Engineers to the Launch Pad!

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

Many companies in the private sector encourage their employees to suggest innovative ways in which the performance of their businesses might be improved, whether it’s through simple suggestion boxes or more formal brainstorming sessions.

Now it would appear that the UK government has recognised the merit of such schemes by taking a somewhat similar approach to encourage small businesses to pitch their ideas on how they could ‘do the business of government’ less expensively or more efficiently.

Launched just last week, the government’s so-called ‘Innovation Launch Pad’ website is part of a series of measures announced in February that are designed to open up the public sector marketplace to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Francis Maude, MP for Horsham, West Sussex, said that SMEs can offer government ‘more innovative, more flexible and more cost-effective products and services’, and that the Innovation Launch Pad should prove an effective means by which they can bring such ideas to the attention of the government.

I am convinced that Maude is correct. Many SMEs might well be able to help the parliamentarians out by suggesting all manner of ways in which some of the waste might be taken out of government. In fact, the opportunities seem endless.

Sadly, however, the suggestions that are currently posted up on the Innovation Launch Pad site are a rather anomalous mix, to say the least. It would appear that, rather than actually attract the attention of engineering professionals who might possibly be able to propose reasonably well-thought out ideas, the site has caught the imagination of a group of individuals who appear to have inundated it with rather impractical, bizarre and downright illogical submissions.

However, having now brought this government initiative to the attention of the engineering fraternity, I’m hopeful that we might see a few more sensible and well-reasoned ideas appear on the site. But you haven’t got long to make a contribution, because the opportunity to submit your business ideas through the Innovation Launch Pad website will end on Friday 22 April.

After that, it’s up to a community of civil servants backed up by some of Britain’s foremost entrepreneurs to select the ideas that demonstrate the ‘highest impact’. Those folks lucky enough to get picked will then be invited to present their ideas at a ‘Product Surgery’ in the summer, while Downing Street will also host a reception for those individuals that come up with the best ones.

But until a few more engineering companies do submit some half-way decent ideas to the site, I’m concerned that it’s going to be a very small party with an insignificant number of people in attendance. Unless the judges play politics and give credit to some of the current collection of peculiar proposals just to demonstrate the success of the new scheme. And I, for one, would hate to see that happen.

David Wilson

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