Officer, Ploughshare Innovations Ltd
Our team was retained
in early 2014 for Ploughshare Innovations Ltd, the wholly owned subsidiary of UK’s Defence Science and
Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) research and development
division. Ploughshare Innovations is a technology transfer company that manages
the commercial licensing of intellectual property developed by Dstl
headquartered at Porton Down. While Dstl’s responsibility is to bring the best
science and technology innovations into the UK’s defence capability,
Ploughshare’s brief is precisely the reverse i.e. to commercialise the MoD’s
research into non-military markets. A successful appointment was made in
April 2014; our client was Piers White, Chairman, Ploughshare Innovations Ltd. Piers spent 25 years in Financial Services with
Barclays, Flemings and most recently Bank Insinger de Beaufort NV where he was
UK Chief Executive until the sale to BNP Paribas in 2008.
Our challenge was to
identify candidates with successful leadership
experience gained at a senior level (ideally as a Chief Executive) in a
commercial environment. Our success was
dependent on candidates who could proactively build and leverage relationships
with key stakeholders, including Ploughshare’s Board, Dstl scientific research
community, commercial customers, funding partners and other government
organisations to support the commercialisation of novel ideas.
The calibre and diversity of candidates’
experience on the search-led shortlist included:
- Strong scientific and
academic backgrounds embracing the complexities that surround the academic,
commercial and government environments.
- Proven track record of
successful leadership in commercial exploitation of science and technology
against a backdrop of significant market change and engagement within complex
stakeholder environments across the world.
- Demonstrable evidence
of background in exploitation of advanced sensor technologies in
semiconductors, photonics, displays, materials, aerospace, defence, automotive,
life sciences and other hi-tech engineering, manufacturing, integration,
consultancy and R&D/CRO businesses
- Significant experience
in driving innovation across a range of public/private sector bodies and SMEs
and has credible experience in strategizing international business
- significant experience
of leading strategic decision-making, stakeholder engagement and major
strategic transformation programmes within the Military industry and
- Experience in strategic aspects of various nationally significant
programmes, business and research communities, maximizing the commercial value
of high level collaborative networks across industry and government sectors.
risk and challenge
- We worked closely with the Ploughshare Innovations Ltd
to devise a robust and complete recruitment process, advising our client
candidly about the market in the public and private sectors and feeding back to
them perceptions of the role and the project itself.
- Regular communication and progress updates were
provided and our clients made themselves available to manage issues and
queries; strong partnership is critical to managing risk and expectations.
- Our screening of candidates was focused on ensuring
they could withstand the scrutiny that comes both from the appointment process
and the role itself.
- Each candidate report and recommendation was clearly
aligned to each point of the role description to provide rigorous, transparent,
and candidate screening
- Comprehensive brief and effective stakeholder
engagement facilitating creative and diverse search. This role had very complex
and diverse user/stakeholder relationships at its heart; we focused our search
on candidates with proven track records in a scalable environment.
- Refining the role descriptions and materials; we
provided constructive challenge and experience of what has worked in comparable
assignments to produce a first-rate pack that enabled strong applications and
clearly defined the search parameters through the role’s priority skillsets and
- Market testing and benchmarking: identifying potential
candidates and concurrent recruitment activity in the market.
- Informed, candid and sensitive candidate care,
managing their risks and expectations at each stage of the process
- 360 degree candidate
profiling throughout the search so that our weekly meetings with the clients
were in-depth and risk-led. We were able to test out potential candidates and
refine the search as we progressed, rather than reach the closing date with an
successful candidate was James Kirby
who brought credible leadership
profile as the Director and Chief Technology Officer at Aurix Limited. His strategic
commercial leadership was all about merging
creativity with numbers. His commercial acumen illustrated his ability to make
right investment choices which also requires backing the right technology. He
had a clear understanding of the gap between an early-stage technology
invention and its commercial viability and had demonstrated his ability to
bridge this gap by using a disciplined de-risking strategy often transforming
the early-stage discovery into a validated, robust commercial package whilst consolidating
intellectual property simultaneously.