Andy Challen, Inzpire's new innovation champion
I am delighted to have been appointed the innovation champion for Inzpire, a company that started with innovation and continues to have innovation at its heart.
‘Innovation champion’ may seem like an unusual job description. Does it mean that I have won all the innovation events, as one cynical friend asked? Er, no. It also does not mean that I am recognised as a great innovator who leaps out of bed in the middle of the night and rushes to work in my underwear to solve the latest technical challenge we face (although I do keep a notepad by my bed to capture ideas that may come to me late at night or early in the morning, and most days my work is only a 2 metre commute).
So, what does it mean, how do I see the role developing, and why me? Inzpire prides itself in doing things differently compared to other defence companies. We believe that we have a culture and ethos of looking after our team members particularly well, with a comprehensive package of benefits, and a good deal of belief and trust that our people will make the right decisions and do the right things. We are making significant changes to how we operate and what we deliver, to continue to draw in the right talent, increase our social value and drive the carbon net zero agenda.
We have a lot of talented people supporting our specialist technical and training teams so that they can focus on delivering to our customers; as we continue to grow, we must keep ahead of the latest thinking to work and deliver as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Inzpire's delivery of helicopter training to the European Defence Agency in Sintra is a whole team effort, with talented people from arond the business supporting our specialist technical and training teams.
This requires us all to think about innovation in all that we do, and how we do it. This ranges from deep technical know-how, to understanding our team members’ needs, and our customers’ requirements. Everyone at Inzpire has a voice and as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the ways in which we communicate ideas may have to flex as we adapt to a changing context. As innovation champion I will be a focal point for our team and provide a communication channel and testing workshops for our great thinkers from across all areas of the company, to make their ideas and concepts heard. I will coordinate and support their efforts and ensure that ideas and concepts get the right focus to drive them forward where we think there are benefits.
I will engage with government, industry and academia to better understand the environment and identify relationships that can help us to continue on the innovation journey.
We will not work on our own, we aim to identify and secure opportunities for funding and partnering to get the best support to allow our solutions to fly, whether it is supporting our traditional customer base across Defence, or our emerging customers across other industry sectors both in the UK and overseas. Supplementing our funding with external funding opens the door on opportunity and helps to share the risk. Partnering, with both industry and academia, allows access to a completely fresh set of ideas, perspectives and know-how to complement our expertise. Whilst some of our innovative ideas focus on the technical, some do not. It is about problem solving where we know there is a challenge, and sometimes where there isn’t but we can just do things better. As many colleagues with a military background will have heard in a de-brief: ‘all that good stuff you just did, do it better next time’.
So why me? Well, I love technology, and have since school when I developed a simple mechanical and electronic flight simulator as a modular technology project. I completed my engineering apprenticeship at BAE (Dynamics) as it was then, amazed at the developing technology which made electronic and optical systems smaller, more lightweight but with greater power or functionality. I was fortunate to live my dream job in military aviation flying fast jets where I learnt that processes and training were important and set the foundation for success, but speed of response and quick decision making was vital to maintain an edge. I am a fan of working smart, in an inclusive, diverse and welcoming environment, as well as working hard in specialist closed teams under significant pressure when required. Most importantly I enjoy working with people, to support them in communicating, problem solving and improving their performance. As the world changes around us we need to lead-turn it and leverage existing and emerging technological opportunities, increase resilience and maintain a competitive edge in all that we do and how we do it.
So onwards and in all directions! I look forward to working with the entire Inzpire team and our partners across government, industry and academia.
Our team are here to help. If you have any questions, no matter how big or small, please get in touch.