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Q&A with TWI Research Board Chair, Simon Webster

Mon, 28 March, 2022

TWI’s Research Board chair, Simon Webster is due to announce the projects being presented during the afternoon session of the first day of Research for Impact 2022.

We took some time to ask him about the role of the TWI Research Board and the importance of collaborative European research and development activities for industry.

Hi Simon, can you start by explaining a bit about the TWI Research Board – what purpose does it serve for TWI and our Industrial Members?

The core research programme at TWI is extremely important to our Members. We spend 50% of our Industrial Membership fees on this activity. The Research Board is the governing body that oversees how these monies are invested and is made up by representatives of our Industrial Membership, ensuring any undertaking is forward looking, innovative and exciting.

How did you come to get involved in the TWI Research Board and become chair, and what are your responsibilities in the role?

I have over 30 years industrial experience in engineering and technology leadership and my expertise is in integrating science, technology, and engineering to solve complex business problems. Having served on TWI’s council for several years, I have seen first-hand the tremendous value that our staff have created through the core research programme and when the vacancy for the Research Board chair became available, I jumped at the opportunity. I see my role as chair as ensuring the legacy of value creation continues. Working closely with my fellow Research Board members, my focus is on several fronts. Firstly, governance, ensuring that we have the right management processes in place to ensure that we deliver to our Members what we said we would. Secondly, focusing on content, ensuring that we are working on the right projects and projects aligned to our Members’ needs. Finally, ensuring our programme is engaging and motivating for our staff.

Why do you think collaboration, both with industry and academia, as well as other bodies, is so important for modern research and development?

Collaboration is always important. Today, technology and how it fits in our world is changing so rapidly and no one person or organisation has all the answers and therefore, by collaborating, I believe we cannot only achieve better outcomes but at a great pace. I see collaboration as inclusion in action, bringing scientists and engineers together who would not normally work with each other, bringing companies together to work on problems they did not know they shared. Within our core research programme, we often make links across sectors where others don’t, and it is exciting to see how ideas from one sector can quickly be transferred to another area, realising value for all parties. We are also encouraging partnerships with other academic institutes, which means we can offer a broader access to skills and capability. Finally, we are working with industry to realise more value from our research, using their skills and knowledge to accelerate the incubation of new start-up companies. This area is particularly exciting, as TWI have a rich portfolio of opportunities awaiting exploitation.

R4i is concerned with aligning R&D with the strategies of the European Commission and the UK, why do you think it is important to have this focus to guide the direction of R&D?

Strategy is vital to ensure focus and value creation. Within TWI we have just refreshed our own 5-year strategy and we will be using this along with governmental and Members’ strategies to drive our forward plans. I believe strongly that strategy should always underpin our technology decisions. A great example is TWI’s approach to the hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is a key part of the EU and UK Government strategy. Within TWI we have made the decision to invest considerably in hydrogen, building new capability at our facilities in Wales. This strategic investment will now allow us to undertake projects and research in hydrogen we could not before. Being aligned to the broader strategies of all our stakeholders will ensure TWI capabilities remain relevant, modern, and responsive to future demands.


You can register to attend Research for Impact 2022, here.

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