When will Alexandra House get its catering right?
27 March 2020 by David Bott
I would have made the "start the week" meeting, honestly, but my car started running rough on Saturday and I was vaguely worried that the intermittent problem I had last year - and which seasoned technicians sucked their teeth at and mentioned many thousands of pounds to fix - had recurred so I diverted via the local garage for a check-up. It turned out I had bought contaminated petrol over the weekend and after looking at the car, putting some fairy liquid equivalent and telling me to buy the expensive petrol for a while, they charged me £83 and sent me on my way. I thus got to Swindon with minutes to spare before my first unavoidable meeting of the day - an interview. It may have been unavoidable, but it was fruitless - by a unanimous decision of the judges. I then popped into the "smart meters/smart grids" meeting next door. This was an almost final step in the decisions making process to spend the £5m we abruptly got in the PBR. The problem is now not knowing what to do but prioritising all the options. The meeting had turned into a microcosm of the problem with energy people challenging housing and healthcare people and the digital people asking for clarity of outcomes s they can get on and make it work!! Unfortunately, I had to leave to go to an Executioners Pre-meeting, where we talked about what we might talk about at the full EMM.
This was followed by a state visit by Jonathan Porritt. This is another step in us understanding and implementing our triple bottom line aspirations. It started with the Sustainable Innovation Advisory Group and is now down to actionable ideas. The best one to come out of this meeting is a map of all our activities in some kind of "green space" showing activities, and gaps, to be published in green futures.
The next day was the first part of the "Delivery Plan Workshop", and since everyone was there, it doesn't make too much sense to report it. For my part, I think FL hit to the right note with his review of the year, my re-organisation had the desired impact in that no-one talked to me for the rest of the afternoon, I am never less than astounded by why some people think that not dancing is a crime against nature and it is nice to discover that Andrew Everett has several challengers for his hard won reputation as the "last man standing". Wednesday started with the stuff we had to do and I was once again struck that we are lucky to have people in the organisation who care about this stuff! :-)
I slipped off directly home to give myself time to catch up. A threatened interview with the Sunday Times never materialised so I made a lot of progress handling e-mail and the foreign new operating system that is Windows XP (isn't that old?)
Thursday saw a later start than planned because we had inadvertently booked an interview with the Financial Times before the Dark Lord so I was bounced until later in the day - which I couldn't make so FL was fingered to do - but I don't think he did!! I got an extra hour in bed, so I could care!! Instead my first appointment was with the Intelligent Transport Systems and Services Steering Group to give them the "impact" challenge. Put simply, ITSS has been going 4 years, has suffered from wandering DfT policy in the area, has struggled to find the right companies to support and failed to make a real impact in the public consciousness in the way that LCV and LIB has. Amusingly, DfT does at last seem to be getting its act together in the area, but we probably need a radical overhaul of what we are targeting and what we do to make any real progress.
I slipped off leaving Heidi to deal with the fall-out and rendezvoused with FL for a meeting with the top dude at First Group. After the obligatory jokes about trains, we got down to some serious idea generating. The upshot of it was that we will look to jointly run a "bus of the future" design competitions and a variant of Retrofit for the Future on up to 5 year old buses. Contextual information is that most buses are based on truck chassis, an unladen weight to payload ratio of less than 4 is best current practice and Moir Lockhead is a great bloke.
I rushed across town to meet one of Oli Barretts friends - not that this characterisation narrows the field!! This one was a "brand" person and I listened to yet another indictment of how bad our website was - stuffy, complex and impersonal. Since the person had met a number of our technologists, her idea that we based the website on our people and got them all to add a "neat company of the month" blog had some validity. Then it was off to the Design Council meeting on user centred energy management. Neil had been there all day, but the feedback session I managed to hear showed the power of the DC approach.
Then it was down to Portcullis House with FL and the soon to be new impact ninja to meet with David Kidney. This was mainly a stitch-up by the oil and gas lobby to make sure we still gave them money. Best quote of the day was "the Technology Strategy Board shouldn't just support shiny, new things" - we're an innovation agency, that is precisely what we should support!! FL showed cricketing skills beyond his nationality by playing a straight bat to everything and Mark did a nice piece of SBRI, but since Kidney has a small majority, our friends in BIS had warned us not to build a long term relationship.
Friday saw a trip up to Sheffield to support the launch of an EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account. It was interesting to note the stridency of John Baird's message to the academics. They are playing the "impact" card hard.