You heard it here first! Professional opinions and insights from Hartree Centre staff and collaborators as they go about their day helping UK industry to benefit from the adoption and integration of advanced digital technologies.
As big data, high performance computing and cognitive technologies start to appear in more newspaper articles, TV shows and pop up on social media hashtags, it seems to me to be more important than ever to start talking about our science and technology and the impact it makes on society.
Before I start to write the main content of this blog post, I should confess that although my background is in biomedical science, I prefer talking about science rather than actually doing it. So much so that I decided to study towards an MSc in Science Communication. This means that I spend a lot of time thinking about science and its relationship with society by reading about insights from history and the media as well as about innovation and policy research. At the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), I really enjoy working closely with those at the forefront of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), facilitating relationships between academia, industry and publics by highlighting how our work impacts businesses and the UK economy. Essentially, I enjoy answering the “So what?!” question about research.
Having worked in public engagement over the last 5 years, I am going to address some of the common misconceptions I’ve heard along the way.
“Life is like a large pond, you are surrounded by lilypads and depending on your capabilities and circumstances you have to pick the next one to step onto.”
When I was younger, growing up in Wigan I was mainly interested in three things: football, computers and radio control cars. At school, I decided to study A Levels in maths, physics and chemistry and then went off to study chemistry at the University of Leeds with no fixed idea of what I wanted to do or where I was going afterwards.
After a period of unemployment, I was lucky enough to get a job as a Research Chemist with Crosfield, a Unilever company at the time. This involved working with Crosfield silica to remove protein from beer, essentially increasing the shelf-life of the product. To me, this was great, I was a beer scientist at the age of 21! I enjoyed the challenge of working on new formulations and eventually discovered a way of improving the shelf-life of beer using 50-70% less material than previous methods. At first, the brewers we worked with did not seem to buy in to the idea so the sales staff invited me out with them to explain the process to our customers. That was my first taste of sales and I really enjoyed it so I started to try to go out with the sales team as much as I could.
My next ‘career leap’ was in to telesales and this turned out to be a terrible idea as it really did not suit the way I liked to work and how I liked to develop customer relationships and insight. From there, I went to work for Dionex in a regional sales role with a remit for selling chromatography columns that separate chemical components. It was this position that helped me to recognise that I was actually quite good at sales and learned an important point:
“people do not just buy kit, they buy answers to the problems they want to solve.”
This led me back to my interest in computing where I taught myself how to use a macro-based scripting process that increased the efficiency of the sales process, helping me to match solutions to customer problems.
The Association for Project Management (APM) recently held their first Manchester based conference, and the Northern Powerhouse initiative by UK Government was their key theme. Claire Trinder and Lisa Booth from our Programme Management Office attended the event, and it got them thinking about where the Hartree Centre fits in.
“If the Northern Powerhouse were a country, it would be amongst the biggest economies in Europe. If we can make this region an economic powerhouse, the whole of the UK will benefit.”
Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
It sounds simple enough when you put it like that, but as we discovered at the APM conference, there’s a lot more to unlocking the benefits of the Northern Powerhouse than meets the eye.
The event, held in early December 2016, zeroed in on the developments in infrastructure, communication and technology projects that are being designed to re-balance the UK economy in line with the government’s Northern Powerhouse vision laid out in its strategy document. In summary, the Northern Powerhouse is a vision for a more joined up region in which northern towns and cities work collaboratively, sharing skills and resources to unlock the economic potential of the area.
This week sees the Hartree Centre run its first hackathon event at Daresbury. A three day event which brings together developers, designers and companies from a range of sectors all with the aim of creating the next big thing in web or mobile-based applications using IBM Watson APIs.
I’m a football fan. A Manchester United supporter for 40 odd years. The football was so poor last night (although we did win 3-1, I prefer a match that lifts you out of your seat), that I ended up having the “what are you doing tomorrow?” conversation with my significant other mid-way through the first half of the match. Continue reading “Creating a cognitive eco-system – day one of the Hartree Hack”
In civil and mechanical engineering, the design process is done almost entirely by computer (think about the way bridges are designed). A long-held goal in radical chemical and materials product design is to shift from an ad-hoc, labour intensive and expensive process towards a more robust and adaptive computer aided paradigm.