Where are the Innovators?

When you visited the R&D team of a UK company 20 years ago, you’d often find yourself swooping up the drive of a Victorian mansion, somewhere on the outskirts of an industrial city.  Labs would sprawl through leafy established parkland.  There was sometimes an air of gentle dilapidation, but this is where UK industry would house its most unworldly, eccentric, and intelligent staff – the innovators.  It’s from places like these that, throughout the 20th century, Britain led world engineering through odd collaborations, private passions, public funding and individual ingenuity. Utilities had their own similar labs and innovators, who crucially had the time and resources to play with ideas.  Innovation is risk – to succeed one must accept failure.  Without benign indulgence by management of delays, mistakes and outright eccentricity, innovation cannot thrive.

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