Meeting the priests of Delphi

The first half of last week was largely taken up with moving into our new office. It was not a big move, just one wing over within North Star House, but it gave us the opportunity to design our own working space. The team handling the rapid set-up of the Technology Strategy Board as an agency “at arm’s length” from Government had specified rather a call centre style of layout, which had soon been found wanting and was becoming tight on space. We assembled an internal team, added an imaginative designer, and have something that fits our way of working.  Monday and Tuesday were a blur of meetings and finding things, avoiding crates and the workers who were sorting out the last minute details.

The main external interaction of the early week was with Oracle. We had been inviting various people from Oracle to our corporate events for a year of so, but it seems they didn’t understand what we did and therefore didn’t think we were relevant to them so it hadn’t gone that far. Then, last November, by a series of coincidences and quaternary networking connections, a few of us found ourselves at the Oracle HQ in London helping launch WebMission 09. We ended up having dinner with a few of the Oracle team and Polecat, who had organised our involvement in WebMisson, and both organisations realised that they had been missing an opportunity.

We got an amazing insight into the way Oracle thinks. Every time I have seen an Oracle person talk, they point out that Larry Elllison didn’t actually invent the original technology, he saw what an IBM researcher had done – and published – and realised the commercial potential. They continue to push to understand and implement what their (current and potential) customers need. They explained the way they were evolving a system to harness the innovation of their employees. To do this they have developed a series of interactive databases that capture, analyse, categorise and communicate both the challenges and capabilities of their own people, and those “collected” through interaction with their customer base. They work with “partners” – they have a series of programmes that support small companies to develop their ideas. This is not altruism. The ideas are in the business areas that Oracle is targeting and the delivery is usually based on an underpinning Oracle database.  Thus they get revenue through licensing.  It was their search for new partners that got them into WebMission, the London Technology Fund and Seedcamp. Finally, they work with customers to develop innovative solutions to their (usually larger) problems. Again, their logic is firmly rooted in business. The better articulated challenges are usually someone else’s unmet need!

In exchange, we talked about our programmes in building capability in technology areas, seeking to understand the needs of markets where UK companies could compete globally and leveraging Government action to implement policy in our Innovation Platforms. After a couple of hours, trains and other appointments brought the discussion to a close, with a commitment to meet again and find a way to work together.


Last updated on Friday 24 February 2012 at 10:31

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