Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Should you check your email? Brilliant.

Should you check your email? This brilliant (and tragicomically true) illustrated flowchart by Wendy MacNaughton is now officially one of the best infographics of the year.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dirty electioneering starts here

The next election campaign is going to be a horrible, uncivilised and dirty battle. If any further evidence is needed then the choice of cover for the latest Spectator gives you a glimpse. For me, the choice of the phrase 'patron saint' is dreadful.

It's actually fair enough for Melanie Philips to argue, as you'd expect, that he's an icon of our times, that he was hiding in plain sight and was utterly out of his depth as chairman of the Co-operative Bank. I don't dispute her right to make that argument and as usual she gets carried away. But she doesn't actually use the phrase patron saint. She suggests that he instead ticked all the right boxes and got away with it. She makes dubious use of the flimsy rumour that someone made a casual joke about Paul Flowers having a "Colombian cold" but that's it.

I also can't find the cover on the website. Just the piece which is here.

The choice of cover is down to the editor, Fraser Nelson. I don't believe it's a wise one and I'm pretty sure now that it's one they have regretted.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Manchester - time to stop bitching. Time to embrace REAL collaboration.

At our SmartCity event last week there were loads of great ideas to lift our city. Plenty of passion and a real burst of energy. This wasn’t just on the things you’d expect from a business network, but on subjects like food production, waste disposal, street lighting and money.
We also talked about London quite a lot. Manchester’s relationship with the capital is always a slightly thorny one. To be honest, I’m always happier not to. I’d rather talk about Manchester.
As the Tory magazine editor Fraser Nelson said in the Daily Telegraph last week – “Manchester does not behave like it wants to be Britain’s second city: it behaves like it wants to be the first.”
I like it that he says that and I like it because it’s at least partly true. But I actually wish it I wish it were really true.
Since June last year and my life changing visit to Silicon Valley in March, I have been determined to embrace the spirit of partnership and collaboration and help to join up the dots.
There is so much to co-operate on, so many opportunities in the city to do things for the betterment of the city. To simply focus on a narrow short term interest does no-one any favours. It just reinforces the image of the great cities of the North as parochial fiefdoms.
We have introduced businesses to new opportunities, opened the door to politicians of all colours and recommended companies to one another. It’s what we do and is all part of a wider mission to be a more grown-up city.
Yet I have been properly depressed at times to find myself on the other side of a fault line, drifting away from people I genuinely want to work with and share ideas with, but who have fallen back on supposed enmities and rivalries to the exclusion of, well, me. I genuinely thought I’d left that all behind in 1983 when I left school.
I’ve also been caught in the crossfire on some nasty personal battles that really should be beneath those involved.
We all have a duty to our businesses to succeed in a competitive environment. I get that. But what I don’t get is the nastiness. It’s just not necessary and it narrows your horizons.
So, here are the questions I’d like you to ponder.
Do the media do justice to the conversations that take place around the city – the initiatives that require backing, not just the ones they are media partners on?
Do the Universities really want to open their doors to the people of Manchester and share knowledge and expertise – and even to work with one another?
And is there a willingness amongst technology businesses of what they might require from an active financial and professional community, rather than just a slightly grumpy complaint they don’t understand the sector?
I’d like to think the answers to all of the above are “yes”. But I suspect, if we’re honest, they are “no”. I’d like to change all of that. Do you want to work with me?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Imprisoned by dogma

Mock outrage is everywhere at the moment. That hand wringing, "why-oh-why" that is brought about with the discovery of a fact, a story or a new nuance on an argument that is actually welcomed.

If you believe in something then you want and actively desire to find facts that will help you to convince others of your viewpoint. If a fact emerges that appears to contradict your case then you will feel sadness, anger or even confusion.

Two instances this week have made me think on this. The first was the news that John Leech, the Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, didn't vote against the bedroom tax. Labour supporters said this was outrageous and fuelled their anger. I think they were actually quite pleased. It now makes it less likely that he will get votes from the left leaning people who elected him in 2010.

I would tentatively suggest something similar goes on over far more controversial and life and death issues. I've read wholly inadequate responses to child abuse scandals by churches, including my own. Then there's the instance where pointing out that there are child grooming cases where the organisers weren't Muslims. It doesn't change anything in the situations where it has been a factor.

My eastern pal Tony Murray had this to say earlier today: "My problem with climate change is that both the pro and anti- lobbies are so thoroughly objectionable.

"I am so tired of people who lack the technical proficiency to even change an inner tube pronouncing with absolute certainty on the root causes, likely consequences and solutions to a massively complex problem that may or may not exist.

What this points to is the imprisonment by dogma. The reduction of any argument to "yes, but" and "the same people who say this, say that". And I have to say, none of this is helped by social media.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Manchester's Graphene opportunity - an essential SmartCity goal

Manchester's Graphene opportunity - an essential SmartCity goal :

So what’s the truth about Graphene?

It will soon be a decade since two scientists discovered wonder product Graphene at the University of Manchester. For our city and for the University the work that those two eminent scientists have been doing remains vital to giving the city a critical edge.

Indeed, at our SmartCity conference on the 13th of November at MOSI we will be hearing from Mike Emmerich, the chief executive of New Economy Manchester about these developments in Graphene and how the city will benefit in the future.

But a common view expressed is that Manchester’s opportunity has gone. That this is now an opportunity likely to be exploited by America and Asia, not Northern Europe. The evidence for this lies in the number of Chinese, Korean and US patents being registered, as well as the daily production of research papers all over the word.

In an article in The Manufacturer, Dr Helen Meese, head of materials at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, says:“The UK is at the very forefront of graphene research, but academics are increasingly concerned that little is being done to encourage industry to develop practical uses. This must change.”

She says over 7,500 graphene-based patents had been filed worldwide by the beginning of this year but only 54 were from the UK. In comparison, over 2,200 are held by China and 1,754 by South Korea. The Korean company Samsung alone hold 407 graphene-based patents.

It’s a point reiterated by a research report from the Patent Office.

But the view from Manchester is that this doom and gloom can be overplayed. The building of the Graphene Institute is evidence of a serious research facility and the appointment Nathan Hill from Oxford Instruments is a sign of series intent as is a new prize for scientific work on commercialization.

Nathan Hill’s goal is to set up a graphene Industry Club and a number of strategic partnerships with major companies and the University.

His view is: “Having lived through the development cycle of superconductor and semiconductor materials and devices, working with the great team and resources at Manchester was too good an opportunity to miss. I’m very much looking forward to supporting the next stage of making graphene a powerhouse for further research, manufacturing and jobs in Manchester”.

I’m ever the optimist, the stakes may be sky high, but hopefully there is more going on than many realise and that Manchester’s role in the future of this wonder material is bright.

via Tumblr http://michaeltaylordowntown.tumblr.com/post/66273852214

Friday, November 01, 2013

Martin McDermott RIP

Driving around two Sundays ago, my favourite radio programme played New Order's signature tune Ceremony. My thoughts immediately turned to Martin McDermott who was, as we feared, just hours away from leaving us forever after a long illness.

The next time I heard that song was today at the Crem as Martin's body was laid to rest. His music always meant a lot to him and it was a frequent pleasure to share mutual thoughts and nostalgic stories.

As a Dad you do the dutiful thing and take your kids to all kinds of parties over the years. Often the other parents on duty are the Mums. But I'll be honest and say I always particularly smiled if Martin was there at the side of a swimming baths or at a grotty play pen. It meant we could natter about New Order, the Ritz on a Monday, a bit of Man United, Michael Gove, Brian Cox, renewable energy and the things our kids say. It was always an enlightened pleasure. His mates and family told another level of story today. Their deep loss of a friend, a father, a husband, a brother, a son. It was also heartbreaking to hear of his suffering and pain, which many of them saw in such raw form as his cancer spread. But the Martin they knew also shone a light in their lives. 

Today has also been a big day for our boys who are close friends with two daughters and a son who have just lost their Dad. Friendship, comfort and kindness are what is needed now. But it's hard, really hard. We just don't know how lucky we are.