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Eileen Murray - Project Management Plus Blog

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Those who know me know I have plenty to say and stories to tell about the vagaries and victories of a career in project management.


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Innovation and Manufacturing Thriving in the North West

By emmurray, Jun 18 2014 10:41PM

Have had the opportunity to attend a few conferences and seminars over the past few weeks which have really boosted my enthusiasm for all things British/engineering/technology/North West/manufacturing/growth.

At breakfast meeting, Darrell Matthews from the EEF asked the audience where we thought the UK was in the rankings of manufacturing in the world. Asked to all put our hands up and then lower them as he worked his way down from 100th place, a few started going down in the 80s; many by the 30s and there were only a few of us remaining as he got into single digits. I had 7th in mind and was quite pleased to hear that we are the 8th – in GDP terms, I presume, as opposed to any growth index. After re-tweeting the statistic I’ve had it queried – but found this as some back-up: Parliamentary Briefing Papers.

Now I’ve been hearing (and passing on the good news) for quite some time that UK manufacturing is healthy – we just make different things to what we used to. People saw the car companies closing and other big, heavy industries also, but didn’t see all the myriad of small, innovative companies who have opened up. We have always been world-leading in innovation (not marketing or project management. however…..) and that has not changed.

A rather more worrying report was on the dramatic skills shortage that is threatening this otherwise optimistic outlook. An “interesting” statistic…..the number of places on university courses in media studies – is greater than the total current number of jobs available in media. Eesh! If anyone wants a guaranteed well-paid job – start training now to be a CNC machine programmer….

It was delightful to hear more about the fantastic support programmes there are for anyone starting up a new business in the North West – especially in innovative technologies and even more especially if you want to make things in East Lancashire. It is really a great time to be coming up with that BIG Idea and getting it through the hoops to market and your first million! As a starting point, check out Boost Business Lancashire.

Speaking of BIG – that was today’s conference: the Business Innovation for Growth event, hosted by Creative Lancashire as part of the International Festival for Business 2014 programme. This event was all about the creative industries. All the speakers were excellent. Wayne Hemingway‘s take on how much more can be done when we give the creative people a free reign – such as the Copenhagan Harbour Bath - and his disdain for the bureaucracy that can prevent such pragmatic projects: “H&S Officer you’re a dick”. Later in the post-presentation Q&A he was quizzing about who in the audience was an elected local councillor (tentative hand went up – 4 of us in the audience). There were some careful comments about the age-profile of Councillors and then he asked who thought they could not be a local councillor – about half the audience. “Why not?” came his next question – “Because I’m busy running my business” the reply. On the face of it a fair answer in the context, but “Oh, so you’re selfish” was the response from Mr Hemingway. Now it was said in an entirely non-judgmental way – and he went on to expand that we (UK) would continue to struggle to be able to carry out innovative projects when those in control (Planning Committees for example) are of a particular demographic – and how we need more young people able to influence those decisions (I’m paraphrasing here and working from memory!). He doesn’t pull his punches, says what he thinks, is on the Creative Lancashire Board and is responsible for projects such as Blackburn is Open. Lucky Lancashire!

Some interesting comments from Chris Sanderson from The Future Laboratory with regards to women and our influence – “We are moving from a male-based economy to a female-based economy”…..and “The most successful start-ups in the UK are by women over 50”…by now, as a woman, Councillor and fast approaching the big five zero, I was certainly “feeling the love” at this conference!

I particularly loved the messages being put over by Daniel Charney – Open Source concepts taken further with the Maker Library Network and other ways of freely sharing innovative ideas and skills for the benefit of all. A simple, but notable quote “Yeah, folk say you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours……..I say I’ll scratch your back and you scratch someone else’s and that should work for all of us”.

The final, stirring speaker, Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK, brought a little bit of a “down to earth” commentary on how creative businesses need goals, strategies, and disciplines and even boring things like contacts in order to prosper – but put over in a very non-boring way so as to inspire anyone to get their houses in order.

So – if you’ve got a great business idea – NOW is the time to be innovating, developing, making and thriving in Lancashire!

Jun 19 2014 07:56PM by Lindsay Philipson

All good stuff ; but from we of 'a certain demographic' - might have been better to describe the need as people with young ideas, not necessarily young in years? A combination of experience and innovative ideas is surely unbeatable - ergo the most successful start ups by women over 50!

Jun 19 2014 11:32PM by Eileen Murray

While I partly agree with you, Lindsay, I would say that, generally, the different generations experience and understand things differently, although I appreciate there's a wide range of differences within each generation, too. I believe we need well balanced teams for our decision makers and a wider cross-section, including age, would better reflect and accommodate the wishes and needs of a greater proportion of people.

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Various thoughts and ramblings on getting things done in the real world!

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