As well as checking on the progress of the Designing Out Crime Hot Products competition we are running with them, I discovered that they have been negotiating with SEEDA and South East Water to run an equivalent programme to Low Carb Alley (part of DOTT 07 in the North East). I offered to help them meet the other water companies through the nascent Innovation Platform but then thought how good it would be if they joined our SAG and/or OAG meetings so that we could put across a united front to the RDAs. 

Just when I thought it was over.... I got a message that Andy Burnett, facilitator extraordinaire for the Gravel Pit, wanted to talk to me, so I was on Skype in my hotel room for a bit longer. 

The next day I thought I would grab a lie-in, but body clocks being what they are, I was in Fortress Kingsgate for 8 o’clock watching the bicycling civil servants arrive in their high visibility garments. First up, I was deputising for Fearless Leader with some guys from Caterpillar. One of them was over from Peoria for the ETI Board Meeting and wanted to work out how they could better engage with us. I think the subtext was that they weren’t getting what they wanted from ETI. We went through the briefing they had used on Fearless Leader last time (as part of the softening up procedure) but then launched into a discussion on how various UK Government organisations choose their areas of activity. Nice feedback about Derek and Fil, a request to do trucks and off-road on LCV and total ignorance of LIB. They now have lots of new friends in our organisation and went away happy (I think). 

I then spent some time with Brain talking about the rapidly exploding connections we are making with Government. He is not wanting to control it, but worried that we might start tripping over ourselves soon. A CRM system would be over the top, and probably too late, but we need a way of capturing our links into the various departments we work with. Padawan Lewis, who was waiting to take part in a CST sub committee made some twitter related suggestions... 

The afternoon was devoted to the NAIGT. I saw that the minutes of the last meeting had me down as an observer but I had several actions, so I discussed the etiquette of that with the BERR secretariat!! They are still trying to squeeze an aerospace style output out of less time and in an economic downturn. There is a chance it will all end in tears. They are feeling that circumstances (i.e. our competitions and the ETI workshops) are implementing their actions before they recommend them and they are out of control. As a stop gap to fill the lack of an Automotive Leadership Council, they will continue to exist for 3 months after the report is published in early May. That evening, as if to prove my inability to plan properly, I caught a train to Swindon to get my car to drive home. Doh!

The next day was a Swindon day – it started with a “Heads of” meeting in Innovation Programmes to catch up with challenges and opportunities, which dissolved seamlessly into a manpower planning meeting with Cyrus and wrongly spelt Ian. But then the fun began. We have been doing things in cyberspace and “social media world” for many months now, but it has been experimental, so we thought we would take stock, share the experiences and start the process of planning a more coherent future. To kick off the debate, we had invited Sara de Freitas from the Serious Games Institute to give us an overview lecture on Virtual Worlds and Serious Games, then set up Paul Turner of the Walk in Web and our own undiscovered geek-teacher, @tsb_paul_lewis, to give demonstration seminars on the various tools we are using. Sara pitched the talk just slightly wrong and got a variety of questions and challenges from the rather large audience and over-ran by 30 minutes, but it had given everyone a chance to think through how we might use Second Life (Huw and Katherine are already planning meetings), Twitter (Fearless Leader is now arranging dinner dates with mystery men through this route, should we be worried?), Ning (used to contain the Gravel Pit thoughts) and Blogs (Fearless Leader and I have now joined Padawan Lewis - with a proper blog, although we have taken a fair bit of good natured stick for our early, technologically challenged but content rich attempts). :-) I think it must have gone well, because lots of people have told me so and asked more questions. The day ended with some quiet time answering e-mails before plumbing the culinary depths at the Swindon Hilton. 

Friday started with a catch up (on all the things we hadn’t already panicked over) with Heidi on her return from holiday, a first sight of the emerging creative industries strategy and then it was down to London to meet up with Guy and the DIUS dudes for the “advisory long list meeting” over the selection of the new Governing Board members. The actual long list meeting is next Wednesday (albeit in two halves) and involves people more important than us, but officials and the Head-hunters wanted a sanity check meeting. Good idea. There were quite a few single issue applicants, some completely off the chart weirdness and a few sensitivities, but there were also a good sprinkling a really interesting new people that they have found. Unless the interview panel gets all boring on us, we will have a much more interesting Board in 6 months time. To prove that you can’t teach an old dog etc., I caught the train to Swindon before driving home. Double doh!!


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