Comment: Why people power is the key to innovation

3 min read

Innovating in challenging times takes courage, bravery and dedication writes Babcock International's chief innovation and technology officer Dr Jon Hall

Like the world of technology, the world in general around us is changing at a rapid pace.

As you’re reading this at the start of a new year, I wonder how many of you are thinking how different 2022 will be compared to the year just gone.

How many of us were banking on the incredible scientific breakthroughs of the past year to get us back to the baseline of a ‘normality’ we had become accustomed to, like the regular commutes, or our daily team whiteboarding and the physical networking events.

Encouraging innovation and new technology applications is absolutely fundamental to our future success

One thing is clear. The pandemic hasn’t stopped the world moving on but it has left an indelible mark of change on how we do things. Society has changed, we have changed and technology has played a fundamental part in that shift. From our modes of work, how we function as an economy, how we communicate, how we collaborate, how we run our businesses and deliver services.

And a knock-on consequence is - how we approach that change and with it how we deal with uncertainty; do we wait for the change to happen to us or do we become the change, take the risks and drive that change to our advantage.


This is where collaboration comes in, because I believe real innovation is borne out of collaboration. As we continue to work through challenging environments, we need to recognise that it’s in just such challenging times that a ‘growth mindset’ - encouraging innovation and new technology applications, or investing in innovative research as Babcock does with our strategic industry and academic partners - is absolutely fundamental to our future success.

That’s why we’re proud to support The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate Awards and seeing the entrants’ outcomes and achievements that have come from these collaborative ventures. And while there is no doubt that technology is inherently changing so much of what we can do and deliver, let’s acknowledge that we can’t have innovation without innovators.


Real innovation lives in people, and so it’s in partnerships, it’s in how we collaborate, it’s in how we embed new technology solutions - which all relies on the skills and mindset of our people.

There is a real need for people who understand the increasingly complex world of digital systems and data we operate in; people who can translate and transform that data to bring about real, tangible benefits to how we design, build and look after our customers’ assets. That’s why in January, we became the first large employer collaborating with the South West Institute of Technology, to deliver a new digital and data skills training pilot.

Innovating in times as challenging as this takes courage and bravery

Skills, and investment in skills, must be one of our main priorities, and we cannot do it alone. We need to empower our people to be curious about these new and increasingly powerful digital and data technologies, and work together to integrate them into our working environments. Which is why we are creating a Digital Academy Network, aimed at building wider digital awareness and skills in our business in collaboration with our partners.

All of the applicants have left me inspired by their novel approaches and solutions, in the real positive impact their collaborations have created and - where there have been challenges - how they have overcome them. I’m also delighted that some of our own teams made the shortlist, not least because it helps encourage others to adopt the collaborative, innovative mindset we all need.

So on behalf of Babcock, I’d like to offer all the finalists congratulations on getting to this prestigious point. In my view, innovating in times as challenging as this takes courage and bravery, it requires real dedication, a commitment to make a difference. It shows the power of collaboration and what can be achieved when we work together, and never giving up. That’s innovation.

Babcock International is the headline sponsor of the sixth annual Collaborate To Innovate Awards (C2I). Winners will be announced on The Engineer's website during the week of the 7th - 11th February 2022.