With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.
What was your highlight of 2018?
This has been a year of incredible change and exciting new opportunities for me personally and for my whole team at Innovate UK. In April, Innovate UK became part of UK Research and Innovation, which has fused together world leading UK science with cutting edge UK business innovation. In May, I was extremely proud to be appointed interim executive chair of Innovate UK and have enjoyed leading my fantastic team to support innovative businesses and deliver the government’s modern industrial strategy.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
Innovate UK is pivotal to the successful delivery of the flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. It has been challenging for me, as a leader, to help my team deal with the pressures and strain of delivering this enormous programme alongside business as usual. But they are doing a fantastic job and have continued firing on all cylinders with some incredible achievements along the way.
“We need to help break down barriers between the different teams and make sure that businesses have access to the science and skills they need”
What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?
The biggest challenge will be realising the wealth of opportunities that the creation of UK Research and Innovation brings. We need to help break down barriers between the different teams and make sure that businesses have access to the science and skills they need to solve the biggest challenges facing society and our economy today. I need to allow my team space to see the broader opportunities that being part of a larger organisation present to them and their career development too.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
I would choose Marie Macklin, Scottish businesswoman of the year 2017. I really admire her passion and the support and encouragement she gives to women entrepreneurs. Marie was the first developer to locate a Morrisons supermarket in Scotland as part of an £85m regeneration development. She now plans to transform our shared hometown of Kilmarnock, regenerating the site of the former Johnnie Walker whisky bottling plant, bringing £53m into the town’s economy. At Innovate UK we encourage female entrepreneurs to be ambitious and dream big, just like Marie Macklin, and early next year we will be announcing our 2018 Women in Innovation Award winners. As Johnnie Walker looks towards its 200th anniversary, I’m also pleased by its programme that encourages young entrepreneurs from Kilmarnock to develop their ideas into global exporting businesses. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a wee dram.