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27th – 28th May 2014

A short blog this week as I disappear for a while to enjoy a honeymoon (finally), a birthday and two weddings. I’m not back in circulation until 16th June.

Nursing a sore body from a Bank Holiday 42 mile cycle ride I headed into London to meet with Forum for the Future. This followed on from last week’s meeting to plot out a programme to support circular resource system business models. We covered a lot on the need to explore the structure and benefits for all stakeholders in a new system (the end user included!) and how exemplar projects would have a knock-on effect in the wider economy. As we reviewed the timelines it was very clear why we encourage 10 year horizon thinking in these type of proposals; the projects are unlikely to be making money for the businesses involved much before 2020.

A very interesting communication issue arose during our discussions, that of economic benefit of our work. The Forum team where impressed by (and hadn’t appreciated) our work on understanding the return to the economy of the projects we fund. In 2011 we published a report with a headline figure of £6.71 per £1 of government funding.  What was interesting was the 5% of projects that produced 87% of the benefits. Given we invest in business-led projects to share innovation risk there will always be a number of projects that don’t result in tangible benefit and a small proportion of highly successful ones. What we have since been learning is that the nature of the challenge projects address is important. Challenge-led competitions have a higher return on average again and early indications from system-type programmes such as our Low Carbon Vehicle demonstrator can be as much as £35 per £1 of public money. It got me wondering how widely know this data is as it helps explain some of the things we do. I know our evidence team is building the data to lay this out even more clearly and direct our work. Do let me know what you think.

After the meeting I had a long catch up with Mick by phone before heading home. Wednesday was spent tying up loose ends before holiday, especially administrative ones and discussing plans for the Solving Urban Challenges with Data call later in the year with my Digital shotgun colleague Lech Rzedzicki. One important issue is what we call it!

Other topics discussed this week: sunburn, back problems, user-centric design and collaboration.

Mike Pitts