Iain Gray - 13 Jan 2009

This regular spot is designed to give you an insight into what I'm up to, what's on my agenda, and my perspective on the business of innovation.

A New Year

Last week began for me in our Swindon head office, with internal reviews and preparing for the forthcoming Board meeting. Our  main theme continues to be how important it is to invest during this downturn - and the role we must play in building businesses' confidence to ensure continued investment, while recognising the difficulties and the changed priorities.

On Tuesday I met Steve Elliott, the Chief Executive of the Chemical Industries Association (http://www.cia.org.uk/newsite/ ) to chat about their relationship with the Technology Strategy Board and their views on what we should be doing in this sector. Steve gave me some useful background on the issues the sector faces and reinforced his full support of our Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network.

The next day I had  discussions with a number of small businesses and organizations including Maxine Horn, Chief Executive of British Design Innovation (BDI - www.britishdesigninnovation.org ). She was keen to see how BDI members could engage better with the Technology Strategy Board, and took me through the Open Innovation challenge piece of work which BDI had done with NESTA and P&G. I also met with USP2, represented by Chairman Chris Price and Director Prof. Paul Shore. This is one of the first Integrated Knowledge Centres and is focused around ‘ultra precision and structured surfaces' (http://www.ups2.co.uk/ ). Their technology capability is very impressive.

This was followed by a meeting with Steve Cliffe, CEO of semiconductor design business Xintronix, one of several in the Swindon-Bristol corridor (http://www.xintronix.co.uk/). I had met Steve briefly at the NMI dinner and suggested he call in for a discussion about the state of affairs in the UK semiconductor business. His primary concern was that traditional funding for businesses, which still require reasonable capital investment to see product to market, had dried up and that some alternative form of support was required. We  highlighted our technical strategy in this area and the upcoming Photonics21 competition.

Thursday saw me on an early morning train to meet with Carbon Trust and ETI to ensure we have good coordination across our organisations. From there to the London Business School  (http://www.london.edu/) , to see Steve Currall, Vice Dean of Enterprise, Professor and Head of Department of Management Science and Innovation. We explained the background to our Connect and Catalyse strategy and discussed research LBS has been doing in areas such as metrics, particularly around the impact of networks.

The day ended talking to the R&D leaders of the UK automotive sector, in the context of our Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform. The immediate priority for virtually all automotive companies is survival - Nissan's announcement at 3 o'clock of 1200 job losses was the prelude to the meeting. But industry is also looking to the future and has started to pull together a single National Automotive Technology plan  which we will use as the basis for future R&D focus  and which I believe, handled properly, can provide a sound basis for protecting future capability here in the UK.  

The week closed in Swindon, meeting Roger Gardner, Chief Executive of Omega (http://www.omega.mmu.ac.uk/). A university partnership set up with funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund to establish the facts about aviation and the environment, Omega will present its findings at the beginning of March.

Last week confirmed my overriding impression - that now, more than ever, communication and dialogue are critical in helping the UK to weather the downturn and build a future as a global innovation leader.


Last updated on Friday 24 February 2012 at 10:38

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