Norman's News: Contemplating Retirement

Added Monday, August 13 2018

I always knew the day would come and now its here, well definite, if not actually here, yet. I’ve received lots of nice comments from friends and colleagues. I’ve sharpened the tools in my workshop, bought my fishing licence and dusted off the SLR and its lenses. My hobbies are active and they have suffered from my working and I do look forward to having the time and the energy to get them going and to making much needed improvements in my various techniques.

I guess I’m more worried about moving from active to passive leadership, or from executive to challenge ways of working. Sir John Parker gave a great talk on the subject of his Chairmanship style and how it was distinguished from the Chief Executive role. He used his passion for yachting as analogy, basically setting course and going below, leaving the executive to hold the course but to return when asked or when the going got to rough for one to handle. 

Am I up for that scary form of retirement? 

I don’t know but I’ll find out. One thing I have been asked (and agreed) to do is to chair one of the Newton Fund programmes operated by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Leaders in Innovation Fellowship.

The Newton Fund aims to promote the economic development and social welfare of some 16 developing countries through strengthening partner country science and innovation capacity and unlocking further funding to support this work. The Fund was launched in 2014 and originally consisted of £75 million each year for 5 years. In the 2015 UK Spending Review it was agreed to extend and expand the Fund to a £735 million UK investment to 2021, with partner countries providing matched resources within the Fund. 

The primary objective of the Leaders in Innovation Fellowship programme is to build the entrepreneurial capacity of researchers to commercialise innovations aimed at addressing social and economic challenges in country; a secondary objective is to promote improved understanding of and attitudes towards entrepreneurship within the research sector. It is aimed at researchers who are at the point of developing a business proposition for their innovation. From my experiences so far, in this and in the related Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, about which regular readers will remember reading, the enthusiasm of the recipient countries, the innovators, the entrepreneurs and the larger corporations is unbounded.

My message to the team I’m leaving behind and to everyone who reads this is; we’re on a burning platform. The rest of the world is girding its loins and getting into action and so must we! The past is a far country. Our millennials want to engage with the world and they are perfectly capable, once prepared, to do well for themselves and for their fellows. Surely they deserve the chance!

Even (and I mean even, for the UK has constantly bemoaned its poor performance in exploiting the excellence of its research) England now has new policies, which have a fighting chance of making a difference. 

So as the process of finding my successor unfolds, I urge everyone with an interest in our region’s future to get behind the team and to pledge their support during and after the changeover. The future of our young people is too precious to leave to chance.

Norman Apsley, Catalyst Inc CEO

Announcement: Catalyst Inc CEO Norman Apsley OBE to retire in 2018
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