https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2016/04/18/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-lead-technologist-at-innovate-uk/

A day in the life of a lead technologist at Innovate UK

Working on the move

Rise at 6am. No time to see the kids this morning as I have to get into London with the rest of the sullen looking, bedraggled, rabble that commute. I’m one of the lucky ones, my station is sufficiently far out that I will get a seat, though these seats are insufficiently sized for the average person.

I don’t have an office. My ‘desk’ is limited to what I can carry on my back, but that is ok since I am kitted out with the latest in modern mobile computing and communications technology.

London is a typical day for me, having recently overtaken Swindon as my modal destination, though my job has taken me from the tip of Cornwall to Orkney and everywhere in between as well as to Canada, Portugal, Belgium and others.

The train journey gives me the chance to power up the phone and check in on the industry news feeds as well as the emails from the team that seems to be made up of insomniacs.

A day in the life of a lead technologist at Innovate UK

Keeping up-to-date

Today I learn that a new scanning LiDAR trial has started which has been supported through the Offshore Wind Accelerator programme. I must make a note to ask the Carbon Trust about this when we have our catch-up meeting in a fortnight. It is a technology that I have been following the development of for a while and big steps towards commercial acceptance is exciting news indeed.

It is a Monday so I also have a number of emails from the team letting me know their whereabouts and various key engagements for the week. We don’t see much of one another so this is a good way of finding out where our activities are overlapping and we can leverage each other’s time.

Project review meetings

Today I am attending a project review meeting for one of the projects that was funded through the Infrastructure for Offshore Renewables competition. It is an interesting project involving a large utility, a university and an SME. The consortium is developing improved geotechnical techniques for offshore wind foundations.

In the meeting I am really pleased to hear that Innovate UK’s funding has helped enable a multi-million pound saving in the design of the foundations for a particular wind farm project. I am also keen to understand how the SME is going to commercialise its part in the modelling aspect of the project and press the consortium on this point. This project is in good hands and thankfully there is a clear plan to exploit this aspect.

Coordinating with other government departments

The meeting overruns and so now there is no opportunity to visit the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as I had planned. I want to catch up with the latest developments on the new offshore wind innovation programme that Innovate UK and DECC are jointly developing. A phone call will have to suffice on this occasion.

Thinking about regional development

Next I am meeting with a regional innovation hub for offshore renewable energy that has secured European Regional Development Funds to deliver SME grants and innovation support, working with ORE Catapult. We have a fruitful conversation sharing future plans and exploring how we can work together to leverage one another’s networks and activities, and avoid duplication of funding effort.

Collaborating on joint activities

71 emails have hit my inbox since this morning. Of particular note are:

  • a request to comment on a joint activities document for the Ocean Energy ERANET (that will have to wait until the train journey home)
  • a call to a meeting with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to work on aligning innovation strategy
  • a couple of new contacts following meeting at a conference last week

The latter is opportune since these were from some interesting SMEs that I was not previously aware of and I want to learn some more about their exciting ideas.

Supporting UK SMEs to be successful

My final meeting of the day is at the Institution of Engineering and Technology. I am seeing a company that wishes to show me the innovative ideas that it has been developing and ask for advice on where, what and how to go about getting support to further their development.

In the meeting I learn about a technology to extend the life of oil fields by combining offshore wind and energy storage. I am also presented with a floating wind foundation technology.

I have quite a bit of experience in this area due to the work I have done supporting the Energy Technologies Institute as an advisory group member and its support in developing a similar technology. This helps me to really challenge the company in the meeting as to the innovation in its design and why it addresses the cost reduction challenge better than the competition.

Overall I feel the meeting helped the company to better understand what is needed to be successful in applying for funding and what the key considerations of public sector funding are, so not a bad outcome.

Now I have to decide between hurrying and standing on the earlier train or strolling and getting a seat. I opt to rush, if I am lucky I might get home in time to see the kids before they go to bed.

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5 comments

  1. Andreas Mavroudis

    Interesting and slightly sad...your first 2 lines say it all for me David,"No time to see the kids this morning....I'm one of the lucky ones" - the digital skills migration is a real issue. It just strengthens my feeling that by now, technology would've negated the need to work in a specific location.

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    • David Hytch

      Thanks Andreas. My job entails that I work everywhere and nowhere specific. Technology allows me to do this. Even with all the connectivity there is still no substitute for a face to face meeting, especially when meeting someone for the first time.

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  2. Michael Kenward

    I like the bit about the "a multi-million pound saving in the design of the foundations for a particular wind farm project". Sounds like a media story to me.

    PS Re Andreas's comment, I assume that there are days when you can see the kids when you are "working at home".

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  3. Mark Romeyn

    'Day in the life' blogs are almost always atypical, just look at the series by Specialized for their athletes. It turned out they were narrating their heaviest training day.

    Most people will have peaks and troughs where they don't get to spend as much time with their family as they would like - that's modern working life for you. I think the real point made in this blog is that he has an exciting, varied, fast paced job.

    However, I'm not sure what benefits there are to having a team of mentally fatigued insomniacs, if anything he should look into that because long hours/late nights are a fast track to burnout, poor performance and an unhappy workforce. Otherwise it looks like a fabulous life; where do I sign up?

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    • David Hytch

      An entertaining comment Mark thank you. You are right that this is perhaps a busier day in terms of number of meetings and rushing about but it does illustrate well the type of activities that we do on a daily basis. Having meetings all over the place to engage with industry stakeholders is certainly the norm rather than atypical. You are also right about peaks and troughs, for every 3 or 4 days like this there is one working from home, catching up and recharging those travel batteries. But if a change is as good as a rest, there is no worry about burn-out in this job.

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