Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Innovation and Apocalypse

Today I've been in London, halfway up Millbank Tower which has a splendid view, at a JISC workshop looking at priorities for funding from their innovation fund. I've blogged before about the first workshop where I was there with other representatives of RUGIT ( Russell Group IT Directors), and other workshops were being held with UCISA, RLUK and SCONUL. Each one of those workshops came up with a series of possible projects, and they have been refined over the past few weeks. Today, two reps from each group were there, and together with JISC our task was to prioritise the projects down to a manageable number on which work will start as soon as possible.

Given that each of the four groups had their own pet projects, you might think that would be difficult. Well, I wouldn't say it was easy, but we did it. We got about 17 possibles down to 5/6 high priority and 2/3 next on the list in a matter of hours, with little or no bloodshed. There's a good spread across the themes of improving the student experience, achieving research excellence, managing national collections and improving institutional efficiency. There's also a good mixture of library and iT related ones, as well as some that involve a wider constituency. Looking at cultural, social and policy issues around Identity Management for example will involve HR, Student Services and many other areas.

I was pleased that one of my original ideas made it to the top 5, and I think was probably felt to be number one, that of setting up student teams to come up with innovations, real blue skies stuff. Risky, but exciting. We also applied agile techniques as far as possible, and where we had two projects we couldn't decide between, agreed to set up two teams for a 1 month sprint on both. At the end of the month, the project with the most chance of completion will continue, the other will stop.

A good day, and I'm looking forward to being part of this process. I had about 15 minutes to kill in the walk back to the tube, and popped into Tate Britain which is a bit like a building site at the moment. I only had time to get into two galleries, but was amazed to see lots of John Martin works, huge apocalyptic paintings which I last saw at the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. This one is a brilliant example, The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

My only complaint is that one of his most famous works, three enormous paintings, a Triptych representing The Apocalypse, were not hung next to each other, but on 3 different walls. But a great end to the day nevertheless.

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