Friday, 14 February 2014

“To out compute is to out compete”

The High Performance Computing and Big Data conference took place on Thursday 6th February at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster. All attendees left the day with plenty of food for thought and buoyed by the Government’s announcement of a significant investment in this increasingly recognised sector.

Anni Hellman, Deputy Head of Unit eInfrastructure, Director General Communications Networks, Content and Technology at the European Commission started the day’s proceedings with a presentation outlining the European HPC strategy and how it will boost research and innovation in the sector. She emphasised the importance of the Horizon 2020 programme; the EU framework for research and innovation for 2014-2020, with its €77billion budget.

Joe Duran, Director, HPC Systems at Fujitsu gave a presentation on human centric intelligent society and how big data and HPC is driving transformational opportunities for industries and the world as a whole. This was followed by a discussion on e-infrastructure capability, with its £160million investment from BIS, delivered by Cliff Brereton, Director of the Hartree Centre.

Peter Haynes, CORE Director at Imperial College London gave insights into CORE, a shared HPC service between Cambridge and Imperial. The University of Cambridge has one of the largest R&D
budgets within the UK Higher Education sector and HPC forms a key part of the research strategy, with investment of over £1M per year in capital equipment alone. These levels of investment demonstrate the recognition of the importance of HPC and Big Data, a fact that was even further demonstrated later in the day by David Willetts.

Dr Steven Kenny, Director, HPC Midlands and Reader of Mathematical Sciences at Loughborough University took to the stage to discuss the theme of accelerating innovation across the engineering and energy industries using supercomputing.

Tobias Preis, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Finance and Suzy Moat, Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science from Warwick Business School gave an outstanding presentation on predicting behaviour using data from the internet. The example of predicting stock markets led to questions about the feasibility of predicting genocide and other such phenomenon. This was definitely a ‘get-you-thinking’ presentation.

The afternoon keynote presenter was none other than the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. He announced £14 million to fund the second phase of investment into Big Data in the UK. You can hear his full presentation at This announcement was very well received and sparked many a discussion about what the likely outcomes of this will be.

The final two presenters of the day were Jonathan Mitchener, Lead Technologist on ICT at the Technology Strategy Board and Andrew Houghton, Deputy Head of Unit Flagships, DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology for the European Commission who talked about increasing investment through energy efficient and high performance computer systems and how future and emerging technology research will boost excellence in research and innovation in Horizon 2020 respectively.

For more information on this jam-packed programme or other conference details, please visit

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Incentivising and Achieving Quality Provision in the Early Years Sector

With radical changes to provisions, professionalisation and inspections across early years in the UK, looking at innovative ways to improve the development of children from birth to five is crucial for early years’ providers. This common goal was what brought together over 400 dedicated representatives from across the EY sector at the Business Design Centre – despite disruptions caused by the tube strike!

Naomi Eisenstadt CB, Honorary Research Fellow, Department for Education, University of Oxford chaired the morning session. She introduced Katie Law, Deputy Director, Early Years and Childcare Market, Department for Education who gave the opening keynote presentation outlining the Government vision for early years. In her remarks, she highlighted some key achievements for far, including 67% of early years and childcare providers inspected in 2012/13 were judged good or outstanding – up from 65% in 2008/09, a great achievement for the sector. However, she also stressed that challenges remain. Research shows that only 37% of two-year-olds from the poorest 40% of families access any formal early education, compared to 78% of their richer peers. Additionally, a third of children are still not achieving a good level of development at five. The Department for Education, she stressed, are taking steps aimed at incentivising quality provision. These include introducing the 2-year-old offer and extending this in 2014 and developing a new support for families via Tax Free Childcare.

Suzi Gray, City & Guilds Childcare Adviser then gave a presentation looking at how to build a confident and competent workforce. Lorna Fitzjohn, National Director for Child-minding and Nick Hudson, National Director for Early Education at Ofsted took to the stage; a visual indication that Ofsted is taking the early years sector seriously. They shared evidence from their inspections and summarised the state of the sector at the end of 2013, indicating what needs to be done in 2014 and beyond. Working regionally to achieve closer links to local stakeholders to gain an understanding of current local issues and solutions will be a key focus for Ofsted moving forward. Ofqual’s contribution, delivered by Stephen Anwyll, Head of National Assessment, was a natural follow-on and stressed the importance of validity, reliability, fairness and manageability of change.

The mid-morning presentations began with Sue Robb, Head of Early Years at 4Children. “More great childcare” and “more affordable childcare” were at the heart of her presentation, a sentiment that was supported by Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children. She focused on Labour’s plans to ease the burden of early years childcare for parents, including extending free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for three and four year olds with parents in work.

Sarah Mitchell, Headteacher at Blagdon Nursery School then gave the practical insight from a school that is doing all the right things to provide an outstanding setting for early years’ provision. She detailed the school’s journey from satisfactory to outstanding and highlighted the value in being part of an Excellence Cluster. She ended the morning session with encouraging words: maintain a strong belief in the impact of high quality early years education.

Lady Diana Whitmore the Chief Executive and Founding Director of Teens and Toddlers joined the conference for the afternoon. She introduced June O’Sullivan MBE, Chief Executive from London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), who was the final speaker of the day. Her presentation was informative and amusing, a difficult balance to strike. She talked on the subjects of sustainability, marketing, compliance, audits and how to approach an often feared Ofsted inspection. Attendees walked away from the day armed with new ideas for improving their early years’ provision, as well as a clearer understanding of how government and industry are driving forward this sector.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease” (William Osler)

Ensuring England is one of the best countries in Europe at helping people with long term conditions to live healthily and independently was the driver behind the Long Term Conditions conference which took place in January at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.

Healthcare professionals from across the UK gathered at this annual event, which was sponsored by leading organisations in this sector, including the British Heart Foundation, the main sponsor of the conference.

The opening keynote address was delivered by Bob Ricketts, Director of Commissioning Support Services, Strategy and market Development for NHS England. The focus of this presentation was delivering service transformation through commissioning and looked at two main areas; outcome-based population commissioning and value-based commissioning.

This was followed by a thought-provoking presentation given by Simon Gillespie the Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation; also the main sponsors of the conference. Simon challenged the attendees to explore how the care system can properly exploit the creativity, innovation, knowledge, skills, drive, determination, patient-focus and public accountability of the charity sector in helping to deliver for people with long-term conditions.

Dr Mark Davies then gave a presentation which focused on using quality information and technology to plan services and make informed decisions. Building confidence in the use of information and providing information to support better care were main themes running throughout this presentation.  

Bev Matthews and Dr Jamie Day from NHS England then took to the stage. They focused upon driving improvement with a long-term condition year of care funding model. Dr Martin McShane, Director (Domain 2) for NHS England identified key areas for action to support the overall mission of providing high quality care for all and illustrated the tools and levers of the Quality Framework which will be used to achieve this. He ended with a final thought that “the good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease” (William Osler).

The afternoon conference programme was streamed, giving attendees the opportunity to choose which area they wanted to focus on. Topics under discussion ranged from improving diagnosis and care for patient s with respiratory disease to clinical leadership in long-term condition management in the community.