Sainsbury Management Fellows

President’s Speech – David Falzani 2014

Two years ago I announced that SMF had become a registered Charity in order to continue Lord Sainsbury’s vision of promoting and demonstrating the value of a combined business and engineering education to improve the performance of the UK and world economies. I’m pleased to report that we have further built upon last year’s successes and have now formed an Executive Fundraising Committee and we are now in a position to accept gifts. All of the committee is here this evening, besides myself, and I would like to introduce them to you Imoni Akpofure, Paul Dolan, Mike Gansser-Potts, Laurence Knight, who has come all the way from Connecticut, Adam Locke, James Raby, Richard Smith, Mark Spence and our fundraising chairman Simon Bonini.

We have already had several donations from Fellows – in excess of £700,000 – and that is before we actually start the fundraising campaign.

Simon Bonini has done a marvellous job since taking on the role a year ago and I would like to thank him on our behalf. We have a fundraising plan, we have investment and cash management policies in place and Laurence is going to help us accept gifts from Fellows based in the USA. The committee will eventually talk to all SMFs individually to see how they are able to support us.

However, as we are all here tonight if you would like to speak to one of the Fundraising team to arrange a meeting, we will all be available in the Reading and Writing Room after the main course, for coffee and desserts. Alternatively, you may have noticed the large wicker box on the reception table. If you would like to have a conversation about a potential donation to the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Scheme, please drop your name badge into the box as you leave this evening.

I’d like to give you an update on our recent Hard Hat index. Much like the whimsical Big Mac Index published by the Economist, the index is intended to make a serious point.

The engineering community has long complained of a status shortfall and a lack of understanding amongst the public about the value it creates.

The image of engineering has never been so critical. Generation Y and Z are far more image and brand conscious than any before. The image of engineering is therefore vital in its ability to attract, inspire, recruit and, crucially, retain bright young people.

The index is therefore designed to highlight how the industry is representing itself in terms of emotional value. Is it open to reinvention? To innovation in persuading the public that it is an exciting and dynamic and rewarding profession? Or is it reverting to type? Whether through laziness or genuine lack of understanding of the importance of this issue.

Our YouGov survey asked which apparel items the public most associate with engineers. The Hard Hat came top, with 63% of the votes, whereas a business suit was chosen by only 25%.

We therefore hoped the Hard Hat Index would start a dialogue about the image of engineering and encourage companies, and also the profession’s bodies, to review what image they portray through their marketing, recruitment, and publishing. I’m delighted to report that the Index, and the underlying story of the emotional value of engineering was recently featured by three key industry magazines: The Engineer, Professional Engineering, and Engineering & Technology, and we hope and plan to build upon this success in 2014.

On a related tack of engineers not being good at promoting themselves – to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the scheme, we decided to share 25 case studies of Sainsbury Management Fellows in a hard bound book called Engineering New Horizons. Many of those featured in the book, whose careers are outstanding and whose stories are absolutely fantastic – at first, did not think that they had a good enough story to tell!

Our research has already shown that 15% of FTSE100 executive board members have an engineering degree, and that 60% of FTSE100 companies have a least one qualified engineer on the board of directors.
I was therefore delighted to see research published recently by Wealth Insight and Spears, compiling data from the top 500 universities in the world, assessing which degree was most likely to make you a millionaire. They concluded that the number one degree was in fact engineering. Although possibly skewed by differing definitions of engineering, it is nonetheless a positive news story linking technology to economic wealth generation.

In January we launched a survey to measure how SMFs as a group have progressed in terms of the original goals. We aimed to answer the question “What benefits has the Scheme delivered to the economy and how has SMF met its aim of placing engineers in positions of influence?” We have been gratified with the results. Some highlights worth mentioning include:

  • 220 fellows have helped further develop some of the UK’s largest corporations, enhancing economic wealth
  • 40% of respondents are members of executive boards across the major corporate and SME sectors
  • 150 SMFs have founded businesses with a total value in excess of £4.5 billion, employing over 18,000 people
  • Over 270 newly founded businesses are still in operation
  • Over 50% of respondents have influenced public life and over 45% have influenced education
  • 260 SMFs support and mentor young engineers as well as other charitable activities

The SMF scheme is focused on the UK, although many Fellows go on to work in overseas roles or companies. The current situation with Astra Zeneca raises the question: what defines a company’s nationality in today’s globally connected economy? What is a British company today?

Is it where its registered office is based? Is it where it chooses to pay its taxes?

Is it perhaps where its employees are based? Or the shareholders? Or is it where the brand and image resides?

Perhaps the answer lies in the bigger picture of where it creates wealth. Perhaps the most important defining parameter of a company’s nationality is: where do the economic value and majority of its profits flow to, and where are they then reinvested. This decision, of where to use these funds, and where to reinvest has the greatest long term impact, and is often dictated by the ownership structure.

In closing, I would like to ask all our Fellows to consider how they can contribute to improving the UK economy by participating in some of our outward reaching programmes, such as, our mentoring scheme to young engineers and our support of the Royal Academy’s ELA scheme.

I would also just like to say a word of thanks to all of the people who made this year’s achievements happen – Our Treasurer James Raby, our Secretary Julian Morley, and our other trustees Henning von Spreckelsen and Paul Dolan. I would also like to express our appreciation to Fellows who have helped with the selection and mentoring of Royal Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Leadership Award Winners and participated in the Academy’s Executive Engineers’ Programme.

My sincere thanks to all the Fellows who have participated in other events, interview panels or who have written articles or spoken to the media on our behalf, and to our Comms Director, Cathy Breeze, who works tirelessly, often in the background and skilfully enables everything else.

My thanks also to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and our friends from the Royal Academy of Engineering, and new appointments Kerry Brandon and Ian Forrestal who are here this evening, and other institutions for their continued support and encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Lord Sainsbury, without whom none of this would have been possible.


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The Sainsbury Management Fellows is registered as a charity: Engineers in Business Fellowship, charity number 1147203 and is a company limited by guarantee : 07807250