My Career in Three Objects
Current Position: Semi Retired; Deputy CTO at Lilium, Germany; Director at Gooch & Housego PLC; CUEA President
Graduation Year and College: 1974, Corpus Christi
Semi Retired; Deputy CTO at Lilium, Germany; Director at Gooch & Housego PLC; CUEA President
Current Position: Head of Product, Altia ABM
Graduation Year and College: 2009, Magdalene College
Hannah Latham, Head of Product at Altia ABM
Current Position: COO and Co-Founder, Vivacity Labs
Graduation Year and College: 2013, Queens’ College
Peter Mildon, COO and Co-founder of Vivacity Labs
I first thought about the concept of a career path half a lifetime ago, when I was at school picking out which A-Levels I would do. My father, and grandfather had both been in the legal profession, so I knew one thing for sure – I did not want to become a lawyer. I can’t remember why but I decided that Engineering looked interesting and so, without any real logic, decided that would be my chosen career.
Current Position: Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation, Head if Institute of Manufacture
Tim Minshall, Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation and Head of Institute for Manufacturing
1. The Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B
Shortly after graduation, I went to work in Japan. One of the companies I worked for was Mazda. As an engineer, I found it bizarre that the company had the extraordinary technical capabilities required to produce - on their first attempt - a Le Mans winning car (the 787B), yet lacked the commercial capabilities to survive and hence had to be bailed out by Ford. This triggered my interest in better understanding how the technical and commercial aspects of engineering needed to work in harmony.
2. The digital sound projector prototype
After my PhD, I went to work for St John's Innovation Centre Ltd. One of the tenant companies had developed a (then) extraordinary piece of technology call the 'Digital Sound Projector' - a device which, thanks to clever hardware and software, allowed a single array of small loudspeakers to create a form of surround sound. The wonderful inventor showed me the demo, and thought that this would quickly be picked up by someone else and made into a winning product. But this only reached the market once he realised that this would only happen if he worked in collaboration with multiple other firms to go from PoC all the way through the Japanese consumer electronics-grade production. And it was this that triggered my interest in better understanding the whole process of innovation, and the key role that collaborations play.
3. The automatic kettle switch
Despite all the high tech wizardry that typifies so much of what Cambridge is rightly known for, it is the story of the automatic kettle switch - and invention of one Dr John C Taylor (who endowed the professorship I am lucky enough to hold) - that has particular resonance for me. This is such a powerfully simple technology that, thanks to it being designed from the beginning to be as simple as possible and capable of production at scale (with the machines capable of doing this also being designed by Dr Taylor). This blending of understanding of the market, technology, product and production process is an absolutely superb example of the complete cycle of innovation in one device ... which globally is used every day by 1bn people.