Tag Archives: Engineering

Coping through COVID: Less Obvious Strategies for Growth Businesses to Survive the Pandemic – SMF Chirag Shah, Executive Chairman, Simfoni

To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a test for businesses would be an understatement. Throughout the course of the past 12 months, businesses have been forced to make serious adjustments to their day-to-day operations.  Digital-savvy companies might have found this easier than most, but even those at the cutting edge will have found themselves scrambling to re-assess their expectations just to stay in business. There will no doubt be start-ups out there that have actually benefited from the crisis, but for every success story there will be countless start-ups and young businesses still struggling to adapt to the so-called ‘new normal’ in which we find ourselves.

However, despite all of the uncertainty, there are several things that young, innovative businesses can do to increase their resilience and weather the COVID storm.  Some of these ‘coping’ strategies are fairly obvious, such as securing financial support packages such as bounce back loans, future funds and innovation grants. Staffing policies such as hiring freezes and the furloughing of surplus staff will also have been a necessary measure taken by many businesses. Some may have even introduced pay cuts which, so long as they’re top-down and impact managers as much as – if not more than – those lower down the ranks, is a sensible but hopefully temporary move. The last tool in the arsenal of most young businesses will be the slashing of overheads to reduce costs – the elephant in the room during the pandemic being unused office space which can save significantly in rental fees.

Less obvious strategies for ensuring growth
The above techniques are  a good start, but what about less obvious strategies for navigating through the pandemic?  Faced with a downturn in business, the above ideas may not be sufficient to ensure business survival. And many business leaders won’t just be looking to survive but continue their growth throughout the crisis.  Forward looking business leaders should be looking at adopting a combination of light-handed and more aggressive tactics, in the right place and at the right time, to ensure their survival. These tactics fall into two categories – cost and revenue – which we look at in more detail below.

Tactics to ensure revenue growth
Revenue is like oxygen for businesses. Go too long without it, and your business will become weak and eventually fade away. Your first move as a business owner during a time of crisis should therefore be securing revenue and cashflow.  Start by removing all friction, making it easier for your customers and clients to engage with you however they wish.  For example, remove upfront fees or setup fees where possible to simplify customer acquisition, and curtail long-term commitments that might delay sign-off. Remember that your customers are most likely in the same boat you are and looking to make cost reductions, so treat them with care and double down on customer service offering whatever help you can to make their lives easier and make your services indispensable.  Finally, while trying to get money into the business might be your number one objective, the best way of achieving this might be to offer some flexibility to your customers – far better to wait for a late payment than lose the business altogether.

There are things outside of the day to day that could help businesses maintain or build revenue too. Consider diversifying your business and embracing new channels for marketing and distribution. Offer a unique service that responds directly to the events of the pandemic, such as additional customer support. Your messaging should also adapt to fit this new narrative, reminding customers and prospects that you’re very much open for business and willing to help and flex to help keep them on track too.

Tactics to effectively reduce costs
Top line revenue isn’t the only factor when it comes to business sustainability.  Businesses that don’t keep a close eye on their expenses and take advantage of every possible reduction are both increasing their viability risk as well as limiting their potential to re-invest in growth. Your first course of action should be to start the clock on all notice periods for any suppliers or facilities irrespective of whether you know you’re going to need the service or not during the pandemic period. These contracts can have 3-6 months’ notice periods, so starting the clock should be number one on your list of priorities.   Of course, if things shift positively and you want to re-engage these firms, it only takes a minute to reverse the decision.

For any suppliers or facilities that you know you’re going to need, take the opportunity to renegotiate terms, particularly if the contract period is nearly up.  Remember, commercial landlords and countless suppliers are going to be worried about their revenue too and will want to gain some security about your future business.  For instance, if you know you’re going to be using a particular service in the long term, offer a contract extension in lieu of a reduction in current pricing. Far better for a service provider to keep you at a reduced rate than to try and attract a new customer in the current economic environment.

Staffing is another area where cost reductions can be made. It’s never easy, but with the changing work environment and rapid fluctuations in customer demand for services, you may find that you have to let some non-core staff go. The job market has also been flooded with candidates, particularly those with digital skills so if you are hiring staffyou may be able to enlist the help of interns and remote workers at a reduced rate.

Risk management
As well as controlling revenue and costs, now is a very pertinent time for businesses to review their risk management strategy. With the working landscaping changing so rapidly, businesses are vulnerable to all manner of threats, from cyberattacks and supply-chain disruption, to force majeure clauses or flaky contracts that could leave your business exposed.  Carry out thorough risk assessments and learn your business’ vulnerabilities inside out so you can start building toward a stronger, more resilient future.

With vaccines now being rolled out at a rapid rate, the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully soon be behind us.  By taking some of the steps outlined above, businesses can not only ensure their survival throughout the crisis but build for a more profitable future.  One thing’s for sure, businesses that make it through the pandemic will be stronger and wiser as a result – make sure you’re one of them.

Chirag is the Founder and Chairman of Simfoni a leader in spend management. The global company has offices in USA, Europe, Australia and Middle East. Its AI-powered intelligence solution and on-demand platform empowers procurement and finance teams to achieve rapid savings and support supply-chain sustainability with automated procurement.

Engineers in Business Prize for Imperial College London’s Pioneering Women


Engineers in Business Fellowship recently became a proud supporter of We Innovate, a women’s entrepreneurship programme run by Imperial Enterprise Lab which inspires and accelerates the progress of women entrepreneurs.  At the final held during Enterprise Month 2019, five finalists battled it out to win a share of a £30,000 prize pot, sponsored by BP.

For the first time, the Imperial Enterprise Lab incorporated an Engineers in Business Prize of £3,000 into We Innovate, enabling it to make additional awards.  Two prizes, funded by Engineers in Business Fellowship, were awarded to outstanding engineering projects from the WE Innovate cohort.

Sophie Paisley-Marshall (PhD Student Sustainable Civil Engineering) of Orbit Materials received £1,500 prize for the development of carbon-negative construction materials from waste residues. Orbit Materials promotes a circular economy through the development of a treatment which successfully improves the quality of a waste product so that it can be repurposed within construction applications.  Sophie said, “Our technology reduces the strain on virgin raw materials whilst capturing carbon, thus making our residues carbon negative.”

The second £1,500 prize was awarded to semi-finalist Lauren Dowling (Undergraduate Design Engineering) of Rock N Roll which is developing a collapsible log-fence to prevent rotational falls in equestrian cross-country competitions.

Professor Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International) and Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), said: “The lack of gender equality in the startup world is well documented. In the UK, only 1% of venture capital invested goes to all women-founded teams, with 89% going to teams founded entirely by men. Clearly, we still have a big problem.

“Since 2014, WE Innovate has supported more than 250 women, equipping them with the skills and confidence they need to develop into successful entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see this community of female student entrepreneurs grow and the fantastically diverse nature of their inventions.”

SMF James Diaz-Sokoloff, Portfolio Advisor (Intern) at BP who is pictured with Sophie and Lauren said: “It’s exciting to see the dynamism and creativity of the We Innovate competitors and it was a privilege to be at the final.  We are delighted to be part of We Innovate which is doing such an important job in encouraging women’s role in innovation.”

You can learn more about the Engineers in Business prize fund for university enterprise competitions here.

£70,000 Awarded to Universities for Enterprise Competitions  

Engineers in Business Fellowship (EIBF) inspires engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to engage with their entrepreneurial instincts.

EIBF works with universities that run enterprise competitions, providing them with a £3,000 prize fund so that they can encourage more engineers to participate in their business competitions and to reward those who develop the most imaginative and viable solutions to real problems.

The EIB prize fund was successfully piloted at the University of Nottingham and then rolled out to the University of Bristol, Kingston University and City, University of London with great success.  These early successes led to Lord Sainsbury’s charitable trust, The Gatsby Foundation, granting Engineers in Business Fellowship £700,000 to fund more HEI/FEI  competitions over a three-year period.

The expanded prize fund got off to a flying start with 23 universities awarded a £3,000 prize fund – more than £70,000 awarded and there is more to come.

“The expansion from four to 23 universities integrating EIB prizes within their enterprise competitions shows the appetite for the fund and its value to the universities.  In 2019, we want to award a further 25 universities and FE colleges a share of  £75,000,” said EIBF President, David Falzani MBE.

Paula Gouldthorpe, Entrepreneurship Manager at the University of Hull which recently received a prize fund said: “Our Global Challenge is a module dedicated to all our 2nd year engineering students. This year, 300 students, creating 50 interdisciplinary groups of engineers, will solve current real-world problems.  The Engineers in Business competition prize crucially helps highlight the importance of enterprise, entrepreneurial thinking and business acumen of our future engineers – encouraging them to look beyond their technical capabilities.  The prize fund provides students with the additional inspiration; for the University it builds upon the careers and entrepreneurship links with our Science and Engineering Faculty and I am hopeful too of some fresh, innovative solutions for social, economic and environmental change.”

Kate Beresford, Head of Membership and Operation, Enterprise Educators UK commented on the EIBF funding: “Our member universities find enterprise competitions to be a really effective way to inspire students, graduate and postgraduates to consider enterprise and entrepreneurship. But funding can be a massive challenge, so we welcome the Engineers in Business Prize Fund and look forward to seeing a wealth of innovative engineering solutions come forward.”


The Engineers in Business Prize Fund has already generated fascinating ideas from teams that comprise engineering students, graduates and postgraduates and here are just two:

Lancaster University – The ‘Quench Spike Free Cup’: The top team in Lancaster University’s competition created the ‘Quench Spike Free Cup’ which is designed to alert the owner if their drink has been spiked or tampered with. The plastic cup uses coloured detection strips within plastic cups to warn of this. As first prize winner the team received £1,750 and a business mentor from the Sainsbury Management Fellowship to support them as they move forward to develop the product and test prototypes.   

The remainder of Lancaster University’s £3,000 prize fund went to 2nd prize winner Buddyup; a sports app that would allow users to find sports companions at similar levels of skills and 3rd prize winner Tech Test, a  service where users can test new technology over short trial periods before committing to buy their own devices.

City, University of London: E-Mobility Bike: First prize went to a hybrid sharing bicycle system, called E-Mobility Bike, a lightweight half manual and half electric bicycle designed to make city travel easier, healthier and more accessible. Unicorn Electrics, the team behind it, has already secured pilot locations to trial the system and have used the EIB cash prize to perfect their product.

The incentive of the EIB prize fund has enabled City, University of London to increase the level of participation by engineers in its competition by 114%.

Alex Elkins, Head of Entrepreneurship at the university said: The launch of our EIB competition resulted in an impressive jump in the quality and number of business ideas entered by our engineering students. The EIB support has been instrumental in launching this dedicated award within our broader innovation competition. We are very happy to have had the opportunity to establish this partnership!”

For details on how to apply for an Engineers in Business Prize Fund visit our competitions page or contact us at EngineersinBusiness@smf.org.uk.



Concept for Lower Cost Bionic Arms Wins Edinburgh University’s Engineers in Business Prize

The LAUNCH.ed Team at Edinburgh Innovations, University of Edinburgh, launched its first dedicated Business Ideas Competition for engineering students to inspire them to develop business innovations, with cash prizes provided by Engineers in Business Fellowship.  The Engineers in Business Prize was created to encourage more engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to get involved in business innovation early in their studies/careers.

The top Engineers in Business prize was awarded to the Augment Bionics team which developed the idea of designing and manufacturing affordable and functional bionic arms for use by amputees and people born without upper limbs. The winning team comprised four students – George Dzavaryan (Mechanical Engineering with Management), Moritz Muller (Chemistry), Iman Mouloudi (Neuroscience) and Will Saputra (Sociology and Quantitive Methods).

The Augment Bionics team was presented with a £500 cash prize at the event, How to Win at Business Competitions, which was co-hosted by LAUNCH.ed and the University of Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club.  The event was designed to help the 60 attendees learn more about strategies for winning business competitions and included a host of entrepreneurs including Denny Schenk as the Climate-KIC Entrepreneur in Residence and Lorenzo Conti, Founder of Crover and winner of last year’s Business Ideas Competition.  As part of the prize, the members of Augment Bionics can also avail themselves of a Sainsbury Management Fellow as a mentor.

George Dzavaryan, Technical Director of Augment Bionics, said: “Applying to the competition was an easy process, especially with a project that was already several months in the making. We had developed a more mature vision for the future and had some results to show for our hard work. Winning first place was a nice surprise for us, as I’m sure it will be for future contestants. The £500 cash prize has been spent well on purchasing electrical components for the first version of the bionic prosthetic and to buy a domain for our website. It definitely gave us a much-needed kick start early on in the academic year, which is important for many student-led projects since it is a period of time when they are not as busy and can dedicate more time to projects like ours.”

Arthur Chee

There were also second and third Engineers in Business prizes: Arthur Chee, a postgraduate student studying Mechanical Engineering and Dilyana Karavasileva (Informatics), were awarded £300 for their idea of developing a robotic strawberry harvesting arm that is more efficient and less bulky than existing designs in development.  The design improvements would be achieved through greater degrees of freedom and an internal conveyor belt system.

Dileep Dasari

In third place was Dileep Dasari, second year undergraduate student at the School of Engineering, who created DASSUN (patent pending), an easy and cost-effective vortex generating system which can potentially decrease fuel consumption of Turbofan engines by up to 10%.  Dileep was awarded £200 cash prize.

Teodora Handrea, Enterprise Executive, University of Edinburgh said, “The Engineers in Business prize has been a phenomenal success. Run in parallel with the university’s established Business Ideas Competition, the two competitions attracted 81 entries from teams of students and alumni, with the Engineers in Business Prize stimulating 45 entries from the College of Science and Engineering and 24 entries from the School of Engineering.  Overall, we have seen a 137% increase in the total number of entries to both competitions from the College of Science and Engineering, and over 600% increase from the School of Engineering.”

LAUNCH.ed is now working with all other competition entrants to offer further assistance to develop their ideas through workshops and one-to-one support with a business advisor.

LAUNCH.ed will be running the Engineers in Business prize alongside its general Business Competition again this year and in 2020 and is aiming to encourage even more engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to participate and develop creative solutions to real problems.   LAUNCH.ed will again be supported by an Engineers in Business Prize Fund.


Engineering Student wins £1,000 for Cybersecurity Business

Engineers in Business supports City, University of London’s CitySpark business ideas competition which is open to students and recent alumni.

A special category, MakerSpark, was created to recognise the innovations created by engineering students, and this element is supported by a £3,000 EIB prize fund.

The CitySpark competition focusses on finding problems, identifying real gaps in the market and building evidence-based start-ups from day one.  CitySpark places a core focus on encouraging students to ‘get out of the building’, meet target customers and develop a full understanding of the problem to be solved. This provides an excellent starting point for brilliant ideas to develop into fully-fledged business ventures.  The competition is split into two challenges taking place throughout the academic year to help students develop entrepreneurial skills and launch a business.

The MakerSpark prize covers the two challenges and we are delighted to announce that Alien Security, a new cybersecurity consultancy, has won £1,000 in the first challenge.

Alien Security, which already has clients, provides ethical hacking services for the purpose of finding security vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could potentially exploit.

Founder and CEO, Noor Alrayes, who is studying the  MSc Cyber Security course said: “Cybersecurity is not only a technology problem but also a people problem, which is why we offer cybersecurity support to clients and tailor our services to their needs”

Working with clients, Alien Security causes ‘serious chaos’ testing IT environments and physical cybersecurity to maximise cybersecurity defence.

We will be back later in the year to update on the final winner of the MakerSpark prize in the grand final!

Understanding the ingenuity process

Vector set of conceptual flat line illustrations on following themes - creativity and inspiration, idea and imagination, innovation and discovery, think outside the box

David Falzani, SMF President and honorary professor of entrepreneurship at Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) takes us through NUBS’ ingenuity process which is at the heart of its entrepreneurship module.

Ingenuity, inventiveness, originality – all these are at the heart of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs, after all, are fundamentally problem solvers that offer creative, innovative solutions and responses to problems – gaps – in organisational or market-oriented thinking.

However, creative solutions don’t just materialise out of thin air. They emerge from lateral thinking processes and problem-solving approaches which attempt to grapple with not just the problem itself, but the factors leading to the problem, the consequences of the various solutions potentially available to us, and the possibility of new, unique ideas which can be mobilised into a concrete plan of action. In other words, ingenuity is not innate. Whether we’re talking about products that fill a particular gap in the market or internal changes to a business, ingenuity is a problem-solving process that taps into a natural human capacity for creative solutions.

They say that quick decisions are not always the best decisions. That’s why the ingenuity process demands organisational time and respect to get the best results – that is, after all, why we talk about it as a ‘process’. It represents a progressive working-through of the obstacles and issues in question. So, what might this process look like?

Defining the problem
If you’re looking for creative solutions, you must already be aware that there is a problem or obstacle. The ingenuity process firstly seeks to understand the problem in its entirety by asking questions such as, but not limited to:

      • Whose problem is this?
      • How urgent is the problem?
      • How might we break the problem down into manageable parts?

In other words, ingenuity first requires a comprehensive, concrete analysis and explanation of the issue at hand—as this will form the basis of the next step, ie your strategy. Knowing the component parts of the problem should give you a clearer idea of the various objectives required to solve each element of the issue individually.

It will also allow you to test your potential strategy against the problem itself by making clear the various implications and impacts of your solution on the different factors leading to the problem in the first place. Defining the problem in this way may even solve the problem immediately by making clear the various blind spots in the organisation’s relationship with the issue thus far. To come up with an original, ingenious solution, however, requires you to document the problem – and your strategy – in its entirety. There is no single answer to a problem, and that’s why all possible avenues must be explored before action is taken.

Documenting the ingenuity process
Documentation is vital in any organisational context, as it will form the basis of any concrete, problem-solving proposal to your colleagues, shareholders, or fellow management team. It enables you to communicate the gravity of the problem and all its complexities in a way that creates a case for taking action and moving forward.

You’ve hopefully thought about the problem in depth, measuring its impacts, causes, and implications of your proposed strategy. You need to communicate this creative thinking in clear, concise terms – not only to justify your strategy but also to hit the nail on the head, so to speak. So, write a statement describing the predicament which addresses:

      • The processes involved
      • The facts as they are and why they demand action
      • The consequences of not solving the problem

This should form the basis of a concise justification as to why your strategy is not only a good potential course of action but an imperative one too. Supplementing this statement with a comprehensive analysis of root causes, a map of the different processes leading to and from the issue, and arranging different considerations according to priority, will provide a solid basis for moving forward and generating real solutions and ideas with your colleagues.

Discovering creative solutions
So, you’ve analysed the problem in its entirety, demonstrated the importance of solving the problem, and hopefully proposed a basic strategy for moving past the issue. Everyone agrees creative solutions are needed, and there are clear ideas about where the problems lie and where action needs to be taken.

If these steps represent an objective, concrete approach to a problem, one that attempts to quantify the issues at hand, then it is from here that real creativity comes into play. You need to designate a time and a place for non-judgmental idea generation.

Exercises such as looking for analogies in other markets or previous experience can be helpful in illustrating where other solutions have fallen short and what needs to be done differently. Take an example from another company, perhaps, and try to generate a set of hypothetical solutions for the problems they faced – it will give you a much-needed detached perspective while providing a focal point for new ideas. Get to the root of your current problem-solving processes. What organisational assumptions are underlying them? How might you change those assumptions to move beyond paradigmatic thinking?

Brainstorm, argue, debate, deconstruct – and ultimately, generate as many ideas as possible in response to the problem at hand. Many of these ideas might not solve the problem in its entirety, but they might solve it partially – and if not, the point is that they open up new space for alternative, lateral solutions. This is the most important element of creative idea generation – allowing yourself to be wrong, questioning your assumptions, and making the box small enough that thinking outside of it becomes second nature.

Determine your course of action
This is the hardest part of the ingenuity process, and the part most burdened with the kind of risks entrepreneurs must take on. Firstly, you need to step back from the idea generation stage. Getting sucked into individual ideas and potential responses can mean losing sight of the bigger picture. You now need to consider all your ideas in their entirety and as a collective whole, asking yourself:

      • What kind of underlying logic characterises the different groups of ideas generated?
      • What solution does this logic point towards? Does it sufficiently address the problem?
      • Have all derivative ideas or combinations of ideas been seriously considered?

It’s time to collate your ideas and think hard about the nature of the problems they’re speaking to. The ingenuity process is then not so much about idea generation as it is about critical self-reflection on the logic and norms governing ‘business as usual’. It’s only by questioning your assumptions and considering your ideas in relation to these assumptions that a truly original, creative solution can emerge. Here, the ingenuity process transforms: it is no longer just about thinking outside of the box; it is about questioning how you ended up inside it in the first place.

Image: vasabii

Marketing an Engineering Business

b9-1106 Bedfordshire Businesswoman awards held at Woburn Sculpture Gallery. Overall winner Andrea Rodney of Hone-All Precision Ltd

Andrea Rodney is a dynamic, self-taught, self-motivated businesswoman who helped Hone-All Precision in Bedfordshire to extraordinary success, part of which can be attributed to the transformation of the company’s marketing strategy. Andrea joined the company at the age of 21 and 18 years later is a director of the company. Here Andrea tells us why manufacturing businesses should not shy away from marketing themselves.

For many years, Engineering and Manufacturing has suffered from a poor image. It seems that the media insist on continuously showing images of the old guy in overalls standing at his bench with a file in his hand whose length of service was judged by the length of the fingers he had left.

But the question is: how do we help ourselves in this?
Few companies within our industry ever covet press coverage or publish press releases or case studies shouting about the technological or process advancements they’ve made, the efficiencies achieved or even something as simple as a new machine being delivered.

Even fewer have a strong corporate image with memorable company logos which create an overall brand resulting in facilities with a themed colour scheme, matching corporate work wear, uniform documentation combined with an effective website to ensure the brand is seen externally by a national or international audience.

Within smaller companies in our industry, many are owner-managed or are run by excellent engineers who have never been involved in sales and marketing activity – they know how to make the parts, but not how to play the game!

As companies, regardless of size or speciality, we need to show just what we do and how well we do it. We need to look as good as we are. And we need to let people know about it. We are always told to focus on the 4 Ps – people, place, process and product – but without the 5th P – profile – it’s irrelevant as nobody knows just how good we are.

And so as an industry, we need to look to the brands we remember and ask ourselves what made them memorable? Then we apply that to our own businesses, however small and with whatever budget we have available to us.

It costs nothing to come up with an eye catching logo, to ensure this brand continues across all levels and throughout all functions of the business; and to ensure that when the telephone is answered, it is always in the same, bright, professional, bubbly and courteous manner. It costs nothing to ensure the facilities are clean, tidy and create a great first impression. And to ask people what they thought during their visit and act upon their feedback.

For those potential customers that cannot come for a visit there may be a small investment required to ensure that you can create a website that follows the same principles as your people, place, product and processes.

Once this is in place, it costs nothing to ensure your website is listed on all the free listings pages available, of which there are hundreds. Each entry moves your site up the rankings of search engines such as Google.

Advertising within trade magazines Services & Capacity listings is usually exceedingly cost-effective – less than a few hundred pounds for the entire year. But having a consistent presence raises awareness of your company and reinforces the brand each time it is seen.

Also, once these entries are placed, the magazines are usually much happier to include press releases and case studies from you which are placed free of charge and yet again tell your story, reinforce your brand and raise confidence in the continuity of your company and the services you provide.

The press releases can then be forwarded to your customers on a regular basis keeping them informed of your successes, investments and developments. Again, this costs nothing but offers a massive boost to reinforcing your image and keeping you at the forefront of your customers’ minds.

The benefits of these simple steps are that your company – which may well be exceptionally professional – is also perceived to be so. Not just by those that know you, but more importantly, by those that don’t.

You can build a brand and a profile for the minimum of investment and simply by playing the game you can tell the world about your fantastic people, about your safe and efficient facility, about the quality of your product and the effectiveness of your processes – all through one simple profile.

The greater hope with this is if more of us get this right, the less companies there will be for the media to use in order to portray manufacturing as an antiquated, outdated industry with little technology or progression for the youth of today. We have more chance of showing CNC machinery, sharing stories of technological advancements, highlighting companies consistently investing in continuous improvement and reinforcing the fact that manufacturing is the best and safest way of balancing our economy and therefore deserves the recognition and support of everyone – the media, the Government, the country and those within it that don’t shout loudly enough about their contribution to the most exciting and innovative industry in the world.

Recruiting Trends in Engineering

Mike Astell 2

SMF Mike Astell has both engineering and business qualifications, the latter he gained through his MBA study thanks to a hefty bursary from Sainsbury Management Fellows which champions the idea of having engineers in board positions because they bring a multiplicity of skills to these roles.

Mikes’ MBA enabled him to transition into senior management posts where his is responsible for hiring a diversity of staff including engineers.  Mike’s view on current recruitment is that “Engineering recruitment is at a turning point.  A major shift is taking place within  graduate recruitment as many more are seeing engineering as an exciting long term career choice.

“Our industry has long lamented the fact that large numbers of talented engineering graduates have not seen their careers in engineering roles and have been lured by City employers which offer big incentives and salaries to attract people with strategic, analytical and project management skills.

“The failure of so many financial institutions has led to the restructuring of the economy  (eg headcount reductions, divestments) and engineering graduates are starting to look at things differently.  They are exploring engineering roles more carefully and beginning to appreciate the potential for challenging careers with long term prospects for advancement.

“This shift in perspective has increased the pool of graduate talent from which to select the very best engineering graduates, creating a very competitive market – many graduates are having to do work placements or part time work to improve their competitiveness.  Now  we are recruiting some amazing graduates; not only in terms of their academic achievements, but their energy and enthusiasm to contribute to industry.

“And it’s not just engineering graduates. The upheaval in the job market has resulted in a large churn and highly experience engineers who may have stayed at one firm for a long time, becoming frustrated at not progressing, have joined the candidate market, creating even more opportunities for employers to access the best engineers. This diversion of talent into industry will most definitely help to rebuild the British economy.”



President’s Letter

annual dinner 2010

SMF Ernest Poku
Each time I look through the profile book it impresses me how unique a group the Fellows are. Although we work in a wide variety of industries and roles, we all share a common perspective and experience. We have also all participated in the vision of Lord Sainsbury.

The Society has in essence two broad aims. Firstly to add value to the UK and international economy by supporting the aims and vision that Lord Sainsbury expressed in setting up and supporting the scheme and associated bursaries that we have all benefited from. Secondly, to add value to each individual Fellow by organising and encouraging interaction, and otherwise supporting our careers.

We are entering a period where the future form and role of the society may well be decided. There are now almost 300 Fellows, representing a considerable network of talent covering all major sectors and functions, and many countries. The debate on what makes us unique, what aims we should have and how we can realise them is coming to a head.

Recently, a strategic review was initiated to better understand what role the Society should or could fulfil. To further understand the Fellows’ profiles and their current views on the scheme we have asked Hall Associates to undertake a telephone review. You will therefore be contacted over the next few weeks and asked a range of questions. At one end of the spectrum we can be a mere alumni association, at the other, we can seek to positively influence views and attitudes across commerce. We are interested in your views on the Society’s future role and how you would like to be involved.

Re-Engineering the Board
You will have found enclosed our publication Re-engineering the Board to Manage Risk and Maximise Growth, or “HR Pack”, targeted at key HR decision makers. This pack was designed by our Communications Group to challenge the view that accountancy and legal training are the best qualifications for effective boardroom directors, and to highlight the strengths of the engineering mindset. Most of our outward communications to date have been via Public Relations. The HR Pack is a deliberate break from this approach and provides a more direct channel. If the evaluation of this new approach is positive then we intend to look at additional opportunities for new publications and forums for challenging views and arguing for wider adoption of our values. Please give us your feedback on this pack.

Website & Improved Engagement

We will shortly be launching a new website and interaction platform. Many of you will already be members of the SMF group on LinkedIn but this new website has vastly increased functionality and a new social engine to allow for private communications between Fellows.

As Fellows are geographically dispersed, the website is also intended to provide a material forum for useful interaction on a variety of initiatives irrespective of geographic location.

How we support each other and add value as a community will no doubt dictate the future success of the Society. We hope that the website will enable a higher degree of interaction and engagement by delivering value to every Fellow that uses it.
As you know, the SMF bursaries are funded by Lord Sainsbury via his Gatsby Charitable Foundation. However, the Society itself has been funded to date almost entirely by Lord Sainsbury’s private funds. Whilst we have been informed that the future of the scheme continues to be assured, and all recent feedback on our performance has been most positive, we have also been asked to take a hard look at whether there is a point at which the scheme becomes self funding.

We are currently reviewing whether to incorporate the Society and establish a registered charity to further pursue this question. A key benefit of this incorporation would be a tax efficient vehicle for those Fellows who have expressed an interest in investing back in to the scheme.

We also collect annual subscriptions from the Fellows. These subscriptions go directly to supporting the Society’s aims. They are not a ‘social fee’ but, rather, they underline the identity and activities of the Society and point to the responsibilities of the individual recipient of the award. We continue to ask for your support in collecting these fees.

Mentoring and Other Activities
An outstanding success of last year was the launch of the mentoring scheme. Fellows have been partnered with mentors at the very highest levels of UK PLC. We intend to look not only at how we can extend the scheme in size, but also how to access new key sectors of Fellow involvement such as Finance and Entrepreneurship.

We also launched the successful Energy Roundtable. This is a forum – currently physical but soon also to be online too – to exchange latest ideas between those with a role or interest in the Energy arena. We would like to have additional roundtables in areas of key importance to the economy such as Finance and Manufacturing. Please let Cathy know if you would like to be involved in this.

Other activities where our involvement continues include supporting the next generation through the RAEng’s BEST Programme and the Engineering Leadership Award scheme. If you feel you now have the time and would like to become further involved please do not hesitate to contact Cathy or myself.

There is no easy way to measure the sphere of influence that the Fellows have. However, by rising to the challenges we are set, and increasing our ability to collaborate, we can exert a positive influence of a disproportionate magnitude to our size.

Lastly, I would like to warmly thank outgoing President Ernie Poku for all of his hard work, initiatives, and achievements during his term of office.