Tuesday 2nd June 2020
By Phil Wallace
Innovation Caucus Project Manager
It was touch and go whether this year’s Innovation Caucus Members’ Event would go ahead. Granted, it’s not like re-scheduling Glastonbury, but the idea of condensing an engaging day of talks, discussion and new connections into a Zoom call initially felt unappealing. However, currently many of our academic members are actively supporting a wide variety of organisations who are making massive adjustments in light of the challenges we are facing – changing an event format became a small matter when considered against this backdrop. Indeed, the social science response to COVID-19 rightfully became the new focus for our remodelled Members’ Event.
The advantages of a virtual event soon became apparent, with more participants able to take part than would have been possible in our planned physical location. We were delighted to have Professor Mark Gillan (Chief Technology Officer, Innovate UK) and Professor Paul Nightingale (Director of Special Projects, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)) share with us the important work that Innovate UK and the ESRC are doing to support individuals and organisations as part of the UK’s COVID-19 response. Professors Gillan and Nightingale also provided plenty of primers around how social scientists can contribute to efforts to respond to the global pandemic – sparking a highly engaging discussion later in the session.
We are also grateful to the fantastic Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Directors who were able to join us and share information on their Challenge area. By splitting into break-out rooms, our members enjoyed more interactive discussion around the key priorities in these Challenge areas and how we as social scientists can play our part. A big thank you to:
- George MacGinnis (Healthy Ageing)
- Paul Davidson (Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging)
- Bruce Adderley (Transforming Foundation Industries)
We are grateful for the support of the Innovation Caucus Leadership Group – including Melanie Knetsch (ESRC), Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK), Dr Adam Luqmani (ESRC), Debbie Johnson (Innovate UK) and also Heidi Hinder (ESRC) for their hard work and support in making this event happen. Rather than experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, our Innovation Caucus members went away freshly inspired and informed in how they can use their expertise for maximum impact.