From Birdlip to Bolero
12 December 2019 by David Bott
Another week where I managed to attend the “start the week” meeting – although the Swindon traffic meant I was a few minutes late. After that it was a meeting with the guys who are proposing to develop an iPhone app for the KTNs. Bizarrely, I had told them to talk to the Holly team before they progressed and they scheduled a meeting with Steve and Rob after the one we were supposed to have. I made my excuses and left. Next up was a great discussion with Zoe and Maurizio about the “analysing complex data sets” competition we are planning for next year. We agreed the best way to engage the various communities who might be “users” of the underlying ICT capability. A new way to think about Technology competitions is once again in the offing. At lunchtime, we got a strange “if you had money for a “prize” in the PBR, what would you spend it on?” question from Fergus. I made something up after asking Alex and Christian, who were the nearest warm-blooded thing I could talk to, and then drove to the University of Warwick where the Ventures group had asked to meet me through the ICT KTN. A slightly awkward conversation about how we didn't fund universities unless the company or companies in the consortium saw the value of such an engagement mean the rest of the visit went well with no false assumptions on their part. The DigiLab is really cool and worth a visit for those of you who haven't already,
Tuesday started with going from my normal station in the wrong direction. Brain had shoehorned Richard Miller and me into a meeting with AWM about the redevelopment of New Street Station. There were 4 AWM people, one from the skills group who sort of wandered in by mistake and asked lots of weird questions, 2 who wanted to use the development as a showcase for new technologies and the project manager who desperately wanted to keep anything new out!! Then back down to London for the “quarterly” Foresight meeting. Sandy and I did the introductions and general catch-up before I unleashed the power of Sian and Maurizio giving a “shock and awe” presentation on Digital Britain. Although we still need to build in the “Janet and John” version of the work and tidy up the use of acronyms, I watched the Foresight people – who were deeply impressed with the scope and rigour of the work. The strange “prize in PBR” conversation came around again with more request for details, so we reeled the Treasury in. I then had dinner with Anthony Lilley, partly to say thank you for his contribution to Innovate but also because he seems incredibly well connected in the creative and digital arenas. He was a bit critical of our competition processes and the general standard of the creative proposals he has assessed about offered to play us into some things DCMS are doing. And the curry was good too!!
Wednesday morning was given over to a shadow briefing – Edelman had fixed for Guy and I to spend some time with Robert Goodwill, the shadow transport dude. We were shown into the building by a secretary wearing crown issue jeans and then shoehorned into a tiny office. We had been warned that we might only get 30 minutes, but our ineffable charm and the spurious belief that we knew what we were talking about meant we got 90. Our Edelman handler was pleased. I expect they will charge more!! Back to Tracy Island where the furore over possible extra money had reached a crescendo. As it was, we got £5m for the “prize” in smart grids/smart meters (and an e-mail from DECC wanting to know our plans) a possible share in the £30m allocated to Low Carbon Vehicles (the smart money is on an extra £10m for our current call) and the expected £1.75m for the energy efficient Whitehall competitions we had already banked!! A disappointing interview was followed by an unexpected gem. A guy from Sharpcloud had stalked me on Twitter and bypassed my protection (Jools) to book some time with me. What he showed me was a cloud based way to share technology roadmaps. I dragged Richard Miller into the discussion and he signed himself up. The best thing is that they don't want money – they want us to endorse them by allowing them to publish any publicly available roadmaps. The final task of the day was to meet Fearless Leader and Michael Hurwitz to agree what would be said the next morning at the Automotive Council where we would announce a joint £19m completion in LCV on supply networks. I have learnt from John Bell!!
Thursday was another London day and started with a catch-up with Alex on the creative side, followed by a discussion with Cyrus on various financial things that we are jointly involved in – although there is never enough time for these!! Then it was an Executioners Meeting, with a rather good presentation by Regeneris on KTPs where the seemed to know what they were doing and had got under the skin of the area.
Friday was a Swindon day – starting with Lady Claire and Paul dragooning Fearless Leader, Guy and me into admitting what we thought were the important messages and providing examples. It was rather fun in a masochistic sort of way. Then David Way updated me on the recommendations of the MNT review that might impact in the Innovation Programmes, Lisa and Steph showed me a variety of ways of displaying the data they are amassing on our project areas and I carried out a survey for Greenbang and Cisco on corporate responses to sustainability drivers. The final meeting of the day was a visit from a guy from NESTA and another from Unipart who had just discovered low carbon vehicles and came to ask us to join their new initiative in the area. After a 30 minute list (from me) of all the things that are currently going on, a description of how we have spent 2 years cleaning up the initiative overload the area suffered from and generally being a bit of a grouch, I suggested they might like to join the existing efforts rather than starting another. The Unipart guy seemed moderately convinced, but I suspect the NESTA guy was already planning the big announcement that they would save British industry, and seemed curiously subdued.
This being a weird week, Friday wasn't the end of the tasks. Saturday morning saw me driving into Birmingham, for the launch of the Mitsubishi part of the CABLED consortium that was one of the winners of our Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator Competition that we announced the results of in June. Andrew Everett had drawn the other short straw, but the sun shone (a bit), we talked to the senior Japanese who were very proud that the first electric cars outside Japan were here (the rest of Europe will be a year behind), a few pundits who pointed out that these cars were full production ones (not like the Mini’s we were told), spent some time building Robert Llewellyn into our future media plans and generally being enthused by the excitement of the 25 people who drove their test cars out of Centenary Square. Also, in the evening, I was a guest of WMG (which really means Kumar) at an LSO Gala Concert at the newly refurbished Butterworth Hall at Warwick University. This being Kumar, it was more than a social occasion and I was introduced to lots of people who wanted to talk to the Technology Strategy Board and caught up with Jeremy Watson who was also invited – does this mean Kumar intends to move into the buildings area next?