Briefing for Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies?

Time and location

Thursday 7 October 2010 from 18:30 to 20:00. (The  Conference Centre bar will be open from 17:30 and here won’t be drinks afterwards.) Please can you arrive at the Conference Centre for 18:00.

Location: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Look for anyone from the Story of London Festival. Ask for us at registration and we will introduce you to your fellow speakers and your chair, and pass on any final updates.

Event on Story of London Festival site.

Event description

London has been at the forefront of inventing and adopting new technologies from John Logie-Baird’s television in 1925 to the invention of the Web in the late 80s by Tim Berners-Lee. The potential of innovation is greater than ever, aided by the development of digital and networked technology. Compared to other cities, is London lagging behind? There are many current innovations that could make life in London better, from the life-saving advances in robotic surgery at Imperial to the James Dyson’s bladeless fan. Can we recognise the real innovations taking place in our midst or are we distracted and dazzled by the short-term allure of shiny new technologies? What are the real clangers that we have embraced then quickly disowned? Does London have the ambition, vision and commitment to use real innovations to transform the city again or will we get left behind?

All debates Future City Keynote Debates

  • Bankers and Bonuses: What has the City ever done for London? on the evening of Monday 4 October
  • Is London growing too big too fast? on the evening of Tuesday 5 October
  • London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century on the evening of Wednesday 6 October
  • Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies? on the evening of Thursday 7 October
  • London and the future: Will we still be a major player in the world in 2050? on the evening of Friday 8 October

More information and booking: British Library Story of London page.


Iain Gray, chief executive, Technology Strategy Board


Iain Gray joined the Technology Strategy Board as Chief Executive in 2007, following its establishment as an executive non-departmental public body. Prior to joining the Technology Strategy Board, Iain was Managing Director and General Manager of Airbus UK, whose Bristol operation he joined when it was still part of British Aerospace. He was appointed Director of Future Programmes in 1997, became Director of Strategy and External Affairs in 1999, and assumed the role of Managing Director and General Manager in 2004. Iain Gray completed his early education in Aberdeen, culminating in an Engineering Science honours degree at Aberdeen University. In addition, he gained a Masters of Philosophy at Southampton University in 1989 and has received Honorary Doctorates from Bath, Bristol and Aberdeen Universities in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively. Iain is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 2007 was awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal.  He is Chairman of the Business and Industry Panel of The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB), a Governor of the University of the West of England, a Board Member of SEMTA and a Board Member of Energy Technologies Institute. As Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, Iain is the operational head of the new organisation as it assumes its leading role in driving the UK’s technology and innovation strategy.

Point of view for this debate

  • What are the challenges for London? Waste, water, aging population, energy consumption.
  • London is a world-leading demonstration showcase, eg: Retrofit for the future, BMW E-Mini [check], digital Soho
  • Importance of ICT: see IBM Smart City approach.
  • Issue of ‘sub-system’ level and integration
  • Also issue of maximising research intensity: Imperial, UCL, Queen Mary and Hospital Trusts. Are we getting the best advantage for this?
  • New models of innovation/realisation of potential, eg: plastic electronics workshop earlier this year, recent video-based call for participation
  • Importance of knowledge transfer as well as creation.

See Iain’s Tweets on London’s innovative use of technology

Dr Hermann Hauser, co-founder, Amadeus Capital Partners


Hermann Hauser co-founded Amadeus Capital Partners in 1997 with Anne Glover and Peter Wynn. In his long and successful history as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he has founded or co-founded companies in a wide range of technology sectors. These include Acorn Computers, Active Book Company, Virata, Net Products, NetChannel, and Cambridge Network Limited. He was a founder director of IQ (Bio), IXI Limited, Vocalis, SynGenix, Advanced Displays Limited, Electronic Share Information Limited and E*Trade UK. At Amadeus Hermann has been a non-executive director of many investee companies including: CSR, which provides single chip wireless solutions supporting communications over short-range radio links and which achieved a successful IPO in 2005; Entropic Research Laboratory, a company that developed voice recognition software which became the voice recogniser in Microsoft Word when the company was sold to Microsoft in 1999; and Solexa, which developed ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing technology and was acquired by Illumina in 2007.

He is also a non-executive director: of Plastic Logic, which has developed a process for producing flexible plastic transistors for use in computer displays; Icera, which is developing wireless soft modem platforms for mobile phones and wireless terminals; and XMOS, a company that is revolutionising re-configurable silicon chips. Hermann holds an MA in Physics from Vienna University and a PhD in Physics from the Cavendish Laboratory at King’s College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Royal Academy of Engineering and an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Hermann holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Bath, Loughborough and from Anglia Polytechnic, and was awarded an Honorary CBE for ‘innovative service to the UK enterprise sector’ in 2001. In 2004, he was made a member of the Government’s Council for Science & Technology.

Point of view for this debate

[Not interviewed]

Dr Norman Lewis, chief innovation officer and managing partner, Open-Knowledge UK


Dr Norman Lewis is the Chief Innovation Officer and a Managing Partner of the pioneering European-based Enterprise2.0 innovations group, Open-Knowledge. Until recently he was Chief Strategy Officer of Wireless Grids Corporation, USA. Prior to joining WGC he was the Director of Technology Research for Orange UK, formerly the Home Division of France Telecom where he led a highly successful innovation team. He is recognised as an expert on future consumer behaviours and has written extensively about innovation, young people and social media, privacy and the future of communications. Until recently he was an Executive Board member of the MIT Communications Futures Programme and the Chairman of the International Telecommunications Union’s TELECOM Forum Programme Committee. He writes at Futures-Diagnosis.

Point of view for this debate

  • See GLA funded research on innovation in London
  • What problem are we solving? Are they the right (scale) of problem? Do we have the right solution? Does Underground need a wireless network or new rolling stock? Infrastructure for C21.
  • How are we going to fund science? How are we going to get young people into science? Have we got the right business attitude to risk? Where will funding come from?
  • Broader than London. Suspicion of knowledge. Can’t be deferential to technology. For London to retain its centrality need to re-kindle knowledge.

Norman Lewis’ blog post related to this topic.

Oliver Morton, Energy and Environment Editor, The Economist and author of Eating the Sun


Oliver Morton is a British science writer and editor. He has written for many publications, including The American Scholar (for which he has won the American Astronomical Society’s 2004 David N. Schramm Award for High Energy Astrophysics Science Journalism), Discover, The Economist, The Independent, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, National Geographic, Nature (where he was the chief news and features editor), The New Yorker, Newsweek International, Prospect, and Wired. Oliver is a fellow of the Hybrid Vigor Institute. He has a degree in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University.

Point of view for this debate

  • Innovation scales more than linearly as a city grows
  • Innovation will always be ‘under the radar’ in London compared to Silicon Valley as there is so much else going on
  • You don’t see solar panels in London, unlike Amsterdam, or green roofs
  • Some types of innovation are easier in places that are newer. Congestion charging is easier in a startup city: an advantage China has.
  • More than communications on the Underground, how about cooling it


Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and presenter focused on science and technology. Among his television on invention and innovation in everyday life and how we interact with low technology he has presented eight programmes of Local Heroes talking about dead scientists and doing demonstrations, eight programmes of What the Victorians Did for Us. On radio he has presented twenty Inventors Imperfect documentaries and twenty Eureka Years documentaries. His books include Just Another Day, which looks at invention and innovation in everyday life and how we interact with low technology. He doesn’t live in London though he does have a flat here.

Point of view for this debate

  • UK always been a leader in innovation but invention took place elsewhere, eg: Cavendish Labs. Joseph Bramah came from London to Yorkshire having invented a new toilet to productise a new lock. And Marc Brunel.
  • What has changed? Software innovation could happen in London. Steam engines couldn’t.
  • We don’t understand what a breakthrough is any more. A lot of it is just hype.
  • We often can’t see the potential of inventions, where the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese  can
  • Barriers to innovation: What happened with GMOs was a travesty.
  • Learning from the past? Impact of computing over 20 years tremendous. But innovation can take a long time, eg: fax machine patented, application of  Boolean mathmeatics. Hard to know how these things come together.
  • Don’t direct research: Bell Labs allowed people to play. Bright ideas can’t and shouldn’t be directed.
  • What factors allow innovation to flourish? Can try too hard to promote innovation.
  • I am interested in the simple things in life, eg: the chair or Boris’s Bikes.

Chair: David Rowan, editor, WIRED UK


David Rowan is editor of WIRED UK magazine; GQ magazine’s ‘Digital Life’ columnist. Former editor of The Jewish Chronicle and journalist and editor for the Guardian and The Times.

Format and presentations

We would like you to prepare introductory remarks to be presented in 5 minutes.

After the introductions there will be a short panel debate lead by the chair, and the discussion will then be opened to the audience for questions and points. We hope we will have more than half an hour for this element of the event.

As time will be very limited, we will not be asking for visual presentations, except where visuals are necessary to support an introduction. (If you do want to present we check with the AV staff at the British Library that your presentation will work, and if your time allows work with you on your presentation.)

Marketing and promotion

Online advertising for the Festival has already started. On 23 September the printed guide will be distributed with Time Out (75,000 copies). On 25 September the guide will be included with the Saturday Guardian (230,000 copies). This will be followed by a Tube poster run, and a large screen Tube platform advertising campaign.

If you want to share information about the event or promote it you can use the following text:

Future City: Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies, 7/10 (British Library) #StoryofLondon

The Mayor’s Story of London Festival 2010 #StoryofLondon

The Twitter handle for the Festival is @StoryofLondon and the hashtag for Tweets is #StoryofLondon.

There is also a Facebook page for the Story of London.


The event may be filmed or otherwise recorded. We may ask you if you will allow us to use these recordings for event documentation.


If you have travel or other expenses please keep your (dated) receipts and we will arrange for you to be reimbursed.


Nico Macdonald: +44 7973 377 897 Laura North: +44 77 7924 0556 [email protected]