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A new dawn for TechWorks

Alan Banks

Alan Banks opened the recent TechWorks Summit with a look back on what has been accomplished since his appointment as chief executive back in March.

He has spent time taking stock of where TechWorks fits into the technology ecosystem and is now ready to push forward a new agenda focused on helping the electronics industry capitalise on the opportunities presented by this period of unprecedented change.

Sir Hossein Yassaie, TechWorks’ chairman, walked attendees through the history of TechWorks and how it spun out of NMI. He then highlighted six areas he believes provide big opportunities for the electronics industry. Those were user experience, artificial intelligence and machine learning, MedTech, information accuracy and data security, green energy, and EdTech.

Yet there are some hurdles that need to be cleared first. Electronics companies, Yassaie says, need to better at branding themselves but they also need to push through the current investment focus on software over hardware.

“When people say they only invest in software, they’re saying they only want to invest in apps or stuff in the cloud. These companies are good at being acquired, but they are never going to be independent.”

How, then, can electronics companies move forward? His message to the room was one of collaboration: “we need people with expertise to come together and work with us to generate the systems of the future”.

Yassaie made clear that he believes TechWorks can help push things in the right direction, but it can’t do it alone. Everyone with a stake in the electronics industry in the UK needs to play their role. “This is your community and stuff happens if people participate with their time, knowledge and money.”

The packed agenda then spanned education, automotive, IoT security, AI, MedTech, investment, and diversity and inclusion.

On that last aspect, Jim Nicholas, CEO of Uniphy, examined how organisations should approach diversity and inclusion initiatives. He explained that he personally “hates” the idea of positive discrimination.

What is needed, he says, is better mentoring. There is no need to artificially acknowledge great work, but it is important to “propagate the results” of talented individuals.

Nicholas emphasised that this is important for one simple reason. “The reason you want to address the diversity issue is that you don’t want a company full of outliers. You do want a company of people that speak to the global community we serve.”

The big announcement was regarding the future of the ElecTech Council, an organisation set up in 2012 to examine the significance of electronics to the UK. That initial report found 850,000 people work on electronic systems and the sector contributes £80 billion to the UK economy each year.

Back in September, the ElecTech Council set out a roadmap for the UK to enable a digital future. Tony King-Smith, its Chief Executive, explained what he thinks is the logical next step.

He said, “We need to look at a new agenda, and that agenda is ElecTech 2.0 – where we act on the recommendations in the report. We need to justify the use of business time, and build a new approach that gets this industry involved in a meaningful way.”
That is why, King-Smith explained, ElecTech will now be a community within TechWorks.

Alan Banks added that bringing ElecTech into TechWorks marks “a new dawn” for the organisation. What’s key, he says, is that TechWorks is “not going to lose the data or the learnings” of ElecTech. It will instead “build on and enhance it”.

Author
Charlotte Hathway

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