Sainsbury Management Fellows

Speech by David Falzani, SMF President

Standing here in Prince Philip House, I would like to say how inspiring it was to hear Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, recently on Radio 4’s Today Programme. He said: “Everything that wasn’t invented by God was invented by an engineer”. How flattering and how valid that is!

The SMF is pleased to share and support the goals of the Royal Academy, including making the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation. For many years SMFs have been pleased to support the Academy’s Engineering Advanced Leadership Awards and Engineer Engagement Programmes, and also mentor many of the participants.

The SMF is now a group of 316 Fellows who have received scholarships to study for MBAs at the top business schools in the world. Our track record demonstrates the value of a combined business and engineering education to improve the performance of the UK and world economies. Fellows have helped create businesses with a total value of over £4 billion and created over 18,000 jobs.

The reach of our SMFs extends beyond engineering. Amongst our group are leaders in the fields of technology entrepreneurship, corporate management, finance and venture capital. However, at the heart of our success are the engineering skills which give us the framework upon which to build and develop our business capabilities. We hope that these business skills can be put to even further use by the Royal Academy, perhaps on the Engineering Talent Project or to participate on other programmes that are in the pipeline.

Critical to addressing the shortage of engineers, a subject which I know is of concern to all of us, is the need to address the image of engineering. Several years ago SMF invented the Hard Hat Index. Similar to the Economists Big Mac Index, this was designed to point out how the engineering community is choosing to represent itself in terms of image and emotional value. This image of engineering has never been so critical. Generations Y and Z are far more image and brand conscious than any that have gone before. Image and emotional value are therefore vital in our ability to attract, inspire, recruit and, crucially, retain bright young people. This is a serious national challenge and one that we must all embrace.

Having hoped that the Index would start a dialogue about the image of engineering, we are delighted to see an increasing number of articles and, indeed, industry leaders speaking out on the importance of improving this. We like to think that the Index is playing its part.

We have spoken to several experts in this area including Academy Fellow Kel Fidler and we will be putting together a roundtable discussion later this year with 4 or 5 speakers and intend to produce a white paper on the subject. We would welcome the Royal Academy as a partner for this roundtable and I look forward to discussing a way forward together.

Another programme that we have initiated inspires more young engineers to take a business elective at university. It is a competition that we have been running in concert with Nottingham University Business School. We are pleased that this programme has resulted in a 25% increase in participation by undergraduate engineers this year versus last year. Two of the winners from last years’ competition, Raivat Luthra and Robert Kunzmann are here with us tonight. In addition to a cash prize, we offer mentoring to the winners and an opportunity to attend networking events such as tonight’s event. We hope to arrange funding to expand this programme to several more universities this year.

If anyone here tonight would like to become involved in either of these projects please let me know. Lastly, we always encourage our SMFs to join our various committees. During tonight’s networking, please do come forward to speak to me or one of the other trustees here: Nigel Thomas, Henning von Spreckelsen, Adam Bazire or Paul Dolan. I’m also delighted to announce that SMF David Weston has agreed to join our board of trustees.

Thank you all for your attention and it gives me great pleasure to introduce our Patron, Lord Sainsbury.


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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