Taking a long term view

I was at two very different talks last week. The first, Priorities for medical research in the United Kingdom, given at the University of Exeter by Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the last in their Shaping the Future series. Much of it well over my head, but a fascinating hour and 20 minutes looking at key issues in medical research, now and in the future. One interesting point: Borysiewicz stressed the need for researchers and research institutes to build their relationships with the wealth creation sector.

I came away feeling that this was an area which had been well and truly gripped- and that in the long term, which is what medical research is inevitably about, we are going to be well served.

The second had a rather more immediate subject. This was a valedictory presentation by Peter Gripiaos to the Devon & Cornwall Business Council on The South West – The credit crunch and the real economy. It was a sobering 20 minutes: not very much good news, for any part of the Region, and an interesting counterpoint to the South West  RDA’s What Now, its updated plans for 2009 – 2011.

Gripiaos asked ‘So are we out of the woods?’. His view is no (“the signs of recovery are conflicting”) and his answer to ‘So what can be done?’ is just as stark:

  • We are in the realm of psychology now and the recession needs to run its course.
  • SWERDA and local authorities have little money and not much leverage.
  • Many businesses need to fail.
  • Businesses and consumers need to learn a harsh lesson.
  • So do politicians.
  • We should focus on long term strategic interventions rather than short term fire-fighting.

As for the last of those bullet points, that too was the thrust of Borysiewicz’s talk.

It makes for interesting scenario planning.

Holding on to optimism

A very good public lecture at the University of Exeter yesterday evening on Building the Energy Future, given by James Smith, Chairman of Shell UK.

Very upbeat (“we need to hold on to our optimism, but realise that optimism alone is not enough”) and honest. And this morning Stefan Stern in the FT on why Managing the mood is crucial,

Leaders have to be resilient. At the moment the bad news is coming not single spies, but in battalions. Tough trading conditions like these test character as much as business acumen. Your physical and emotional response to these challenges is just as important as the decisions you actually take.

If James Smith’s performance last night is typical of the man (and I am sure it is) then Shell UK must be a great place to work.

P.S. Note to Steve Smith (University of Exeter VC) ~ these lectures are too good to miss: there should be a podcast.

Whither the legal profession?

A stellar panel at the University of Exeter’s symposium last Monday on A Hippocratic Oath for Lawyers: Stephen Sedley, Tony Pinching, Andrew Phillips, Andrew Holroyd (the President of the Law Society), Robin Tolson (leader of the Western Circuit), Kim Economides and an introductory paper by Julius Rocca, putting the proposition in context.

The question was raised in Kim Economides’ letter to the Times,

“Should there not be some kind of Hippocratic Oath for lawyers so that, in future, lawyers’ commitment to justice and the rule of law is more than purely rhetorical?”

An excellent event, academic and professional argument at its best, and a lot to think about; and yet, sadly, very few in the audience (and no truth in the rumour that the minute size of the wine glasses the University uses for entertainment puts people off!). Does the profession care enough? The answer it seems is not enough to want to take part in evenings such as this.