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Our tribute to Richard Parry-Jones

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Tony Harper, Director of the Faraday Battery Challenge, pays tribute to Richard Parry-Jones who sadly passed away on Friday 16th April 2021.

Richard Parry-Jones.

On behalf of the Faraday Battery Challenge team, I would like to express our shock, sadness, and feeling of grief at the news of the sudden passing of Richard Parry-Jones, Chair of our Advisory Group. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones at this extremely difficult time.

For over four years Richard has been a Champion for the Challenge and a mentor to the team. His entire focus as Chair has been to harness the experience, expertise, and diverse viewpoints of this senior group of stakeholders and distil it into executable guidance for the team. It is not just the time he has spent with us, it is the quality of that time.

Every member of the team has been enriched by every minute spent with Richard. He valued contributions from all regardless of background, gender, age, or rank and never hesitated to point out when he thought they were making much more sense than me.

On a personal level, I have had the privilege to work directly with Richard over a period stretching back 20 years. I have interacted with him on projects as diverse as re-organising Ford’s Engineering and Purchasing operations in Europe to refining active chassis technology to creating the structures required for a vibrant Research & Development eco-system in the UK. For me, there is one clear, common thread to all my interactions with Richard: A shared passion for the power of ideas.

Now, sharing a passion does not immediately qualify me to spend quality time with one of the best on the planet. But for some reason, this life granted me that privilege. Richard instinctively knew that the process of going from nothing to something or from something to something better is a process worthy in itself and an essentially creative process fuelled by the power of ideas.

Ideas alone though are just raw material that needs to be forged, honed, and polished through debate, challenge, trial, and deployment. The fact that I got to spend quality time with Richard doing just that, particularly in recent years, has been the privilege of a lifetime.

In a moment that I will remember for the rest of my days, Richard once asked me if it was too presumptuous of him to call me his friend. For me, getting within a million miles of being asked such a question by such a legend practically brought me to tears.

It is tempting to say Rest In Peace but I have a feeling that somewhere, on some other plane of existence, a whole generation of Engineers are about to discover that Design Reviews and Ride & Drives are going to shift to a whole new level.

Richard Parry-Jones.

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair Innovate UK

Like Tony I have known Richard for the past 20 years, when he had stepped down from the CTO role at Ford and returned to the UK, I was at BEIS, and myself and Ben Rimmington the then Automotive Director were at Ford HQ in London with the mission to recruit Richard to lead the Automotive Innovation and Growth work into its second phase and to lay out a series of roadmaps for the sector in the UK.

Thankfully after a grilling by Richard, we were successful and Richard chaired this work with his usual passion and professionalism.  He brought together the technology leaders across the sector and persuaded each of them to park their company allegiances outside the building and work for the common good of the sector.

From this work came the Automotive Council which Richard co-chaired with Ministers for a number of years and led to the proposal to establish the Advanced Propulsion Centre.  Richard has been a constant force for good for the sector and one of its strongest supporters.

As well as the Faraday Battery Challenge, Richard recently joined Innovate UK as our Ambassador for Manufacturing, Materials, and Future of Mobility, he had started to look at our emerging plans and strategies with all his experience and knowledge.  In common with a number of stories I have seen highlighting Richard’s ability to inspire and motivate engineers, it was clear that all of our team enjoyed presenting their work and ideas to him, even if a bit daunted at doing so, and Richard certainly enjoyed discussing their ideas and encouraged them to be bold and specific about what Innovate UK should focus on.

We will certainly miss his knowledge, expertise, and good humour.

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