High-tech hothouse seeks whizzkids

Technology and consulting group Generics has an unusual approach to recruitment, as Managing Director Duncan Hine explained to David Fowler.

Technology and consulting group Generics has an unusual approach to recruitment.

‘We don’t have the concept of vacancies,’ said managing director Duncan Hine. ‘When I talk to recruitment consultants and they ask for a list of vacancies, I say we don’t have one.

‘Instead, I tell them we will make an offer to any candidate with the correct qualifications who exceeds a particular quality bar.’

Generics’ business is rooted in high-tech consulting. It works with companies of all sizes, helping them develop new products and strategies.

It also licenses the patents it develops, or launches spin-off companies to exploit technology at the rate of three or four annually. Clients include Nike, DaimlerChrysler, Tesco and AstraZeneca.

Its 175 scientists and engineers act as an ‘ideas factory’ which can come up with innovative solutions to any problem it is faced with.

Hine can promise to offer a job to anyone who meets his criteria ‘because there are not many out there’. Three quarters of Generics’ consultants have a first-class honours degree in an engineering or science subject; 60% have a PhD.

The vast majority have industrial experience, usually three or four years but in some cases 10–15 years. Many are qualified in more than one subject.

They are very commercially aware, said human resources director Jon Sparkes: ‘They’re interested in the real world, making products, getting technology to market.’

Staff share in income from licensing any patents they develop, or share options in any spin-off company based on their ideas — the latest example being optical communications company QuantumBeam.

The stock market was impressed by the company’s combination of a base of technologists and revenue from spin-offs and licences when it floated last December.

In its first preliminary results since then it reported pre-tax profits of £730,000 on income of £21.4m compared with £1.88m on £19.8m last year.

The share price has risen nearly 50% since the flotation, rising last week to around £307.50. Generics recruited 48 consultants last year and the company is hoping for up to 60 this year.

Hine said: ‘All our consultants could have jobs elsewhere tomorrow, so they have actively chosen to work here.’

He puts this down to a combination of fascinating work, the stimulation of working with such a highly-qualified peer group, the site (Harston, near Cambridge), facilities including laboratories and the experience to be gained from working from 10–20 clients each year.

‘They could improve on one or more elsewhere, but only at the expense of others,’ he said.