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Luck and hard work- four decades of innovation

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Dr John Saffell- Alphasense “Luck and hard work- four decades of innovation” 12 February 2020 @ 16:15 Small Lecture Theatre Department of Physics

The joint NanoDTC-Impulse-Maxwell Innovation Seminar Series has a series of brilliant speakers who are at different stages in their Innovation and Entrepreneurship journey. Our next speaker John Saffell will be speaking to us about ‘Luck and hard work- four decades of innovation’.

You graduate and then go either into academia or into industry. Do you join a secure company and grow within the organisation, or join a start-up and innovate your way to success? I chose the latter in 1979 and again in 1997.

The first company, Solomat, was founded by two scientists; we morphed from a materials analysis company into portable instruments for indoor air quality and water quality. We struggled and grew, with financial constraints limiting growth. The second company, Alphasense, started life differently. Well funded and with experienced management, we were able to develop innovative sensors rapidly with help from UK Universities. These two stories each affected the two technical groups differently. In both companies we were dedicated, but the difference in luck and finance affected us personally and in our approach to innovation and company structure.

The landscape has also changed in four decades. Whereas digital opportunities opened up for the first time in the ‘80s and ‘90s, digital innovation is now more lucrative but also more crowded, more controlled and more global. Innovation in business or technology is now team focused with global markets and bigger budgets; project planning is replacing garage technology.

Drinks reception to follow.

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