17 October 2019 by David Bott
Yet another week that I didn't officially start. I had originally been going to meet some guy from Guardian Media, but he re-arranged at the last minute, so I just went to London for the rest of the meetings!! First up was my continuing discussions with Ash Gupta. Ash had failed to get a project in to our Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator programme because Edinburgh was playing at having trams, but he continues to bombard us with ideas and energy. I met him a few weeks ago and he wanted to meet again, so I took Andrew along for cover. At the last moment, Ash also sent details of a water related idea and Martin was careless enough to be on Tracy Island, so we duly had lunch with Ash. One thing that has always characterised an entrepreneur (as I name them and as they name themselves) is a ruthless devotion to “their” idea. By contrast, Ash has attention deficit business disorder, characterised by the fact that every time I see him, he pitches a new and different idea to me. Nevertheless, he has energy and a way of opening doors and getting heavyweights involved (or so he says), so we persist...
After a spot of being courageously networked, I then went to meet up with James Lawn of Polecat to progress the CoolMission idea. We met with the “Make Your Mark” (http://www.enterpriseuk.org/) people at some trendy meeting place besides Kings Cross. James and Bron have moved the idea on a lot since last Wednesday, when we agreed to take part, and are motoring towards a launch during Global Entrepreneur Week (November 16-22 this year). They asked if we can help find more partners and a launch venue. I am beginning to realise that they save money by calling in favours. I vaguely suggested BP might be interested in both and have therefore collected the task!!
A quick trip got me to the Hilton hotel next to the Business Design Centre in time to register and collect my Spot-Me, before heading over to St Pancras. Our increased credibility means that really interesting people come, and it started to get tricky to choose who I wanted to talk to or introduce one another to. The dinner itself was great – and I got the ultimate compliment from someone on my table that it had been the perfect dinner party!!!
Innovate next day started (for me) with the Media Briefing. We need to recognise the derivation of the term “briefing” because I suspect we over-ran a bit but got good interaction and the press people kept coming up to me during the day. I did a couple of interviews, but mainly just answered simple questions, but it did mean that I missed some of the earlier stuff. From what I saw, our Chairman was a little subdued, Gordon Murray was a bit overwhelmed and therefore less impressive than he can be and the Energy panel went well. The Digital panel failed to ignite despite haven 2 of the gobbiest people I know on it, but Medicine worked well as the primer it was intended to be. Only in the Low Carbon panel did we get any sparks when Richard Pike asked a long and dopey question and Craig White went back sharply at him. Mandelson was scarily impressive, although having seen the “jokes” written for him I realised that a career in stand-up does not stretch before him. Sugar was a conundrum. His early answer shows that he knows what the important issues are, but he seemed to get stuck in a rut with his answers and it felt like his personality was obscuring his message at times. When I wandered back to the Media Room to collect my stuff, the unfortunate recipient of his anger was still I shock and I had to listen to him for about half an hour before I could get away.
Although I hadn’t got back home until 10 o’clock, I was back on the 7 o’clock train to London. Note to self – plan travel better!! First up was another sales job from Obi Wan. We argued over sheets of paper for an hour or so and agreed that although our basic approach was the same, we looked for different types of detail. I also found that things are moving so fast, any verbal description is several levels of development beyond the paper’s copies. We have to work as a team on this issue or the Board will possibly (and rightly) turn nasty.
Soon it was time for the planning teleconference for the Stratified Medicine work. We still didn't have Wi-Fi, so I was reading the agenda off my iPhone at the same time as talking into it! I was amused to note that both the industrial and academic co-chairs are more action oriented and less into being seen to have the right connections that our friends in MRC. Next came the re-arranged sales pitch from the Guardian Media guy. I believe that Paul W has turned him down before for excessive gouging, so I made it clear that we were a cheapskate public organisation. He went away to consider my counter proposal that we jointly organise a dissemination workshop on the back of the Digital Britain feasibility studies, we would bring 40 or more interesting companies in the space and he would organise a (probably digital) publication to publicise their work and ambitions. The final task of the day was to attend the first UK based FST meeting of the season. Yes, once again, there is no need to go hungry on a Wednesday evening in London. Since the theme was the Digital Britain Report, we knew a lot of people and had a small mob there. Dominic Morris was nice about our involvement, Wendy Hall was awesome in her rhetoric but the insight tended to come from Alfred Spector and Erik Huggers. See it all here - http://www.foundation.org.uk/.
Thursday started off in Swindon for an Executive Management Meeting, but then Allyson and I escaped to London to see the Queen – well, Prince Philip actually – for the Design Awards. Highlights of the evening (other than the Brompton bicycle man winning) included my conversation with HRH when David Kester intended him to talk to Sebastian Conran who was standing next to me...
HRH: So who do you work for?
DCB: The Technology Strategy Board, sir (we had been given instructions on how to address him, don't you know?)
HRH: Isn't that a Quango, eh? (which says something for his detailed briefing, or suggests we might get discussed at breakfast in Buck House?)
DCB: Yes, sir, and we are looking forward to getting burned next Summer
HRH: Huh? Very good. Now who’s next?
Discovering that Allyson had “bagged” Mary Quant, I went off in search of other trophies from the evening. Instead I found Eddie Obeng talking to David Godber and a nice couple. Even though the discussion was about whether to buy a helicopter or not, I joined in anyway (but had little to contribute, I admit). The woman, Eddie and I ended up with an interesting discussion that compared “facts” about climate change – when I discovered that Eddie can be out of date with data. After they left, I discovered I had been talking to Marigold Newey and the parting shot from the bloke, that Gordon spoke highly of me, referred to Gordon Murray not Gordon Brown, disclosed him to be Adrian Newey – so he could have afforded the helicopter. Falling in with Godber halfway through an evening is bad karma and so it was I ended up in the ICA bar ‘til god knows when, hanging out with “designer types”.
I managed to wake up the next morning and hobble down to Tracy Island for another EDSI Clean Transport meeting. The AEA report is shockingly high level, but all the civil servants like it, because they can use it to prove anything. What they want to prove is that they should be allowed to select the focus of the low carbon vehicle activities – although I suspect from the run of the discussion only Brian Collins and Michael Hurwitz have any idea what the strengths and weakness of the options are. I managed to stick up for our way of doing things and our distinct goals – supporting UK business and not solving the climate change issues – and then had a side-line conversation with Michael Hurwitz about getting more money out of the dual-key BIS-DECC fund to launch one last big LCV competition before the shutters of a fascist state stop all spending (or something like that).