I've taken over this Blog and am hoping to be able to be disciplined to regularly write content for it. Already my resolve is slipping....oohhh a bee....*wanders off*
This week we've been enjoying our yoga and learning more about XBRL, the new language that Her Majesty's Government have concluded we all need to adopt to help them control us financially. And personally I have been enjoying building real fires, and wondering why the electronic hearth has been such a draw this year!
Yoga is a lifelong discipline which helps you to breathe better, stand better and generally improve your self-esteem. Basically if you stand up straight and breathe well, things don't feel so bad, whereas if you are all hunched up and unable to move you feel down. It is quite low impact, so you can do it pretty much as easily as an 80 year old as a 5 year old. It does however require considerable ability to handle pain, because you wind up stretching all those tendons and muscles that you had forgotten about in the relentless pursuit of the next financial target or technical release. It is no surprise that it is very popular with entrepreneurs on the West Coast of the United States, a group of individuals blessed with busy work and social lives, relentless desire for self-improvement, and unbelievably high pain thresholds. It is a bit of a strange activity for a networking organization to lay on, because you aren't allowed to talk to anybody during the class and showing off will just get you a harder position (think about all the bits in Officer and a Gentleman where the poor chap has to do press-ups in the rain etc. Well, apart from the uniforms, the rain and the chap shouting a lot, yoga can get about as macho ;-) ). But given that our friends in IdeaSpace thought it would be a nice activity for their entrepreneurs too, we decided to lay on classes every Tuesday lunchtime in the Hauser Forum. We've got a great West Coast yoga instructor, Pilar Carrilo, and the class is already up to 7 people. So come on down - if you think you can take it!
Financial returns are an occupational hazard of being a small business. In their relentless pursuit of administrative efficiency savings to keep taxes down for UK taxpayers, Her Majesty's Government have decided that from 1 April 2011, UK corporation tax returns for accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010 must be filed online. This includes tax computations and statutory accounts. Even more fun, they must be filed using XBRL, a computer readable reporting language especially suited to financial data. The problem facing many companies is that they don't currently have the capability to produce financial statements in the required XBRL format. In order to comply with this HM Revenue & Customs mandate there are likely to be substantial systems and process changes required, all of which have the potential to increase compliance costs significantly. So it was lovely to get the Entrepreneurship SIG group together with friends from Ernst & Young to learn how to minimise the cost of this new compliance cost. Cambridge Network started as a self-help group for small businesses, and this is exactly the kind of practical support we are delighted to be able to offer within the community.
Lastly, I have been reflecting a lot on the joy of real fires. This year, my first activity on waking has been to pick up my mobile phone, check e-mail on a couple of different services and then see what is happening with social media on two or three more. Then I'll power up the PC and start writing my own contributions to the chit-chat that makes up the backdrop to network activity, drawing on cloud-based data sources like our own website (e.g. what audience is coming to event X) or Google (e.g. where else is this concept described in more detail that I can just link to). So this week I have tried not switching on my mobile phone, not powering up my computer, but just cleaning out last night's fire and starting a new one, and generally tidying up around the house, before going out for a run and doing some yoga. I have noticed a few changes, aside from just not tripping over stuff so often. When I finally DO hit the e-mail, I am less irritable because things are right at home. For me, this has been a good change. While Cambridge ideas are key part of the electronic hearth that is increasingly dominating homes around the world, I think we do best to keep that stuff for working hours.
Look forward to seeing you again soon in the hectic routine of Christmas parties - and hearing what YOU learned this year and how that is going to help you change the world better next! ;-)
This week of snow has been a great one for me, with some truly chilled out events put on by good friends. On Monday, Gerald Avison of TTP got a fun crowd together (including Peter Taylor of TTP, Simon Galbraith of Red Gate and Robert Marshall of Marshall of Cambridge among others) so Terry Waite could inspire us to work with Emmaus, his favorite charity. And last night I got together with other McKinsey Business Technology Office alumni to talk about the state of the UK and what to do next.
Terry Waite is a giant. He stands about 9 foot tall and has big hands to match. So when he came over to talk to us after his presentation, I felt a little intimidated. I mean, what do you say to someone who is practically a saint? This guy was kidnapped, tortured, kept in solitary for 4 years, moved from place to place wrapped in masking tape (I guess his captors were intimidated too ;-) ) and chucked in a car boot or a pipe under a lorry, and finally released after many of his fellow captives had been summarily executed. He bears little rancour to the folk who did this stuff to him, and certainly has a good sense of humour about it all. When chucked in a car boot with John McCarthy, he managed to get the masking tape off his mouth to utter the first words he had spoken to someone who wasn't pointing a gun at him in 4 years:
Waite "Gosh, there isn't much room in here, is there?"
McCarthy "It was just fine until they chucked you in!"
I mean, you couldn't make that stuff up, could you? He was there that night to remind us all of another group in solitary, the down-and-outs in Cambridge and other successful thriving towns. His address reminded me of George Orwell's own tales of tramps, this saint-like preoccupation with the excluded and the marginalized. Gerald Avison brought us back to the commercial reality of the situation - investing in Emmaus saves us all money. Petty crime, civil unrest and all the other minor irritations which go with leaving folk on the street to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs cost everybody too much. Recalling our homeless to hope just makes commercial sense. Gerald has certainly put his own money where his mouth is - as Terry helpfuly pointed out (to Gerald's embarrassment ;-) ) he has put in quarter of a million to Emmaus personally so far. With such amazing sponsors, no wonder Emmaus is growing like blitz across the UK, setting up new communities based on the template piloted in Cambridge. Really great to see some French ideas, imported through Cambridge originally, changing the rest of the UK.
Last night I skidded and shivered my way cycling down to Parliament Square for a McKinsey Business Technology Office reunion. Before you start with the consultant jokes, I co-founded McKinsey BTO London back in 1996 and I am very happy to see them growing so well here, having served major bluechips around most of the developing world. But I am obviously delighted to receive any NEW consultant jokes as comments on the blog ;-) We had a presentation from the McKinsey Global Institute, their version of R&D. Frankly I thought it was a bit lame - for instance, they looked at GVA by region and concluded that London adds most value (whereas it just goes right ahead and consumes it too - unsurprisingly given that all our taxes get spent from there). They hadn't done any analysis of exports by region, which is far more interesting given how badly the UK needs dollars, and which shows that even in the boom years London financiers weren't as important as the South East. An even more interesting analysis would be what the actual margin and British content of those exports is. I mean, the North East may be assembling great cars for the Japanese and shipping them all over Europe, but it hardly leaves huge amounts of margin or creates a great culture for our brilliant graduates to build British products. I heckled a lot, as did my old boss David Bennett (who used to run UK domestic for Tony Blair) and Petri Allas (who is pretty cool himself, but whose wife Tera is even cooler having just taken over as Chief Economist for BIS working with Vince Cable).
The presenters gave as good as they got, so everyone was happy. In particular, my old mate Paul Wilmott (once a lowly associate, now a Director leading the practice - time flies when you are having fun) came out with the bold statement that McKinsey would love to come and share what they had learned about embedded software with the Cambridge cluster. That sounds like fun, because they really are active in a lot of developing markets and will have an insight into the business case for embedded that we may not know. Besides, it will be fun to hear from a DIFFERENT mafia for a change!
So another great week in this amazing town and associated capital cities ;-) Hope you've all been having fun in the snow too - and keeping those Cambridge ideas changing the world!
This week has been hectic as the Local Enterprise Partnership and Technology & Innovation Centres initiatives get underway and we speak up for the Cambridge high tech cluster in the new political order.
On Tuesday night we had a meeting to discuss the future of Policy research locally, to try to create an equivalent to our wonderful Silicon Fen called Policy Fen. All day Wednesday we facilitated sessions with local counsellors and businesses from Peterborough, Kings Lynn, Huntingdon and Cambridge to establish priorities for investments we need to bring jobs and economic growth to the sub-region. And today we met with AstraZeneca (Medimmune), John Innes (Norwich), Genzyme, Goodman (Colworth, Harwell), GSK (Stevenage), Marshall of Cambridge, Microsoft Research, TWI, and Unilever to co-ordinate our bids for Technology & Innovation Centres to drive skills and export growth for the UK from our region.
Andrew Herbert (Microsoft Research), Ken Wood (Microsoft Research), Roger Leech (Unilever), Sue Dunkerton (TWI), Pete McDonnell (Genzyme), Henk Koopmans (EEDA), Rob Cooke (GSK), Sally Ann Forsyth (Goodman), Jane Osbourn (AstraZeneca (Medimmune)), Lucy Kemp (EEDA), Jon Green (AstraZeneca (Medimmune)), Cathy Prescott (Biolatris), Jeanette Walker (lets cell it), Matt Schofield (Cambridge Network), Alan Giles (John Innes), Sir Michael Marshall (Marshalls of Cambridge), Hermann Hauser (Amadeus), John Cummins (visiting researcher University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing)
Hermann started by pointing out that units like Bell Labs are in short supply in the UK. They invented the transistor and the mobile phone, yet AT&T closed their equivalent unit in Cambridge in 2002 (despite it having created the broadband mobile phone, RealVNC, Ubisense, and Virata and having made 100s of its former employees millionaires). Hermann quickly corrected himself to say that translation labs are dead in UK aside from Microsoft Research, whose Chairman EMEA was hosting. "Yes, I am the last of the racing dinosaurs!" responded Andy Herbert, modestly ;~)
I learned later from Andy that it takes about £20M p.a. to run a unit like his, and that may explain why we don't have many in the UK now. R&D is mostly done in the homeland, since most multinationals are led by nationals of their original country (Anglo-Dutch organizations like Shell, Unilever are notable exceptions to this general rule). We have very few native organizations left that lead R&D in their sectors globally - except for a few pharmaceuticals (AstraZeneca, GSK, Pfizer...) energy (BP, Shell...) and defence players (BAE,...). Andy is probably the most influential chap in Microsoft who is not a US citizen, but there are few other US R&D giants who are convinced to value Britain that highly (respect to Bill Gates for bucking the trend, but as we all know he is a thoroughly charitable soul). As "national champions" like BT are cutting back on centres like AdAstral Park, we shouldn't be surprised that overseas investors like Alcatel Lucent do the same with their units here. We have to show how R&D done here in the UK changes global products if we want this kind of work.
So why now? Hauser thinks there is too much time wasted after discovery, and we are going to lose our key innovators to countries like Germany that give Spitzencluster subsidies to attract this kind of work. We have many subcritical units due to regional governments with overlapping ambitions and no real world-class research lead. The UK has 22 centres for nanotechnology, when we should have 2. Technology and Innovation Centres will only be one of many potential levers, the most effective of which is government's buying power. Hermann thinks procurement by DARPA created Silicon Valley. Actually, I've read academic papers which say that DARPA and DOD funding is a very good predictor globally of hi tech activity, and explains 85% of hi tech clusters. So much for something in the water in Cambridge ;-) We just happened to be the unsinkable aircraft carrier for the US Army bombers to take off from in the last war. So let's head down to the Eagle and toast the Yanks, Canucks and other boys who flew all those years ago. Hauser thinks UK plc should give £200m (0.1% of government procurement spend) to TSB to do best value for money procurement over 10 year timescale - rather than just buying the cheapest thing available each time.
Our Maxwell centres will be different from the Fraunhofers in Germany, where industry is dominated by automotive. German heavy industry contrasts strongly with our service-oriented economy. They have maintained it very well, while we have exited industry after industry as Asian competitors became stronger. They recovered miraculously from the last war: despite our conflict in the air, assisted by the Yanks, Canucks and even the plundering Russkies, most of the German plant (80%) and particularly the machine tools industry (93.5%) remained intact. Their success in rebuilding so quickly drove Europe's quick recovery under the more comforting rain of Marshall Plan goods from 1947-1951 (30% increase in European GDP) which provided 14% of the income of Hermann's Austrian homeland at that time. (Read "Postwar" by Judt if you want to understand our current state). But clearly Anglo-Saxon commercial values differ from German industrial philosophy, and so our Maxwells should match our style.
The key thing is to have 2 or 3 industrial backers for each Maxwell centre. If income is roughly 40% government, 30% academic and 30% industrial we need £6M p.a. in industry income for each Maxwell/Technology Innovation Centre we want to create. Even if Cambridge has brilliantly distinctive ideas, unless we can show a way to turn those into industry income quickly they should stay as research projects. That is our next job. If anybody has a lead to major industrial customers who will want to buy the Cambridge ideas that should be changing the world in 10 years - we'd love to hear!! ;-)
PS We did also have a really good Healthcare event in the Addenbrookes Board Room on Health records, privacy and social networks too. Lots of nice members turned out and stayed around to chat (healthUnlocked, Judge, Linguamatics, Mills & Reeve, Napp, NHS, PA, Patients Know Best, PHG, Philips, Sagentia, University of Cambridge, Wellcome Trust Sanger etc) and we had fun. Its been hectic, as I said above ;-)
PPS We do know a few organizations through having run the Corporate Gateway over the years. Below some folk we will be chasing up - but obviously warm leads in these places are also very welcome:
De La Rue
Giesecke & Devrient
ICI Image Data
Procter & Gamble
Rohde & Schwarz
Smith & Nephew
World Energy Solutions
Last Friday saw the high tech community of Cambridge full tilt, big people giving it up for the little people. The BBC Children in Need charity is a worthy cause, and 200+ teams came to the Science Park in its glorious 40th year to show that we care by running for Fun.
The great advantage of running in full costume is that nobody can recognize who you are. We took exploited our anonymity and sang songs like "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf", "How much is that piggy in the window?" and "I don't know but I've been told, piggy wings are made of gold; I don't know but its been said, wolfy wings are made of lead". Now the truth can be told. It was us ;-)
Giddens wrote about ontological security. Ontology is "the branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature of being", and what he observed is that human beings want to be secure, and to know how they fit into society. In some cases, this leads to some pretty wierd behaviour. For example, the US "war on terror" makes people in the United States feel more secure (thanks to Noa Epstein for this brilliant analysis). Soldiers are soldiers by virtue of defending their state from enemies. in 9-11 Al Quaeda really shocked the US because they showed that tens of fanatics armed with box-cutters could burn out an iconic downtown city of a nation whose military budget (2005) is larger than the next 20 biggest spenders combined and six times bigger than China's. Al Quaeda assert a Califate which threatens all nation states, and the United States is all about statehood and having everyone live inside their own state free and secure. And they exploited precisely the liberties that the modern US provides their citizens - easy access to travel over huge distances, private communications through the internet etc - to deliver a message that whatever was happening in the homelands of those fanatics could also happen in downtown Manhattan. That prospects terrifies me too. But the US turned to familiar routines to reestablish a feeling of security. WW1 was "the war to end wars". When that didn't work, they tried a "war on poverty". And then a "war on drugs". And now we have a similarly interminable "war on terror".
Source: Wikipedia. Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell
Fortunately, human society has also organized some other useful routines for dealing with people you disagree with. Spring cleaning is mirrored by a set of rituals of reconciliation in the major world religions at this time of year. Few of our ancestors can have been confident of making it through the winter. Reconciling yourself with estranged social contacts who you might never see again before winter really set in must have been useful for society. So we have Yom Kippur, Eid ul-Fitr, All Souls, Thanksgiving, Anti-Bullying Week, and the glorious Cambridge Fun Run.
When a wolf wanders into your reception demanding money, what do you do?
Well, if you are Brian Moon you put your hand in your own pocket and donate £500 to honour the 50th anniversary of Cambridge Consultants and the 40th Anniversary of the Cambridge Science Park. What ontological security did Brian gain from doing this? Only he knows the routine he was honouring when, taken completely surprised, in a moment of truth, he put his hand to his company chequebook and made a huge contribution to the welfare of children who could never possibly affect his own bottom line.
Respect, Brian! Now, when a wolf walks into YOUR reception, what are YOU going to do?
And if no wolf walks into your reception, why don't you go to the Cambridge Fun Run website and donate? Because no matter how big you've got, it is time to give it up for the little people. So Cambridge ideas can continue to change the world once you've got done leading technology and innovation and want to hand on the torch to fresh legs and eager hands.
In Cambridge, content is king. Scruffy academics in macs vie with gawky geeks in dayglo cycle shorts for the prize of the most unlikely person to change the world - until they open their mouth and start explaining their idea.
Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
"You that are simple, turn in here!"
To those without sense she says,
"Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight."
Fortunately, we have a brilliantly well-presented team of ladies organizing events here in Cambridge Network, who wisely do all those things that make meetings rather more effective. Stuff like putting up events a good time in advance on a website that receives 7,000 visitors and hands out 50,000 page views a day. Stuff like chasing speakers for presentations and getting them up in PDF form on the web page of the event in case anyone wants to tweet about it and link to some real content. Stuff like making sure that there are refreshments and a good list of attendees with their interests in the particular topic being discussed nicely laid out. Stuff that most other organizations just don't do.
Head of the team is Louise Rushworth. Louise holds the forward schedule for the next year or so - our Special Interest Groups are mostly planned through 2011 now. She did a brilliant job last Friday of taking new and prospective members through the upcoming schedule, a group of around 45 people from Audio Analytic, Badenoch and Clark, CADStudios, Creactive Design, Encocam, Enterprise Consulting, Evolve Organisation Development, Fenners Chambers, Ideas by Eden, Judge Business School, Medical Research Council, Metail, NHS East of England, NW Brown Group, Obsidian Consulting LLP, Orion Automation, PraxisUnico, Safer Business Associates, SHAZAM Analytics, SJPR, The Inspired Group, University of East Anglia. Louise looks after theSpecial Interest Groups in Defence & Security, Developing World, Entrepreneurship and Open Meetings. Louise organizes lots of other stuff too, like the Corporate Gateway which gives technology scouts and R&D directors 1-to-1 meetings on the topics of their choice over two days with the best and brightest (and nicely presented!) minds in Cambridge.
Emma Southern turned out a great crowd last Wednesday to talk about Business Intelligence. IT and operations experts from Advantage Europe, Andrew Webster, Anglia Business Solutions, AVEVA Solutions, Beacon Computer Technology, Bridge Partners, Cambridge Financial Partners LLP, Contact Edge CRM, Convergys, Craft Way Consulting, Crucible Technology, Elegant Microweb UK, Farmor Quince, GE Energy, Graveley Associates, Itica, Judge Business School, Management Process Systems Limited (MPS), Microsoft Research, Paribus, Risk-Capital Research & Technology, Safer Business Associates, Signify, Softwerx, Synalytic, TTP, Voyage Manager and Zapp. Personally I wound up chatting to the Microsoft Research presenter about the French and Anglo-Saxon innovation systems. He teaches at a Grande Ecole, and talked about how concerned he was about the gap between academia and commerce in France. I cited an ex-Grande Ecole mate who went straight from being Sarcozy's chief of staff to performing the same function for the head of Orange France Telecom, but then we agreed that was probably better described as moving between different government functions. Emma looks after Healthcare, Cleantech, and Sales and Marketing SIGs too.
Lastly, our brilliant young Russian intern, Kate Parashina, did a brilliant job last week of pulling together an audience of around 80 Chinese national students who were interested in hearing about Unilever's plans to expand their Shanghai R&D centre. It was a big help to Kate to listen to Jim Crilly (who heads up Unilever Colworth) because she is working closely with Louise to identify academics and companies who are interested in emerging markets, and many of the issues that Unilever's Chinese researchers need to consider relate to precisely those issues of developing waste handling and redesigning products to be less resource-hungry as emerging consumers rapidly move to being 80% of all consumers by 2020. Again, I found the session fascinating myself - and when the kids were knocking back the Liptons Iced Tea on the weekend I could brag that I had met the man in charge!
Content really IS king in Cambridge. None of these sessions were generalised speed networking sessions for business people to sell low level services to one another. Each of them took months of effort to line up the right speakers, and to get three such sessions out in a single week is a testimony to the effectiveness of our events group. They fulfill our mission of bridging from the Universities to the region, from the region to the world.
Bob Driver (UKTI, Dir Hi Tech), Lynn Gladden (ProVC Research, Cambridge), Hermann Hauser
In Cambridge commerce is mostly just the continuation of academia by other means, to paraphrase von Clausewitz. It was great to eat pizza with Amadeus, Base4, Johnson Matthey, GSK (BioScience Park), Philips Research, TWI, Unilever (Goodman) and the Universities of Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge and East Anglia to discuss what we should be doing about the new Fraunhofer-like Technology and Innovation Centres that the government recently announced.
We were keen get together with friends to think about how to respond to the announcement of this funding in the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20th October. Bob Driver (Director High Technology, UKTI) is familiar to many in the region as the original creator of Technology World. Bob had spoken with colleagues in BIS and established that the Technology Strategy Board would be working with industry, stakeholders, and wider government to identify the priority areas, and the scale of investment required for the network of centres by April 2011. He recommended that we discussed any outline plans we had with the TSB and BIS. A vital aspect was the extent that the Technology and Innovation Centres would enable the UK to exploit large global markets worth (or potentially worth) over £10bn pa; and where the UK has technical leadership. Bids will only have to be submitted in the New Year - so while we are quite right to get our act together, we aren't yet late to market. But, as our friends at Intel say, only the paranoid survive.
It was good to hear from the University and Hermann, the author of the report recommending the development of UK Fraunhofers, and to understand the huge progress that they had made behind the scenes in negotiation with other Universities and with the funding councils.
Dr Hermann Hauser said:
• he is delighted that his original report to Peter Mandelson has been taken up by Vince Cable, who obviously was under no obligation to follow the same policy as his predecessor in BIS;
• The Government recently announced £200m of funding for about 12 centres across the UK. The actual figure that will be available is thought to be nearer £250m;
• There is a a danger that the Government money won’t be allocated to Cambridge as ‘Maxwell’ centres but to other areas in the UK. People made unemployed as universities and public sector employment are cut back in the North East and North West are unlikely to find other local jobs, while our rampant growth (the high tech cluster is growing 10-15% this year) provides many opportunities for similar people here. For humane as well as political reasons, there is a strong desire to send whatever available public funding as far North as possible;
• The Fraunhofer model is that funding for each centre needs to be 33% Government, 33% academia, 34% industry, and the Germans have been opening roughly one centre a year on that basis including recently units in the United States. To quote Wikipedi:
"The so-called Fraunhofer Model has been in existence since 1973 and has led to the Society's continuing growth. Under the model, the Fraunhofer Society earns ca. 60% of its income through contracts with industry or specific government projects. The other 40% of the budget is sourced in the proportion 9:1 from federal and state (Land) government grants and is used to support preparatory research.
Thus the size of the society's budget depends largely on its success in maximizing revenue from commissions. This funding model applies not just to the central society itself but also to the individual institutes. This serves both to drive the realisation of the Fraunhofer Society's strategic direction of becoming a leader in applied research as well as encouraging a flexible, autonomous and entrepreneurial approach to the society's research priorities."
• Rumour has it that certain areas have already been highlighted for Fraunhofer-type units here but it is not finalized yet;
• We feel that Cambridge had a better case than most for the establishment of at least one centre here – we have strong research and effective export-oriented high tech industry delivering many new jobs;
• There is still the opportunity to influence government.
Hermann Hauser, Lynn Gladden (ProVC Research, Cambridge), Steve Battersby (Senior Director Innovation, Philips Research)
Professor Lynn Gladden said
• She is working with Herman to determine the impact/implications of new Fraunhofer-type centres in the region;
• University of Cambridge sees value in the centres;
• Funding might not be an issue even if BIS allocated it's limited funds Northwards - we might possibly use EPSRC funding to support such units;
• We have some key areas of interest:
a. Plastic Electronics would be stronger here than in alternative area of the North East, particularly as the University of Cambridge (with it's spinouts Plastic Logic and Cambridge Display Technology) have a good connection with Imperial College;
b. Stem cells / regenerative medicine;
c. Bioinformatics where we have the European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and successful spinouts such as Illumina (Solexa) and more recently Base4;
• There is definitely time to influence Government. The indications are that the topics (and hence locations) are not a done deal yet but that our case would be stronger if we presented at least two parts of the funding in order ie industry and academia;
• We are reliant on industry collaboration to make these new centres work. It is jolly useful to have pizza for some interested parties organized by Cambridge Network, originally founded by the University for just such a purpose of bridging from the University to the region and from the region to the world. More pizza will be required ;-)
We laid plans with Goodman (who look after science parks at Unilever Colworth and Harwell) for ways to make the Fraunhofers we are all proposing complementary. That really isn't very hard to do. Colworth is located midway between Cambridge and Oxford, and Unilever are already well aware of our ecosystem and what it can contribute.
But there are lots of open questions:
a) Raise industry matched funding. £100m is available from some institutional investors, but we would need to work out a business model that would allow the University to covenant;
b) How much is needed? Hermann says each centre should cost ‘£50-£100m over 10 years’;
c) Do we plan for two centres, one in Physical Sciences and one In Life Sciences, to match our West Cambridge and Biomedical Campus spaces?
Cambridge ideas will continute to change the world if they are easy to pick up and assimilate. Charles Kingsley wrote that fen people are more arrogant than mountain-men because they see nothing around them taller than the buildings their fathers raised. Our new Fraunhofers will engage a new wave of multinationals in our amazing ecosystem, and we imagine they will keep us humble. Would you like to come too?
This week we received inbound missions from Copenhagen, and laid plans for what Cambridge Network should do for the next year to work with the high tech community to tackle the financial crisis for the region.
Copenhagen's City Government was keen to learn how to take their lovely city of a million people, only half an hour's cycle ride from end to end, with more students than Berlin, and make it as innovative as Cambridge. I quoted them Churchill from the dark days when we received some earlier Danish visitors (who was actually quoting Brythwold, receiving yet further Danish visitors in even darker days . It isn't far from Denmark to East Anglia):
As all European nations struggle to adjust the expectations of their citizens to meet the straightened circumstances that misgovernance of financial markets have imposed on us, every region is facing this same challenge: how can we do more with less? Here in Cambridge we heard on Thursday that Vince Cable thinks our Local Enterprise Partnership should try to do just that. So we will be working with our Universities and politicians and other community groups to do the best we can with whatever funding is left. Our Danish friends, drawn from all political parties (they sat with their party comrades, amusingly) are all in the same boat.
Fortunately, in Cambridge we can do a lot. I took them round the Hauser Forum, and we stood looking out from the IdeaSpace, and I told them that a startup or incoming company can be virtually present in Cambridge for a year with desk with a view and access to all our meetings for the cost of £100 for a Cambridge Network Membership and £600 for an IdeaSpace membership (Don't all rush at once. You have to be innovative to get in!). I took them to the Cavendish Laboratory and told them how Hermann Hauser had come here at 15 to study English and wound up founding a series of billion dollar companies here. I walked them down to Robinson College chapel and told them how a boy who left school at 15 could pay for a Chagall window in a college he founded so that other state school boys like me could go to the University of Cambridge. We walked on and looked at the oldest bridge on the river Cam, and talked about Cromwell cutting those bridges to form his New Model Army with Fenland cavalry. I left them at King's College Chapel for evensong, reflecting on how the exiled son of a teenage mother gave his family symbols to Parliament and the English nation.
It is not just the Danes who have taken that walk with us, from the green fields to the glittering spires. In the last year, we've had a lot of new Founder Members (e.g. Ernst & Young, Ipso, NHS, PA, P&G, Unilever...) and 100+ Corporate Members (BP, Domino, FujiFilm, GE Energy, Hitachi, Jagex, Lloyds TSB, Red Bee, Samsung Semi, Samsung Electronics, South Cambridgeshire District, Thales, University of Essex...). A lot of folk want to participate in our cluster, hire away our best people (if you are Chinese and would like to get back to Shanghai in style, we have just the event for you on 9th November) and partner with our innovative organizations.
On Monday, we held a town hall meeting to talk about the Local Enterprise Partnership, very well attended by some of the largest employers (e.g. Addenbrookes, Anglian Water, Marshalls), biggest service providers (e.g. Birketts, Ernst & Young, Mills & Reeve, PWC, Taylor Vinters, TWI) and most significant individual stakeholders (e.g. the Registrary of the University - actually only second to Prince Philip, the Chancellor, in status within the University; the MD of Anglian Water, the largest carbon footprint in the region; many other MDs and CEOs). It proved timely because Vince Cable's announcement leaves many questions unanswered about the transition of regional government. These are serious issues for these individuals. Anglian Water has £1/2BN to spend to reduce the carbon footprint of homes in the region, and nobody to liaise with any more about how to spend it. Addenbrookes is spending £1BN building out a biomedical cluster that will employ 20,000 people and will attract the best biomedical companies in the world, and has nobody to liaise with about the broader regional impact. About the only thing that is clear is that there will be a lot less money, and we will need to find ways to finance ourselves. The LEP itself just a bid team that got lucky, and the Registrary and others volunteered kindly to help sort out our governance structures to legitimise our voice in the community. We're also answering question online through Formspring, but as usual the face-to-face questions brought out the best in this busy group of executives. Again and again the conversation turned to the international reputation of Cambridge and the personal impact of local giants like Professor Sir Richard Friend, whose inspired negotiation with Epson created our local printing cluster.
These Cambridge founders were and are all people just like us. But they had vision, and that is why they left us the legacy of a wonderful, strong, diverse, vibrant city, internationally renowned for learning and innovation. Like Hermann Hauser and unlike David Robinson, most of them were not born here. Without checking my facts (please contradict me) I would guess that none of the other Cambridge Colleges, University Departments or $1BN businesses locally were founded by people born in Cambridge (whoops! There's Abcam, David Cleevely and Jonathan Milner. Knew I'd get caught out). Mostly these people were attracted here by an idea: "Hinc lucem et pocula sacra", the idea of a University that sends out light and sacred winds. Our job in Cambridge Network is to keep more of those people around, so that Cambridge ideas can keep changing the world.
Attendee at the LEP meeting writes:
The Cambridge phenomenon is built on a rich and diverse SME and micro-SME community and the LEP must include proper affirmative action to make sure that this vital community is properly engaged with the process. Support of representative groups like the Chamber and FSB is excellent but there must be direct engagement with our innovative SMEs. For me the LEP concept is not just about getting Local Business's engaged with Local Government it is also about getting SMEs engaged with big business and local government as well. Some thought needs to be given about how SMEs can be encouraged and supported to be able to contribute effectively.
My technical expertise is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) and Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) so I am really enthused about the proposed Innovation Centre. My worry is that it is too focussed on the building industry. Would there be any possibility of a slight refocusing in line with MIT's Sensible City initiative ? One of my close associates in advising this initiative and we would be happy to get engaged in this new initiative.
Former EEDA Board Member who attended LEP meeting:
Ten observations in no order:-
1) If the LEP is to be truly business lead, then the officers MUST NOT come from local government! Their thought processes are (for good reasons) not suitable for a fast flexible low cost operation. Look to the Cambridge Network as an model.
2) If the LEP gets ANY legacy duties or staff from EEDA it will get bad publicity. (Even if I have to do it myself :)
3) The governance (voting) should be on the basis of the NUMBER OF STAFF EMPLOYED in the region, or better the payroll of the staff in the region.
4) With no national investment in infrastructure, the LEP should concentrate on increasing the value added per person in the region, rather than additional net employment. The Cambridge Sub-region in an infrastructure hole and to add workplaces and housing simply digs it deeper. This position should help focus attention of the central government! Doesn't "no one unemployed, and no one on minimum wage" make a great objective!
5) The LEP should have a strategy of recommending specialisations to towns across the region.
Peterborough - High value manufacturing and eco-tech
Huntingdon - Logistics
Kings Lynn - Food
Bury - Agriculture
Bear in mind this is only a recommendation!
6) If the LEP doesn't get the top employers in play, it has failed. Better to have them than any number of SMEs
7) Beware of the people who claim to represent SMEs, They don't! SMEs are too diverse and by definition independently minded! (comment from Matt: surely you can't mean us too! ;-))
8) Beware of Education, it competes with Training. They are different, and currently the UK does precious little of the latter, and desperately need it. The "skills shortage" isn't solved by education!
9) Over the last 20 years the Eastern Region has always been polite and played the governments game, it doesn't work! LEP has to be aggressive. Thus local authorities must be secondary players otherwise they will worry about the impact on government budgets if they were identified with 'anti-government' sentiment.
10) Try to get the elevated section of the A14 weight restricted. That would go some way to improving one piece of local infra-structure.
This week is busy, with inbound missions from Samsung (Korea), Brazilian Army (Brazil), Dow Chemical (Belgium), Nissha (Japan/Germany), Philips (Holland), Reckitt Benckiser (Manchester/Hull. Well, I think that counts as another country these days), Shell (Holland), Solvay (Belgium) and University of Missoura (United States).
On Tuesday afternoon, Samsung hosted a gathering of the best and brightest to think about how electronics can make our daily lives greener. I turned up half an hour late for lunch with the President of Samsung Semiconductor, who is fortunately a very nice man. GEO and ARM were talking too, and it was fun to catch up around the work we are doing with peer-group learning for software leaders, a critical shortfall in the local talent pool as Software As A Service becomes a common element of most of our local technology outfits delivery plans. I suggested one such company to Samsung Ventures, a brand new spinout from the University of Cambridge which can significantly reduce power losses in distribution who we are currently hooking up with Brazilian and Boston-based investors. Then it was off to the event, which was delighted to see was very well attended by companies both within Cambridge and from across the UK.
On Wednesday we welcomed our Open Innovation guests for the Corporate Gateway (sponsored nobly by East of England Inward Investment and Cambridge Science Park and held in the gorgeous new Broers Building - thanks!!!) with a showcase of Cambridge ideas that could change the world. Again I turned up very late. The Brazilian delegation were just such a good crowd and we wound up wandering around Jagex, Owlstone and other outfits in the Science Park and then doing the tour of Cambridge colleges. They may have been humouring me, but they seemed to enjoy all the military connections of the different warlords (and warladies!) who set up the Roundchurch, St Johns, Trinity etc. They're coming back for the Defence and Security event next month. Anyway, I tried to sneak in the back of the lecture theatre and ask a question so people would think I'd been there all the time, but it turned out that having not listened to the lectures it was quite difficult to do so. Memories of falling asleep in class.
Thursday put those academics together with some of our Founders and Open Innovation guests for a black tie dinner: Anglia Ruskin, ARM (COO, EVP HR), Cambridge Science Park (2), Creative Places (2), Dow (3), East of England Inward Investment (3), Ernst & Young (Office Senior Partner), Finmeccanica, Hewitsons (Managing Partner, 1 more), Foreign & Commonwealth Office Boston (Head of Science & Technology), Hitachi Europe, HLBB Shaw, Ipso, Microsoft Research (Chief Research Scientist), PA (Managing Partner, 2 more), Philips (3), Reckitt Benckiser, Sagentia (CEO), Shell (2), Solvay, Taylor Wessing, TTP (Chairman, TTP Ventures), Unilever (3), UKTI (2), University of Cambridge (ProVC Research, Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research) , University of East Anglia etc. The international delegates were groggy after 8 meetings, and with the prospect of another 8 meetings on the Friday, but it is amazing what a few glasses of wine and good company will do for you. The guy opposite me (Doug Crawford-Brown) was pretty sleepy too, having just flown in from visiting a Near East prince to figure out his carbon strategy (I last saw him on Monday at the CSR bash, and he had been continously in the air or in the desert ever since). He'll be moderating the discussion in our next Cleantech SIG event in December. It was nice wine ;-). We also spent time plotting with ARM, Cambridge Science Park and University of Cambridge how to win a couple of Technology Innovation Centres for Cambridge out of the £200M announced by the government on Wednesday (pity Amadeus had an offsite Thursday and couldn't make the party ;-().
Come together, sang John Lennon. It's almost sacrilege to compare our Corporate Gateway, a thoroughly commercial operation, to the hippy ideals of free love that John was promoting. What the hell is a Network CEO who engages with military folk to try to get them to promote dual-use of their technology and beat their swords into ploughshares doing, even daring to put up that link? I'm expecting a lot of folk around Cambridge who lived those days in the 1970s to flame me for it (personally, I was in Manchester at that time. And yes, I did have flares. But I wasn't old enough for a 'tache). But heck, we need to pay the bills and this is all done at less than cost, and in the best possible taste.
So, with pride, we are happy to be Open to Innovation with countries all round the world - so Cambridge ideas can go out and change them too.
Last week we hosted a wonderful seminar on vitality in Consumer products, and this week we have events on Corporate Social Responsibility and Entrepreneurship.
The Health and Vitality debate between P&G, Cambridge Consultants, Sonovia and HealthUnlocked tackled some major issues. Who will consumers trust long term to manage their health? The healthcare providers like NHS East, whose doctors are sworn to do no harm? The major pharmaceutical or drug device providers like Medimmune, with their deep research insights? Consumer product companies like P&G, who know how to design holistic services? Or social media companies like HealthUnlocked who connect them to other people who suffer the same condition?
P&G know quite a bit about consumers, and they see a segment of roughly 1/3rd of the population - the "healthy wealthy and wise" and "healthy wealthy and healed" who are well-off individuals who will pay for consumer health to maintain an active lifestyle longer. This a baby boomer generation that refuses to grow old gracefully and insists on doing marathons and generally spending the kids inheritance having fun. By contrast, Cambridge Consultants surveyed a technology landscape of new devices and internet connected services to help with exercise and fitness, eating healthily, good sleep, monitoring and preventitive medicine, cosmetics and beauty, and social engagement. The availability of cheap, low-power sensors (accelerometers, biosensors), remote monitoring and embedded processing offers all sorts of companies the option to deliver new health and vitality services. Sonovia is one such service, an ultrasound application that drives healing gels into the skin to cure psoriasis and regenerate ageing skin, a key concern for those baby boomers. Finally, HealthUnlocked dug into the issue of how social media is reshaping the way people suffering conditions connect to their peers, learn about treatments and take positive control of their lives to everyone's benefit. While clinical endorsement and regulatory testing will remain important, people just trust other people like them more.
I'd promised to up the Twitter profile of our conferences. I was delighted to see so many colleagues contributing. But I myself was left making notes - having lost my mobile phone! Real life. It's what happens, when you had other plans!
Monday dawned, and with it an all day session on how ARM, HSBC, M&S and Red Gate sustain their success by engaging their people with the community through corporate social responsiblity initiatives. Lots of good hi tech businesses and social enterprises came along (see the website for the presentations and the audience). They discussed 4 pillars of a sustainable business (Environment, Community, Marketplace and Workplace), listening to presentations by big blue chips and then debating how CSR is implemented from local Cambridge companies, including the events main sponsor, ARM Ltd. The day was wrapped up by a panel session where delegates could closely question panellists representing local companies. From the workshop I participated in, the local 3rd sector organizations in the area are keen to work with the local high techs but struggle to communicate how improving village life for children, sustaining families struck by cancer or returning dignity to homeless people through refurbishing donated goods relates specifically to their high tech missions.
We're interested in working with the 3rd sector to deliver our Local Enterprise Partnership, because so many of the things we need to get right to retain talented people are actually public goods. The days when most Trinity Nobel Prize winners were British are past. An individual like Cesar Milstein may come from a country without the rights we take for granted, but many countries want to host such genius and emerging markets are reclaiming their geniuses. I managed to catch up with Warren East over lunch and hear more about what ARM is doing on Twitter and blogs. It was a great pleasure to introduce him to Shen Wei, the incoming president of Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, the student club that runs the University's business plan competition. I helped found CUE 11 years ago and went to ARM to raise funding for a prize. I came away with Gold Sponsorship and a PhD topic in which I worked with Warren and Jamie Urquhart. ARM have generously supported the competition continuously ever since, the only one of our original sponsor group to continue every single year through the dotcom crash.
And on Monday night we helped launch CUE again for the 11th year. We're sponsoring at Gold ourselves this year, part of our commitment to give back to this amazing community that we all share. We'll be working closely with CUE and other student societies across the UK to help improve student access to internships and jobs here in the cluster. I sat in the front rows with a set of Cambridge Angels and former CUE presidents and participants, listening to Billy Boyle, Hermann Hauser and Stew McTavish pitch the audience on why entrepreneurship could be a good option for them. All too soon, I had to speak. I was choked up with the memories of our own first launch of CUE, back in 1999, which also had the theme "if not now, then when".
The only thing I could think to say was how important it is that entrepreneurs continue to employ people here in Cambridge. ARM wouldn't be here if Hauser hadn't founded Acorn to build the BBC Model B here, and many ex-Acorn people remain active here: Andy Hopper, Sophie Wilson, Chris Curry, Peter Robinson to name but a few. The jobs our entrepreneurs offer retain talented people for this region who have been gathered from around the world by either the Universities or one of the bigger local companies. Every technical job creates opportunities for spouses and local residents to work in management, marketing or other support roles. This is the recession-proofed engine that can absorb great people released from quangos and the Universities as the government rebalances the economy towards export-orientied industry in this region. We should all cherish our entrepreneurs - and encourage more people, young and old, to take that challenging path.
It is fun "citizen journalizing" this rich tapestry of Cambridge hi tech life for you. But it is even more fun actually meeting with you at these events and around town. Broadcasting ideas is all very well - but we have to meet and accomodate each other to learn anything new. Look forward to seeing you too soon.