Another dimension: Dr Tim Fox

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, offers his peers in the Science and Engineering profession a view from outside government


By Winnie Agbonlahor

06 Nov 2014

What do you think the public sector does well?
Once it’s grasped the importance of a particular piece of policy, it can be quite innovative in the way it tries to bring it forward and implement it.

What does it do badly?
Due to the nature of the political life cycle between elections – local or national – it’s difficult to maintain consistent policy from government to government. This is a real challenge for engineering, because it has very long-term visions and timescales.

How would an engineer’s job in the civil service differ from one outside government?
Within government, the direction of a particular piece of work is often constrained by the political boundaries within which the department is currently working, whereas outside you have a much larger degree of freedom in the thinking you can do around the topics you’re interested in.

What prejudices and expectations might people in your industry have of an experienced and qualified civil servant seeking work in the field?
The general expectation would be that the civil servant wouldn’t exhibit sufficient levels of innovation, and might be likely to lack an understanding of the commercial requirements of their role: of how we can make money out of something, as opposed to doing it because it’s interesting.

I used to manage a business which took over a unit of civil servants, and the cultural difference in that respect was so big that it became really problematic. The unit didn’t fail, but its potential was never fully realised.


Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, works with members to develop and disseminate the IME’s position on relevant issues

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