Sainsbury Management Fellows

SMF Comes of Age – Lord Sainsbury’s Speech 2015

In the past few months I have been thinking a lot about the effectiveness of the major projects which Gatsby has funded over the years. The reason for doing so is that amazingly in 2017 Gatsby will have been in existence for 50 years, and I am currently in the process of commissioning a book about what it has achieved over that period of time.

Looking back at the original concept of the Sainsbury Management Fellows, I think that it has proved its worth. As you know the original idea behind the scheme was to attract into industry some of the best and brightest young engineers by enabling them to acquire the business skills which would help them rise quickly to the top of large British companies or set up their own high-tech businesses. I have always thought, and continue to think, that for business men and women to be successful they need above all to understand the customers and the technology of their businesses, and this means that high-tech businesses need to be run by people with an engineering or scientific background. Top executives need to have financial and general management skills but these are no substitute for a knowledge of the technology and customers of one’s business.

But has the Sainsbury Management Fellows scheme been a success? I think overwhelmingly the answer is yes. Today after 28 years there are 316 Sainsbury Management Fellows, including those now at Business School, so there are enough of you to make a real impact.

It is estimated that 150 Sainsbury Management Fellows have founded businesses with a total value in excess of £4.5 billion, employing over 18,000 people, while other fellows have helped further develop some of the UK’s largest corporations, enhancing economic wealth.

I have also been greatly impressed by the work you now do to promote engineering as an exciting, well-paid and fulfilling career to young people. I have always, as a politician and businessman, liked killer facts, and there are few better killer facts than that engineering was the most popular degree among the world’s top 100 billionaires, with more than a fifth of them having studied engineering at university, as compared with 8% having studied economics and 3% having studied finance.

The work you do helping with the selection and mentoring of the RAEng’s Engineering Leadership Award winners and your participation in the RAEng’s Executive Engineer’s Programme is very valuable, and I am delighted that Sainsbury Management Fellows have volunteered to help out with the Enterprise Hub, the RAEng’s exciting initiative to encourage business minded UK based engineers to start their own companies.

I would also like to mention two other schemes which have involved Sainsbury Management Fellows’ and which I think are good examples of exactly the sort of projects which Sainsbury Management Fellows ought to be leading. The first is the competition at Nottingham University Business School which challenged engineering students to create a novel product concept that meets a real need in society and also to demonstrate the use of engineering skills in the creative process. I gather the competition was so successful that a runner-up prize was created in addition to the first prize of £1,000. I am told that the competition will be rolled out to other universities in the coming years. My only question is will the roll-out be quick enough and big enough?

Secondly, I would like to mention the Silicon Valley Internship Programme which Sainsbury Management Fellow Michael Hughes, co-founder of LoopUp, together with his partners Steve Flanell, co-founder and Naomi Coe, Silicon Valley Internship Programme manager, launched in 2013.

As you probably know the Silicon Valley Internship Programme gives newly graduating Software Engineering students from the UK the unique experience of working with fast growing high tech companies in Silicon Valley through a one-year internship. The aim is that through this experience SVIP interns will bring a little of the Silicon Valley attitude back to the entrepreneurial community in the UK.

The first cohort of 15 graduates began their internships in September 2013 and the second cohort of 16 graduates were finalised in April 2014 and began their internship in September 2014. The third cohort are now being selected. I think this is an excellent scheme which could have a significant impact.

This evening can I also say how pleased I am that so many of the Sainsbury Management Fellows are seeking funds to secure the long-term future of the Sainsbury Management Fellows scheme. It means that you believe in the scheme and share my ambitions for it. I am delighted that many SMFs have already “given back” to the scheme by giving a gift towards the endowment fund, and I applaud the work of Simon Bonini and the fund-raising team.

As well as Sainsbury Management Fellows, we have invited guests from industry, finance and HR, who we believe share our agenda, to be here this evening. So can I invite you all to use the rest of the evening to network, to explore areas where we can work together, and to enjoy the fellowship of our evening together.


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