How did I get to here? – The Back story
I have always been practical, making and mending things. I have also always been curious, inquisitive, wondering how things work.
I started with building toys like Meccano and making boys toys, bows and arrows, cross-bows, slings, catapults, spears etc. Anything from wood using my Dad’s tools.
I was top of the class in woodworking and near the top in metalwork and engineering drawing.
I learnt a lot from my dad who was an industrial chemist. He made home-made fireworks and developed some interesting products for Needle Industries.
He had the idea that gold plating the shafts of sewing needles would prevent corrosion and differentiate their needles from everyone else’s.
At the age of 14, I helped him design and build a gold plating rig using my Meccano. I never did get it back. It was a different world then when a boy was allowed to play with gold cyanide solutions!
I’ve had my share of handling many now banned material but I fear for young scientists and engineers now who will never be allowed to experiment the way I was. Probably a good thing in that they won’t be harmed but where is the excitement and exposure to risk and understanding how to protect themselves that is needed if you expect then to come up with exciting new ideas.
I was lucky to go to the University of Sheffield to study Materials Technology (Glass, Ceramics, Polymers & Metallurgy).
My first real job after working for a refractory company, on a building site, in an engineering apprentice training workshop and as a farmhand as summer holiday jobs, was with a mining engineering company (Padley & Venables) as a Design Engineer responsible for rock-drilling bits to make holes in rock for explosives. This gave me lots of design and production manufacturing experience in real environments.
I was again lucky to be offered a role as a research assistant at The University of Sheffield in the Glass Department to study the removal of bubblers from glass using sodium sulphate which I submitted for a PhD.
As I was about to leave I was offered a role as Glass Technologist for Gyproc Insulation (now a division of St Gobain) running the Glass and Insulation section in British Gypsum’s central R&D department at East Leake. This developed into project managing all the BPB Industries non-gypsum companies R&D and included that for Gyproc Insulation, Plaschem (Foamed polymer insulation), Andersons (bitumen roofing products) and developing and testing various building related products and paper & packaging products. I was part of a small team allowed to spend ½ day per week looking at and evaluating any new ideas and technologies that may be of value to the group companies.
My main learning was from being involved in the development of a foamed glass product that cost over £300,000 before I proved that it was not viable as its development had been based of incorrect information provided by a subsidiary director who no one would challenge. If the project had been started with accurate market research obtained information, the same conclusion could have been achieved for ~£35,000. This was my first experience of business planning and I then realised that I had a lot to offer other businesses who I had observed were making similar mistakes.
I then initiated and managed several EU funded business support projects (worth ~£4.5M), developed a EU regional funding programme worth £430M and provided direct support to several business developing and licensing orthopaedic and other products.
After 8 years as an Innovation & Technology Councillor, Environment Adviser & Technology Means Business (ICT) adviser for various Business Links as well as running my own business, I joined Nottingham Trent University to run a stand-alone outreach operation called The Hive@Mansfield delivering the EU funded Proof of Concept workshop programme to enable anyone in North Derbyshire & North Nottinghamshire with a potential business idea to research, investigate, test, plan and produce an implementation plan. This supported 330 individuals who started or grew 260 businesses over 9½ years.
Since April 2015 I have started working for myself again and am here to help you start, develop, re-invent or grow your business.