Speech by David Falzani, SMF President

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Fellows, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to our annual dinner.  A special welcome to our Fellows who have travelled from afar to be with us this evening: Karim El-Hamel from Turkey, Graham MacGregor from Australia and Alpesh Amin and Mike Hughes MBE from California.

The Fellowship was founded 31 years ago by Lord Sainsbury, who had the foresight to understand that having the right business skills was going to be essential for the future success of engineering and technology.

The Fellowship promotes and demonstrates the value of a combined business and engineering education to improve the performance of the UK economy. It firstly does this by selecting the brightest young engineers and providing them with scholarships to the top 14 MBA schools in the world. It then provides an alumni support and development network, as well as a programme of outbound communications, which together combine to create a whole, greater than the sum of its parts.

The SMF, therefore, upholds the importance of business and engineering skills. Business skills have never been so important to the UK. In tomorrow’s hypercompetitive global economy, only those with the economic agility to discover and deliver on potential sources of value, raise appropriate funding, and understand client decision-making behaviour, will prosper.

The SMF is now a group of 345 Fellows who have received £8m in scholarships.  In terms of results, it is estimated that a total of 170 Fellows are directors of FTSE companies, whilst 20 are directors of FTSE 100 companies.  Two hundred and twenty Fellows have helped develop some of the UK’s largest corporations, enhancing economic wealth, and are responsible for over £9 billion in sales.  Eighty percent of Fellows support and mentor young engineers as well as support other charitable activities.  I’m sure you’ll agree, all of this indicates a very favourable return on investment indeed.

I’m delighted to report that the amount of the individual bursary has been increased from 30,000 per award to £50,000.  This increase is an expression of the achievements of the scheme to date, and of the commitment by Lord Sainsbury to helping the scheme continue these successes into the future.

Engineers in Business Competition
Four years ago we asked the question “what else could be done to help young engineers?” Considerable research shows that introducing business education to young engineers makes them better engineers, makes them more employable and effective in the workplace and is better for the profession and for the UK economy.

Therefore the challenge was how to introduce business topics into a notoriously crowded undergraduate curriculum and a fragmented and complex university landscape?  To answer this, the SMF developed its Engineers In Business competition, aimed at undergraduate engineers, whereby we offer a prize fund specific to engineering participants in existing business competitions. In return, the university partner promotes the competition to their engineers and reports on results.

Early results suggest it’s working well.  The approach leverages the existing mechanisms within the universities and colleges. And, perhaps most importantly, it appears to be truly scalable.

I don’t wish to understate the excitement of this development.  We also have the funding to hold a national championship of champions final and some media interest has already been expressed.

This year we sponsored four competitions: Ingenuity18 at the University of Nottingham, The Bright Ideas Competition at Kingston University, the CitySpark Competition at City University and the New Enterprise Competition at the University of Bristol.  We had 400 engineer participants and a combined audience of 8,000 undergraduate engineers receiving our core messages on the value of business education.  As well as cash prizes, the winners receive an SMF mentor, to offer ongoing guidance and support.

I’m therefore very pleased to announce, that we now have an additional £600k of funding from the Gatsby Foundation to expand our business competition to up to 50 universities and colleges over the next three years, which represents a major new, and exciting, area of activity for the organisation.

If anyone here today can offer any help, such as introductions to potential university and college partners for these business competitions, we’d be most grateful. I’d like to acknowledge some of our competition partners who have joined us this evening:

  • Martha Mador, from Kingston University,
  • Steve Chapman and Lizzie Smith from Nottingham’s Ingenuity18 Competition
  • Neil Coles from Bristol University and
  • Rui Barros Silva from City University

I would also like to thank Professor Simon Mosey of the Hadyn Green Institute at Nottingham University Business School, and the Commercial Education Trust – who facilitate my honorary professorship at Nottingham University – for their considerable help and guidance in developing our competition model.

Mentor30Engineers – Innovation Essay Competition

To commemorate our 30th anniversary we launched Mentor30Engineers.  Applicants were asked to write a short essay on how to solve a current problem in society using their engineering skills. We received some excellent essays and fourteen winners were chosen, with each winner being paired with a mentor for 30 hours over 3 years.    We have 10 of the 14 winners here with us tonight, sitting at the table with their mentors: Matt Parkes, James Rogers and Leah Edwards from Loughborough, Adam Honnywill from Bristol, Vivek Babu from Warwick, Areeb Siddiqi from Bath, Alberto Garcia Matachana from Imperial and Flavia Villarroel from Nottingham.

I am very pleased to report that we now have £2.3 million in cash and pledges including Gift Aid and the most generous 100% matching of funds by Lord Sainsbury. I would like to thank all of the Fellows who have contributed to reaching this impressive total.

Thanks also for the efforts of our fundraising team, led by Chairman Simon Bonini and special thanks to former SMF President Mike Gansser-Potts who is stepping down from his Vice Chairman role.  The team has so far, spoken to about half of the Fellows, and plans to get in touch with the remaining half in the coming year.  I would ask all Fellows to pledge to put the value of their MBA ‘back into the pot’, so to speak, so that someone else can share the same experience.

We have a 100% match from Lord Sainsbury for all donations for another 2 years, so I would encourage anyone who wishes to get involved in helping us fund the scholarship, or the university business competitions, to please get in touch.

In closing, I would 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 Paul Dolan and our other Trustees: Adam Bazire, Simon Bonini, Henning von Spreckelsen, Nigel Thomas and David Weston.

I’d like to thank the fundraising team for their amazing work: Mike Gansser-Potts, Imoni Akpofure, Mary Anne Stewart, Laurence Knight, James Raby, Richard Smith, Andy Doe, Nick Laird, Sonia Home and our fundraising chairman Simon Bonini.  Mike Astell has recently joined the fundraising team and we would be very pleased to hear from anyone else who is able to help us.

I would also like to express our appreciation to Fellows who have supported ELA, selection panel and other events and activities: Mike Astell, Busola Banjo, Adam Bazire, Simon Bonini, Sam Cockerill, Adam Locke, Michael Hill, Mark Spence, Robin Jones, Mojgan Maramba, Mujahid Khalid, Andy Layton, John Callaghan, Ian Peerless, Will Myles, James Raby and all other Fellows who have written articles, or spoken to the media on our behalf.

It’s been said that organising Fellows is a challenge similar to herding cats, so my sincere thanks to our Comms Director, Cathy Breeze, who’s steady organising influence helps us to succeed.

My thanks also to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and our friends from the Royal Academy of Engineering and other institutions, for their continued support and encouragement.  Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Lord Sainsbury, without whose vision and ongoing support, none of this would have been possible.

Sainsbury Management Fellowship champions the benefits of a combined business and engineering education to help improve the performance of the UK economy


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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