Nicholas Hill, CEO of Plextek

Nicholas Hill, CEO of Plextek

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Customers have been asking us to solve some of the hardest engineering problems for nearly thirty years.  In that time we’ve been pushing the boundaries in bespoke communications, radar, IoT, medical sensing, industrial automation and defence and security systems.

Over the years we’ve noticed that solving for the engineering isn’t always enough to ensure our clients’ success.  Sometimes we’re concerned that the product requirements presented by a client don’t quite add up, and we need to explore with them their underlying business need, including commercial, market and technical factors.  Sometimes the customer doesn’t want to talk engineering, so we need to bring to the table both the ability to work in strategy and design, alongside the technical expertise to interpret requirements and to know how far performance boundaries can be pushed.  Sometimes we have been asked to ‘put the electronics’ into a nicely designed new product for which insufficient expertise was applied at the design stage.  This can lead to a major rethink of the design so that the necessary level of performance can be met.  Sometimes the customer’s internal processes or culture are impeding innovation and we need the tools to help them step back from day-to-day product iteration and explore the wider innovation opportunity.

Thinking about these issues led us to a decision about twelve months ago to create a new business unit to deliver innovation services, including elements of business strategy, design and technology.  We realised that the innovation business needed to be separate, so it could develop its own culture, methods and identity, and with its own physical space.  But we also realised that it needed to be strongly bonded to Plextek, so it would be able to draw on our deep technical expertise whenever a particular project demanded it, and so we could confidently deliver the innovation into finished products.

We noted that many innovation businesses are highly process driven.  Indeed in some cases the process has the reverence of scripture.  As an engineering company we truly understand the benefits of good process.  But we are also aware of the constraints and limitations.  We concluded that a more flexible approach was needed, using a toolbox of methods that can be adapted to suit the needs of specific customers and projects; and practitioners who are experienced enough to know when to break the rules to achieve maximum impact.

We knew we needed an outstanding candidate to lead this new organisation, and expended a great deal of time and effort finding the right person.  Alan Cucknell turned out to be just the person we needed, and we are delighted to have him on board. We’re excited by this new stage in Plextek’s growth, and to be offering our clients fresh, powerful and original strategic and design thinking, backed by the technical expertise Plextek is renowned for.

We’re calling this new business Ignite Exponential, but I’ll let Alan pick up the story from here.