The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step
24 April 2020 by David Bott
The week started with a Funders Panel – which had to be moved so that I could spend the afternoon in London – so Cyrus and I got to the “start the week” meeting late. The panel was for the Plastic Electronics Design Sandpit, so the agreements on Friday afternoon were still fresh in my mind and I didn’t have to strain my ageing memory too much. After a short break, we went into the Moderation Meeting for this year’s bonuses. Although we are getting better, every time we do this we seem to go over old ground. Whether it’s because we add new people every year, don’t remember what we agreed last year, or actually left last year’s meeting with different interpretations of what we did agree last year, the result is that we ran out of time again. I guess the test is whether we all remember the same thing from this year when we come to do it next year.
I then ran off to catch a train to London for the first meeting of the Resource Efficiency Steering Group. I had not planned on attending this, but Stewart Davies had called Fearless Leader at the end of last week and pointed out that it was important to show senior Executive commitment to sustainability, and why weren’t one of us going? So I did! We have now done enough of these “first” meeting to recognise the pattern. The initial run through the terms of reference goes well, the introduction to the Technology Strategy Board goes well, but then once the actual programme is described, all the preceding points get revisited because they didn’t agree with them at all – they didn’t really listen and acknowledge that they were being told. Also, although they are all there to represent areas of interest rather than their specific organisations, they can’t – so there is a lot of “pork barrel” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_barrel ) as they jockey for air time and potential future money. Eventually, they will get their role, but it usually takes a couple of meetings. Stewart turns out to be a rather good chairman, so we should use him more often! I think their “advice” was to adjust the parameters of the first competition in the area under the new strategy to reach out to new players, so we got the advice we wanted. The final meeting of the day was with Jackie Hunter, ex-GSK and now setting up a portfolio consisting of being an open innovation consultant and trying to buy out some orphan GSK drugs – one of which can be used to treat fatigue in MS sufferers (there followed a fascinating lesson on the types of fatigues, the underlying physiological causes and thus the different therapies).
The nest morning, it was up to the Barbican to speak at SciTech 2010 (http://www.publicserviceevents.co.uk/event/overview.asp?ID=137 ). Paul W had stiffed me to talk after they accepted his suggestion that they use the word “innovation” in the sub-title. I gave the “there are many societal challenges, they provide opportunities for new products and services and the Technology Strategy Board exists to support the most innovative responses to these challenges” talk, which seemed to go down well with those who tweet (see #scitech2010) and those who ask questions after. I was followed by a guy from UCL, who basically said “David was right and here is how UCL is addressing those challenges” but seemed a little old fashioned in his attitude. Then came a guy from Scottish Enterprise who described what they’ve been doing for the last 10 years and then told us it hadn’t had much success. They both needed presentation skills training! The panel was amusing in that people asked about Hauser and I declined to answer citing purdah. I got a lot of people asking how to be more innovative like it was a self-help course they could buy but Huge was doing great business selling _Connect at out stand, so I joined in on the chorus. Eyjafjallajökull had apparently marooned many of the speakers out of reach, so when I joined the “masterclass” on “bridging the funding gap” I shouldn’t have been surprised at the woefully low level of experience and advice the stand-in speaker was displaying. After 15 minutes I decided to spend quality time with Huge at the stand and snuck out. Lots of people must have followed because the coffee area was crowded long before the session was due to finish!
I wandered down to Tracy Island, but there were no spare seats, so I was happy to truck off to the Design Council for my monthly meeting with David Godber. We were joined by Ann Thame, who had been tasked with setting up an MoU between our two organisations after the last summit between FL and David Kester. We agreed that an MoU to cover joint activities was meaningless, other than it gave Kester something to wave at BIS when they threatened the DC budget, so agreed that what we really needed was to extent the working relationship broader in both organisations. We have therefore set up a meeting in a couple of months to bring together the primary connectors on both sides to discuss what we could do – and keep that list as a shared set of goals, realising that day-to-day activities might deflect or delay them.
Wednesday started with a train ride back to Swindon for a meeting to agree what papers need to go to the next Governing Board meeting, to be interviewed by some internal audit people that seemed to be checking that Cyrus hadn’t told porkies on some return he had made and to discuss and agree the next steps on the Digital Britain TeStBed.
Thursday saw a quick trip to Oxford, where I managed to big up Collaboration Nation once again, and then some time at home catching up on e-mails.
Friday was another Swindon day, which started with a session to agree the next steps in young Alex’s relationship building exercise with BCS, Google, Seedcamp and Entrepreneur Nation, but then went on to a depressing interview for the Healthcare area. Things then took a turn for the better, with a neat meeting to discuss and agree the next steps in Nano-medicine, another to discuss the idea of working with the major bus companies to look at a wholly new design for buses (which got a thumbs up) and whether it was possible to retrofit buses up to 5 years old (which seemed to fail the “impact” test), a discussion of the content of the Annual Report, a demonstration of quite how clunky the CRM system is and how much farther we still have to go before it is workable (okay, so that was a bit of a downer, but at least we are now admitting we have a problem rather than continually making promises that it will be alright on the night!) and – to close the day – an example of how we can take our burgeoning experience in engagement in one area and help make it happen for other organisations in other areas – in this case it was taking the learnings from the Composites Grand Challenge and transferring it to support OSCHR’s Cluster work. This last one was also nice in that the Technologists had effectively anticipated my questions and were ready to go. A nice way to end the week!!