Celebrating 25 Years of St John's Innovation Centre
St John's College hosted a dinner in College on Dec 7, 2012 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of St John's Innovation Centre. What a grand occasion it was with a reception in the candle-lit combination room and 5 course dinner in the dining hall.
Guests included tenants of the Innovation Centre and a veritable who's who of Cambridge movers and shakers.
I had the honour of being asked by the Innovation Centre's Managing Director, David Gill, to respond to the speech given by the President of the College, The Rev'd Duncan Dormor.
Here's what I said:
On behalf of the tenants of St John's Innovation Centre and everyone here, please allow me to say thank you to The Master and Fellows of the College of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge University for this splendid dinner to celebrate 25 years of St John's Innovation Centre.
President, thank you for your kind introduction. In fact, it was such a good pitch perhaps you'd like to come and meet some angels with me?!
Having enjoyed a delicious feast in this inspiring setting, I can't help but to reflect on the changing nature of an organisation such as St John's. Here we are with 500 years of evolution around us and I wonder, how many of our organisations will still be operational in 500 years time? Many businesses like to think of themselves as innovative, but there aren't that many that have lasted the test of time in the way that this College has. Three of the oldest companies that my brief research turned up were the gun maker Beretta (1526), the beer maker Grolsh (1615) and the whisky distiller Haig (1627). So it seems that the most sustainable and, perhaps by implication, innovative, businesses to be in are booze, bangs and of course education, or to keep the alliteration alive, bettering.
Whilst education is continuously evolving, one thing remains constant. In the same way as in business, people buy from people; so in education, people learn from people. But that doesn't mean that techniques for sharing information don't evolve. In the 15th century the Gutenberg press revolutionised people's ability to share information, just as the internet does now. But simply having the tools at your disposal doesn't mean instant success. Change takes time. I've been told that in the early 90's, when computers were added in the library then internet access, the vast majority of students were slow to pick it up and indeed in 1995 most were still submitting handwritten essays. Unthinkable now. There were of course a few bright sparks who picked it up and ran with it and 3 of them went on to be the co-founders of Innocent Smoothies, revolutionising our drinking habits as they went.
David Gill asked me to be say just a few words, and so I'm keeping this very short. I would like to leave you with a short limerick though. It involves St John's, some swans, and the Dons, but it's far too rude, so instead I'd like to propose a toast, if I may, to the continued success of St John's College and St John's Innovation Centre.