TechEast New Board Member
Welcome our new board member: BT’s Director of Research, Lisa Perkins
We’re pleased to announce the addition of a new member to our board of directors! Lisa Perkins, Director of Strategic Research and Innovation at BT, is the third woman to join our growing board.
To welcome Lisa, we had a chat about what she wants to bring to TechEast, as well as what’s going on at Adastral Park: BT’s Martlesham campus and home of Innovation Martlesham.
Welcome, Lisa! We’re thrilled to have you as part of the TechEast team. Could you tell us a bit about your background at BT?
I’ve been at BT for 20 years, and have previously led all manner of projects across BT, including Superfast Broadband. As Strategic Director of Research and Innovation at BT, my current role is split across many different responsibilities. I set the strategic direction of BT’s research agenda. We work with 40+ universities across the country, partnering on key topics. I am also accountable for nurturing and down-streaming innovation for BT and its customers. This includes showcasing future technology, and collaborating with all our customers to find the right solutions to their business problems.
My team spends a lot of time ‘in the field’, visiting schools to inspire children around technology. Ultimately, we want to encourage more young people into STEM careers, and getting them to think tech is ‘cool’ and ‘exciting’ is a good place to start! For our region to succeed, we need a pipeline of capable talent, and it’s never too early to start nurturing this. We recently held an event to celebrate British Science Week at Adastral Park which saw over 55 schools, 1500 children and 200 teachers visit the site and have some immersion in STEM related activities.
I also run BT’s Adastral Park campus, including the Innovation Martlesham tech hub. There are around 100 businesses based here, including big names like Huawei and Cisco, but just as importantly, many SMEs and startups. All of the companies benefit from the great tech community that we’re trying to establish.
What is it that attracted you to working with TechEast?
I am passionate about our region’s tech scene, so TechEast and I have a shared ambition. I want to develop East Anglia’s innovation ecosystem, and create our own ‘Silicon Valley’ right here in the East!
I am thrilled to be part of the TechEast board, and I hope my years of strategy and delivery experience can help provide a sense of drive, direction, and enthusiasm to help make our shared dream a reality.
What do you think it is about East Anglia that has allowed such a strong tech scene to flourish here?
East Anglia has several strong points of presence that have strengthened its tech scene. Adastral Park is one, but Norwich’s Research Park and UEA and Cambridge’s universities and Science Park are important. There are also a number of smaller ‘satellite points’ across the region such as Hethel Innovation, Orbis, the University of Suffolk IWIC, and other tech community spaces. These points connect together to create a strong network of opportunity, encouraging tech to flourish in the region.
East Anglia’s agricultural and environmental connection also makes it the natural home to a large Agri-Tech sub-sector. Not only does East Anglia produce most of the UK’s crops, but the wind farms off the East coast also produce much of the UK’s renewable energy. We can lever these assets for our region and create a very strong tech community in the East.
What are the biggest challenges faced by tech businesses in the region, and how do you think they can be overcome?
While the region has so much to offer, I do think our infrastructure is unfortunately holding us back a little bit. I know from personal experience, it always seems such a big ask to get anybody out here for a meeting. It’s great that County Councils, LEPs, and central government recognise the opportunity for growing businesses in the East, and we need them to keep working together to optimise the connection of our region.
Why are organisations like TechEast so important for the region?
We have an amazing opportunity to create something big in the East. This isn’t just good news for the region, but for the nation as a whole. However, for these great things to happen, we need to put a strong plan into action. While everyone shares best interests for the region, TechEast plays an important role in structuring these positive intentions and directing them for maximum impact.
Tell us a bit more about Innovation Martlesham: what is life like for the businesses based there?
Our mission for Innovation Martlesham is to create an ecosystem where Suffolk’s tech businesses can thrive. The right environment, support, and opportunities can make a huge difference to any business.
As mentioned, there are a number of larger tech companies based at Innovation Martlesham, including a presence from Huawei, Cisco, Intel, O2, and Nokia. SMEs and startups based at Innovation Martlesham can benefit from the close proximity to these leading brands, just as these larger corporates can enjoy an environment where innovation flourishes. It’s so rewarding to see all Innovation Martlesham companies collaborating, networking, and cross-pollinating ideas – this is exactly what we want to achieve!