La semana breve
09 June 2022 by David Bott
Given that the nice Mrs Windsor had given us an extra days holiday and that I could now take time off, I decided to add another day to her gift to make it a 5 day weekend – and so missed the “start the short week” meeting on Wednesday. Instead, I started my week on Thursday to a gratifyingly empty car park and the ability to use one of those desks reserved for those based in Swindon! One of my first tasks was to be interviewed by Elizabeth Gibney (see – http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/biography.asp?contact=171), ex of Research Fortnight and now with the Times Higher Education (think of a move from the Wroughton Gazette to the Daily Planet) about the announcement of the Fraunhofer at Strathclyde. Media Woman sat in to make sure I didn’t say that it didn’t even represent Scotland (complaints from Edinburgh) or that it was an irrelevance to our plans for the Catapults and I had to be polite and supportive. Hasn’t reached virtual print yet, so the 10 o’clock deadline was maybe an exaggeration?
I then had a pleasant discussion with Manufacturing Man, which was billed as a PDR but was much more useful! After a catch up with Jools to make sure I go to the right places whilst she is on holiday next week, it was time for a meeting about Catapult communications – except that Catapult Communications Man was on holiday so I got to talk to Catapult Media Boy – about an article he had written “for me” for the Public Service Review (see – http://www.publicservice.co.uk/ and Google it for their attempts to get people to pay for articles!) It started well, but the growing habit of mashing up previous paragraphs sometimes garbles the message and it needs a rewrite! He also asked if I would do a short piece with the Telegraph (and whilst they may support the politics of my parents, they are at least credible!) to follow up discussion with them about Space.
I caught the train down to London and got into the hotel to be told that FL had arrived about 30 minutes earlier – and very wet! By the time I had checked in on FourSquare and made it to my room, I got a text that said simply “…In bar!”. We were due to meet Sir Mark Walport (Director of the Wellcome Trust – http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Organisation/Governance/Executive-Board/index.htm and a new entry at number 17 in the Wired 100) and had decided to “have a plan”. I carried with me Healthcare Man’s briefing note that told us the Wellcome had twice as much money as we did, liked to diss MRC and do as they wanted and would probably treat us with indifference/mild curiosity! We talked a bit about the dinner and other issues and then caught a taxi across town. The traffic was heavy and it was obvious that we were going to be late but that neither of us had Marks’ phone number. As it was, we were 10 minutes late but Mark was affable. Our plan, which was to ignore work and approach the meeting as a more social “get to know you” event started when FL (using a trick well known to psychologists and those on the pull) asked about how Mark had got to such an important position. After a brief and self-effacing description of his career, Mark asked us the same question. This led to a series of shared experiences, some sharing of mutual acquaintances and another bottle of wine. We then talked about support for innovation and how the Wellcome effectively has both the MRC and our Healthcare activities under the same organisation, but since that wasn’t going to happen, we all needed to work together. By the end of the dinner, it was Mark suggesting that we ought to run a joint competition, probably on Open Data as it relates to Healthcare. It is scary and probably won’t happen again, but the truth was that we had played out our plan to get to where we wanted – there is, sadly, no doubt that preparation helps!
The next morning I was lazy and got back to Swindon around 10.40, read some e-mails and did the Telegraph interview on Space – using both the Q&A Catapult Media Boy had given me and the remarkably useful “Space and the Technology Strategy Board” document in the Press Resources section of our website (see – http://www.innovateuk.org/news-media/press-centre/press-resources.ashx). Once again, I look forward to seeing what comes out.
Then it was a Funders Panel for the Water Security Feasibility Studies. We had co-funding from DEFRA and the EPSRC and NERC so we toned down the usual knockabout interactive style in favour of something more measured – no, really, we behaved well! There was an interesting problem in that one assessor seemed to have gone off the rails and given what was otherwise a promising project 1 out 10 across the board. After a spirited debate about why he might have done this, with some insightful comments from our NERC representative (the assessor was an academic) we approved it along with 9 (I think) other projects.
Then it was a PRP with Development Man, who was a bit under the weather and a pair of disappointing interviews for the Biosciences slots on Technology Woman’s Team. One was from the BBSRC and the other from the Biosciences KTN – and neither had any industrial experience!!
After a few more conversations around the office, it was time to end a pleasantly short week.