The week I discovered that the joy of giving money depends of the recipient
09 July 2021 by David Bott
Another Monday, and FL finds a way of making the “start the week” meeting a little bit more interesting – he announces that he is going away for the coming weekend to Prague. This precipitates a “what I do at weekends” competition between the rest of us. I lose! Further excitement ensues when he asks us to miss the TIC Update Meeting and instead discuss what we will be doing on Wednesday morning when we are visited by a small cohort of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. Mondays will never be the same again! By now, Communications Man had also looked over my post about the Made in Britain second episode and decided I wasn’t being too outré and therefore I posted it (see – http://www.innovateuk.org/content/blog/has-evan-davies-got-it-wrong.ashx)
After a quick “what I am doing” meeting with Jools and a short chat about the High Value Manufacturing Strategy Consultation process targets with Malcolm the Manufacturer, we have the first meeting of the expanded Innovate Steering Group. We finish early and make decisions – how cool is that? Then it’s a PRP with Energy Man, an interview with someone for the ICT role left vacant by Zoe’s elevation (not impressive –the person, not Zoe’s elevation) and, after a few short discussions with various people, it’s down to London.
Tuesday starts in London, with a fascinating discussion with the DECC Low Carbon Innovation Delivery Review Team. Since one of them is Sarah from the LCIG, they come expecting “challenge” but seem curiously interested in unpacking and responding to my strongly expressed views. I took them through the history of the Low Carbon Innovation Group – where FL, Tom Delay and David Clark decided that their underlings should meet regularly and give them things to agree in their quarterly summits. I mean meetings. This initial LCIG recognised the need for clear and unambiguous communications about the different but complementary organisational goals – this led to the shared website (see - http://www.lowcarboninnovation.co.uk/). When DECC got pilloried for not understanding what was going on, they decided to join the LCIG and the meetings since have been the three original members (plus the EPSRC who also got “joined” at the same time) all telling DECC that they don’t get it and should stop trying to use policy to manufacture supporting evidence!!
By way of contrast, my next task was to go down to Canterbury and talk about innovation at the University of Kent. This had come about because of the Inside Government talk I had given in February – it seems that there were a lot of Technology Transfer Officers from universities in the audience and the one from Kent got Julia Goodfellow to invite me (or do I mean summon me?) down to Kent. The sandwiches before weren’t that good, but it did give me the opportunity to realise that the audience was a lot broader than I usually talk to – there were philosophers and artists in the mix!! The talk was my standard introductory one but the questions lasted almost 45 minutes and were very good quality – they didn’t ask for clarification of any of the points I had made in the talk but rather built on the ideas and outline strategy. It was only 45 minutes later, while I was on the very nice, modern and air-conditioned train back to London that they posted a blog capturing the main points they had heard – see http://fundermental.blogspot.com/2011/07/tsb-whats-it-all-about.html.
Back in London, the UKTI dudes I was going to see for dinner bailed out but I got an invitation from Michael Wolff to join him and Julia Cassim (see – http://www.hhc.rca.ac.uk/216/all/1/julia-cassim.aspx) for dinner. It is always a bit humbling to meet people who are obviously really good teachers, and that fact that Julia can excel in the UK, Serbia, Bosnia, Singapore and Japan raised the humility level to maximum! Michael gave me a copy of The Specialist by Charles Sale as a good example of used centred design (see – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Specialist-Charles-Sale/dp/0285632264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310230598&sr=1-1). I’m still chucking!
Wednesday saw an early start to get down to Swindon for the actual visit by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. Transport Man and Ageing Boy were to be “run into” to give them a feel of what real people do, and then we retired to a meeting room to run through a curiously format-jumbled presentation by FL. We obviously talked about TICs’, including the name, and there was a discussion on how we chose priorities! They asked all the right questions in response. At the end they asked about Shared Services. Showing a command of the straight bat that suggests he has some English ancestry, FL told them we used SSC when appropriate but that handing over the interaction with businesses would be like putting a damp proof course between us. Nice metaphor and they seemed to like it too!
After a time spent productively catching up with “stuff”, it was time for the inaugural meeting of the External Strategic Communications Project Group. We went through the draft charter and discussed all manner of things. Most on the group see communications going way beyond the specific work of the Communications Group but were a little bit critical of our web site.
Next up I had a PDR with Digital Man, a quick chat with Strategy Man and then escaped down to London to rendezvous with Cyrus. The train was delayed because they were apparently still cleaning up Burnham station after someone had ignored the advice to stay behind the yellow line when trains passed, so I found Cyrus in the bar! He was changing into a dinner jacket in my room after a day with NaREC!! We then went off to the RenewableUK first (and last) Summer Dinner. Considering I know a few people I this field, I knew virtually no-one at the dinner – aside from David Clark and Bernie Bulkin (who was there in is “government” role). At the table, I was billed as the RenewableUK Mystery Guest, so amused myself by playing 20 questions along the “what’s my line” route to pass the time. The most fun was understanding Ofgem from the young woman on my right! Vince Cable’s speech was pretty dire but he did talk about TICs without mentioning us and Project Fujin – also without mentioning us for which we were very grateful!
Thursday saw an early(ish) trek out to the Design Museum to (first) meet up with Healthcare Man, TIC Boy, Ageing Boy and Jonne Cesarani to discuss the Cell Therapy TIC workshop – to be held next week! We talked through the basic structure we were looking for, the niceties of interaction we anticipated and how we would deal with some of the potential threats to us achieving a “good” output.
The reason I was actually at the Design Museum was that I had been told by our resident nurse that I was to be part of the judging panel for Keeping Connected (see – http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/our-work/challenges/Design-Challenges-for-schools/KeepingConnectedDesignChallenge-2011/). The event was a revelation in many ways. The first was the confirmation that the Design Council just “does” events well and we should learn from them. The second was that the pairing of Jackie with Michael Wolff (who is the RCA and UK Government’s Inclusive Design Champion) is awesome. The third took more time! The first school to present was from Govan and their idea was an integrated communications tool that helped the older adult interact with the world. They chose to explain it with a short play, but were obviously nervous and spoke too quietly. The second school was from Stoke Newington, and their idea was a school based club for older adults to work alongside the children. They had researched what older adults wanted by asking their own grandparents, prioritised and looked for capability to deliver and realised their own school resources weren’t used in the evenings, so negotiated with the school to use them! They even had a brand name – Enrich. Third up was Farnham Heath End. They too had done their research, but used a local older adults home as their source. They had put together a mobility club that they called “Strolling and Rolling”. They had even researched potential local business sponsorship. The presentation was given by 2 young girls – one was comfortable on stage, but the other froze early in her part of the presentation. With the room willing her on, she stared at her notes and made it through – getting a round of applause for having stuck at it!! The fourth school was Essa Academy from Bolton. They had also made the “schools have resources” connection but were providing basic computer lessons for older adults after school. The final school was Hope Valley and their idea was a “satnav” system for supermarkets to enable older adults to find things more easily and not get lost. Over lunch, the judges retired to the Blueprint Café downstairs – very nice too – to discuss their thoughts. The order was mostly agreed and the winner unanimous. Upstairs, we gave feedback to all of the schools before I got the honour of opening the envelope and announcing the winner. It was Stoke Newington School and 14 young girls came on stage squealing like, um, er, young girls. I got hugged a couple, of time and they all cried – all for £5000 and the thrill of winning. It was not a little humbling (again this week, what is going one, am I developing a sense of perspective?).
My pre-booked tax I was late but I made it back to the hotel late but a few minutes ahead of my next appointee – Sherry Coutu. Sherry and I had kept meeting fleetingly in all sorts of places and she had suggested a proper catch-up, so this was it – over a cream tea. We discussed what the Technology Strategy Board was doing (she professed herself a little confused by what she had heard and seen), talked specifically about the TechCity LaunchPad (which she contrasted with the Innovation LaunchPad, which is a lot better than it’s publicity) and she pitched for our involvement/sponsorship of Silicon Valley comes to the UK this Fall. I told her we didn’t usually sponsor things because we were trying to put the money into companies, but the Appathon she was suggesting cuts right across the role of LinkedGov, which we have been supporting, so I suggested a hook-up here instead. That got us into a discussion of whether and who might be extracting value from “government data” and we agreed that having a competition based on real market needs might be a nice development. This means that our first step would be to find a mechanism to ask real people what they would like to know, then work towards the development of apps than answer those needs. We agree that we would put the two teams in touch with one another with this challenge and enjoyed the scones! Digital Man just got another opportunity!!
After another short catch-up it was off to TechHub for their birthday party – and the formal announcement to the community of our doubling of the money in the LaunchPad. I was supposed to go on to the LWEC Business Advisory Board dinner, but texted Sustainability Man to warn him that I might be later than I planned. That turned out to be a sensible precaution! The party started slow but built and the announcements were not until gone 8.30. Elizabeth called the, by now heaving, mob to attention and I told them the entry to the LaunchPad was of such his quality that we had no option but to put more money into it – and thanked them for helping us develop the model. There are pictures of me wearing a tie to do this!! Mike Butcher then told the story of how TechHub came into existence and, using his infamy, took lots of pictures of him and women (see – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150322451371041.402953.685486040&l=ed66342d67 if you don’t believe me!) Afterwards people kept coming up to me and telling how good the LaunchPad was – mostly because they had been successful in the first round. I met up with Ben Rooney (who claims he has the story from our meeting), Anil Hansjee (who promised (and has delivered) on opening the door to invite Eric Schmidt to speak at Innovate)) and many of the loud voices in the Tech City scene, As Number 47, I appear to be worth talking to! I noted Digital Man engaged in several heavy-duty discussions and the Media Dominatrix working the room in her inimitable manner. I think she told me that there were still some in the room that think our £2m is a drop I the ocean and that we aren’t trying hard enough, but the room was quiet loud by then. By the time I left I was a little sweaty and wondering how they would all feel the next morning!!
The next morning, I felt okay, so went up and joined the LWEC BAB Meeting proper. I got there in time to hear Andrew Watkinson talk about Ecosystems Services. He got the level wrong and kept too high level, so didn’t get the engagement we were looking for. It is an important area and the discussion was informed and useful, but I do wonder if the LWEC leaders actually listen to this sort of thing when it goes against what they want to do. They have this child-like belief that writing to Caroline Spelman will somehow make the world a better place!
Next came Mary Barkham, who seems to have been brought in to make things more quantitative but is obviously not finding lots of data on which to base the answers to the sort of hard question the BAB are asking. I had to leave before Sustainability Man gave his “Future Cities” talk, but I did get nobbled by Richard Archer asking questions abut the Cell Therapy TIC.
The reason I had to leave early was to take part in another “meet the journalist” event, this time a lunch with Mike Kenward (see – http://www.kenward.eu/), John Pullin (see – http://www.johnpullin.com/index2.html) and Joanna Higgins (see – http://www.linkedin.com/pub/joanna-higgins/0/52a/7b2) . I was chaperoned by the Media Dominatrix herself, whose role was to make sure I remained discrete (I ask you, how could anyone doubt my discretion?). It was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours and MD took copious notes and promised follow up. For my part, I realised there is a vibrant, and not a little catty, scene where journalists comment on one another and think that MD was getting some interesting scuttlebutt on others that we talk to.
I missed the train I had a seat on, but instead caught what I now know (thanks to twitter and Richard Kemp-Harper) is the last off-peak train. It was sweaty and crowded but I got one of the last jump seats, so at least sat down on the way back to Swindon.