Extreme innovation and dogs

Paddy Lowe, Technical Director of the McLaren Formula One racing team

There was a great turnout for the Cambridge Network event at Robinson College last week, where Paddy Lowe gave a hugely interesting presentation followed by a lively Q&A.


I came away with three notable points:

  1. Paddy Lowe admitted his reservations about the “win every race” mission statement for McLaren Formula One, in which the the team is bound to fail. Should we reach for the unattainable, or have realisable goals? The McLaren approach seems to have worked out so far.
  2. Formula One could be regarded as the ultimate environment for engineering innovation.  Should we be looking to emulate their process in our product developments?  I think yes and no.  A big breathless “yes, yes, yes” to the incredible focus on delivery timescales, quality and right first time.  But the measure of success in Formula One is simple – it’s reduced lap times. Most of us have to consider more fuzzy and low bandwidth parameters like customers, can’t afford the same single-minded pursuit of technical excellence and usually don’t have a good measure for that success.
  3. “Dog Time” is not a cuddle with your pooch.  It’s the time you have with an F1 gearbox to disengage the gear you’re in after the next one has been engaged – take too long, and it’s bye-bye gearbox. Gear-change in 0.05 seconds – wow, that’s quicker than my Fireblade!

Metering Europe 2012

Metering Europe 2012

Interesting and enjoyable trip to the RAI, focusing mainly on smart homes.  There are plenty of companies talking smart homes, and a crowded market for in-home displays, but I still don’t see a lot of reality in home energy automation – closing the loop between measurement and control.  The big Japanese companies all have a very impressive array of shiny boxes, and there are many start-ups addressing this space but I was still challenged to find anything really real, installed into normal people’s houses.  It’s pretty challenging right now to come up with a good business case for the home-owner to invest in this area – this is one manifestation of a bigger problem in the misalignment of costs and benefits in the hierarchy of energy stakeholders, a theme discussed by Mark England, CEO of Sentec in his panel session.

Out and about

I’ll be visiting Metering Europe at the RAI in Amsterdam on 10th October.  Looking to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  See you there?