The Big Idea: March 2014

Our first conference, ‘The Big Idea: how can the next government boost growth and opportunity?’, took place on Tuesday 11 March.

The conference saw a range of high profile speakers put forward their top three ‘big ideas’ for how the next government can boost growth and opportunity in the United Kingdom. The conference attracted an audience of leading policy makers, senior civil servants and key opinion leaders.


The Big Idea:
How can the next government boost growth and opportunity?

Tuesday 11 March 2014
Central Hall, Westminster, Storeys Gate, London SW1H 9NH


Cathy NewmanCathy Newman, News Presenter

Cathy Newman joined Channel 4 News in January 2006. Since arriving at the programme, her scoops have included the arrest of David Cameron’s aide Steve Hilton and the disclosure that illegal immigrants worked at the Home Office.

Cathy also writes for the FactCheck blog, which sorts the facts from the spin and unpicks politicians’ claims and counter-claims. It has been cited in Parliament, imitated by rivals, and loyally followed on Twitter.

Before Channel 4 News, Cathy worked for the Financial Times and the Independent.


John GillJohn Gill, Editor, Times Higher Education

John Gill is editor of Times Higher Education magazine. After six years as a reporter on a number of newspapers he joined THE in 2007. John spent three years as news editor, overseeing THE’s coverage of the Browne Review and subsequent reforms. He has been editor of the magazine since January 2012.   |   @JG_THE‎

Professor Alan FelsteadProfessor Alan Felstead, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Alan Felstead’s research focuses on: the quality of work; training, skills and learning; non-standard employment; and the spaces and places of work.  Alan has completed over 30 funded research projects (including eleven funded by the Economic and Social Research Council), produced six books, and written over 200 journal articles, book chapters and research reports.  His recent books include: Improving Working as Learning (London: Routledge, 2009); and Changing Places of Work (London: Palgrave, 2005). Alan has delivered many keynote addresses to conferences around the world, including China, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and Europe, and has given labour market advice to policy-makers inside and outside the UK.

Alan Felstead’s presentation  |‎

Philippa OldhamPhilippa Oldham CEng MIMechE, Head of Transport and Manufacturing, Institution of Mechanical Engineering

Philippa Oldham joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in May 2011 as their Head of Transport and Manufacturing.  Acting as a voice for the Institution on behalf of their 106,000 international members, Philippa aims to help raise the profile of engineers so that they can develop safe and efficient transport systems with less congestion and emissions, while creating wealth and employment within our Manufacturing Sector.  She writes policy statements and reports on topics including life cycle analysis, manufacturing a successful economy, intelligent transport, intelligent society and energy options for our transport modes.

Philippa is a Chartered Engineer with a background of working within sectors including defence, aerospace and automotive with a thorough understanding of the importance of research and development and new product introduction.  |  @Philippa_IMechE

Dr Sarah MainDr Sarah Main, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering

Dr Sarah Main was appointed Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the UK’s leading independent scientific advocacy group, in June 2013.

Before joining CaSE Sarah worked in molecular biology research in some of the UK’s most stimulating academic environments before moving into science policy with the Medical Research Council in 2010.  She worked on strategic policy projects across the MRC science remit and gained first-hand experience of central government policy-making whilst on secondment to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Sarah’s role at BIS was to build evidence for the leveraging power of public funding of science and research for the UK economy.  Her report was used in responses to Treasury in preparation for the 2013 Spending Review.  |  @sciencecampaign

Professor Robin SimmonsProfessor Robin Simmons, Co-Director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Social Justice, University of Huddersfield

Professor Robin Simmons is Co-Director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Social Justice at the University of Huddersfield. He has written extensively on various aspects of post-compulsory education and training and been involved in a series of research projects investigating the experiences of young people on the margins of education and work, including work funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and The Leverhulme Trust. Robin is co-author of NEET Young People and Training for Work, published by Trentham in 2011 and Education, Work and Social Change, published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2014, and is an experienced media commentator on young people’s experiences of education, training and employment.

Robin Simmons’ presentation  |

Neil MorrisonNeil Morrison, Group Human Resources Director, Random House

After starting his working life as a lecturer in Psychology, Neil took his first role in HR management in 1996. For the next 12 years he worked in a variety of specialist and generalist HR roles in FTSE100 companies, including Rentokil Initial and GUS (which latterly became Home Retail Group).  Neil joined the Random House Group in September 2008 taking responsibility for strategic people issues across their publishing and distribution offices in the UK, Australia, India and New Zealand.  Since 2010 Neil has also sat on the main board.

Neil’s latest accolade is winning the award for HR Director of the Year at the prestigious HR Excellence Awards 2013. And more recently still, Neil has been one of the main leads in helping to steer and finalise the merger between Random House and Penguin – the most significant merger in publishing history.

Neil is a regular commentator on Human Resources and workplace issues and has written for a number of trade and generalist publications and websites on a range of topics.  He writes his own blog, Change-Effect and tweets as @neilmorrison.

Neil Morrison’s presentation  |  | @neilmorrison

Nadia Elhagga addresses the conference

Nadia Elhaggagi, Policy Officer, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission

Nadia Elhaggagi is a Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. She works on the implementation of the Youth Employment Package and specifically the Youth Guarantee Recommendation to ensure that all young people under 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. The Youth Employment Package also laid the groundwork for the European Alliance for Apprenticeships and the Commission’s proposal for a Quality Framework for Traineeships.

Nadia Elhaggagi’s presentation  |

Neil McInroyNeil McInroy, Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Neil is CEO of CLES – UK’s leading member and research organisation dedicated to economic development which advances social inclusion, within the limits of the environment. In all of CLES’s work, the nexus between an economy that works for local people and social justice is central.

Neil has an academic background in economic geography. However, over the last 20 years has gained multi-disciplinary knowledge, skills and experience having worked extensively in the UK and more occasionally in Europe, Asia, US and Australasia.

Neil is regularly asked to speak and lecture within the UK, Europe and internationally. He has recently been in Detroit, USA and a conducted a series of lectures and talks in Australia, in late 2013.  He is regularly asked to give evidence at House of Commons select committees and regularly speaks with European parliamentarians in Brussels.

Neil chairs the Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group and is on the advisory board for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s, UK anti-poverty strategies programme.  He has a regular column in New Start Magazine, and is a frequent blogger on the Local Government Chronicle pages. He is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Manchester, and on the editorial board of Local Economy.

Neil McInroy’s presentation  |  |  @nmcinroy

Rt Hon Vince Cable MPRt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Vince Cable was born in 1943. He was educated at Nunthorpe Grammar School in York and read Natural Science and Economics at Cambridge University, where he was President of the Union, after which he studied for a PhD at Glasgow University.

Vince worked as Treasury Finance Officer for the Kenyan Government between 1966 and 1968. From 1968 to 1974 he lectured in Economics at Glasgow University. He worked as a First Secretary in the Diplomatic Service in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1974-1976). He was then Deputy Director of the Overseas Development Institute, which included a period working as a Special Adviser to the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, John Smith MP. From 1983 to 1990, Vince worked as Special Adviser on Economic Affairs for the Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Sonny Ramphal.

From 1990, Vince Cable worked for Shell International and in 1995 became the company’s Chief Economist. He was appointed head of the economics programme at Chatham House and since becoming an MP in 1997, was appointed a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and was a visiting research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics.

He joined the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet in October 1999 as spokesman on Trade and Industry after a spell as a junior Treasury spokesman. Until he was appointed to the Coalition Government as Business Secretary in May 2010, he had been the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor from November 2003 and from March 2006 Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.‎  | @vincecable

Dr Graeme AthertonDr Graeme Atherton, Head of AccessHE and Director of National Education Opportunities Network (NEON)

Dr Graeme Atherton has been active as a researcher, practitioner and manager in the field of widening access to higher education (HE) since 1995. After reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Trinity College, Oxford he completed a doctorate looking at access to Higher Education (HE) for working class adults at the University of Liverpool. He then spent five years at Liverpool Hope University as Associate, Dean Widening Participation before moving to London to manage the Aimhigher Central London Partnership and then becoming Executive Director of the Aimhigher London West Central and North (WECAN) Partnership.

Dr Atherton founded and leads both AccessHE and the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON). AccessHE is a network of over 200 schools and colleges and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), working together in London to widen access to higher education (HE). NEON is the national professional organisation for social mobility through widening access to higher education in England. Over 100 organisations have joined NEON since January 2013.

Dr Atherton is an active researcher on HE access and has produced over 80 publications and conference papers. He is also Visiting Professor in Higher Education and Social Mobility Practice at London Metropolitan University. He is also the Chair of the European Access Network (EAN) World Congress on Access to Post-Secondary Education.

Graeme Atherton’s presentation  |  |  @neonhe

Dr Anthony SeldonDr Anthony Seldon, Master, Wellington College and commentator and historian

Dr Anthony Seldon is a leading British schoolmaster and a contemporary historian, commentator and political author, known for his insider biographies of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron (forthcoming). He is 13th Master (headmaster) of Wellington College, Britain’s top co-educational independent boarding school. In 2009, he set up The Wellington Academy, the first state school to carry the name of its founding independent school. Before that, he was head of Brighton College. He is author or editor of over 35 books on contemporary history, politics and education, was the co-founder and first director of the Centre for Contemporary British History, is co-founder of Action for Happiness, is a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is on the board of many charities and educational bodies. He is honorary historical adviser to 10 Downing Street. He is also a member of the First World War Centenary Culture Committee, established by the Culture Secretary in 2013.


Suzy StrideSuzy Stride, City Gateway

Suzy Stride has worked for City Gateway since 2005, a charity committed to bringing hope through employment to some of the hardest to reach young people in London. Suzy has been involved in everything from strategy, pioneering new projects and training and mentoring young people.

A Cambridge graduate, her background is working with young people from some of the poorest estates in the country. She has run youth crime prevention projects as well as programs to tackle youth unemployment and is very passionate about having the right policies to ensure all young people whatever their background can fulfil their potential.

Suzy Stride’s presentation  |  |  @suzy4harlow‎

Rajay NaikRajay Naik, Director of Government and External Affairs, The Open University

Rajay Naik is Director of Government and External Affairs at The Open University – the UK’s largest University – and Chairman of UK Programmes at the Big Lottery Fund – the largest funder of charities in the UK. Rajay is also a Commissioner at the Department of Health; a Member of the National Careers Council and the UK-ASEAN Business Council. Rajay was one of five panel members on Lord Browne’s Review of Higher Education. Previously he held senior roles in Local Government at Coventry City Council; Central Government at the Cabinet Office and in the voluntary sector at the Royal Society of Arts. He is a former Chairman of the British Youth Council; Trustee of the National Youth Agency, vInspired and Changemakers Foundation; and Council Member of the Learning and Skills Council. Rajay holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from The University of Warwick.

Rajay Naik’s presentation  |‎

Rushanara Ali MPRushanara Ali MP, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Shadow Minister for Education

Rushanara Ali has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow since May 2010.  In October 2010, Rushanara was appointed to the Labour front bench as Shadow Minister for International Development and has been the Shadow Minister for Education since October 2013.

Prior to her election in May 2010, she was Associate Director of the Young Foundation. She previously worked at the Communities Directorate of the Home Office, leading a work programme in response to the 2001 disturbances in the North of England (2002-2005).

Rushanara has worked on human rights issues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2000-2001); as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (1999-2002) and as Parliamentary Assistant for Oona King, former MP for Bethnal Green & Bow (1997-1999).

Rushanara has also worked as the Research Assistant to Lord Young of Dartington (author of the 1945 Labour Party manifesto), helping him to set up Futureversity (formerly known as Tower Hamlets Summer University) and Language Line, a national telephone interpreting company  |  @rushanaraali

Neil CarberryNeil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills, Confederation of British Industry

Neil was appointed Director of Employment and Skills in February 2011. He is responsible for setting out a framework of employment and skills policy that supports the CBI’s ambition of making the UK the best place to invest and create jobs. His team campaigns on behalf of CBI members on labour market issues including education, skills, employment law, employee relations, equality and diversity, pay, pensions, health and safety and human rights. He led the work to relaunch the CBI’s schools policy that culminated in the reportFirst Steps in 2012.

Before becoming director, Neil spent four years as head of employment and pensions policy and he has previously worked in the CBI’s public services team as head of public procurement. Neil joined the CBI in 2004, after completing a postgraduate degree at the LSE in Industrial Relations. Before this, he worked as an HR consultant for a number of major financial institutions.  |  @CBITweets

Neil Carmichael MPNeil Carmichael MP, Conservative MP for Stroud and Member, Education Select Committee

Neil was elected in 2010 and immediately he started work on several key policy areas. He is a member of the Education Select Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee and has established two All Parliamentary Party Groups: Governance and Leadership in Education, and Vascular Diseases. He is also a member of the All Party Health Group.

Neil’s interests include Europe, economics, energy and foreign affairs, and he frequently makes contributions to Parliamentary debates on these topics. He recently took the Antarctic Act through Parliament, safeguarding both the Antarctic environment and British interests in the area for future generations.

In his Stroud constituency, Neil has established the annual Festival of Engineering and Manufacturing, secured funding for the redoubling of the Stroud/Swindon railway, formed the Canal Forum to encourage neighbourhood planning along the regenerated route, launched a campaign to improve Broadband provision, and much more besides.  |  @neil_mp

Sally HuntSally Hunt, General Secretary, University and College Union

Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) – the world’s largest post-16 education trade union. She has two decades’ experience as a senior trade union official has been general secretary of the UCU,  since 2007 recently re-elected to a second term.

UCU was formed as result of a merger between the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) on 1 June 2006.

Sally holds a number of positions outside the union and represents UCU on the general council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Her duties include being the TUC’s spokesperson on international issues.  |  @ucu

Matthew TaylorMatthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts

Matthew Taylor has been Chief Executive of the RSA since November 2006. During this time the Society has substantially increased its output of research and innovation, has provided new routes to support charitable initiatives of its 26,000 Fellows – including crowd funding – and has developed a global profile as a platform for ideas.

Prior to this appointment, Matthew was Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister. Previous roles include Labour Party Director of Policy and Deputy General Secretary and Chief Executive of the ippr the UK’s leading left of centre think tank.

Matthew is a regular media performer having appeared several times on the Today Programme, The Daily Politics and Newsnight. He had written and presented several Radio Four documentaries and is a panellist on the programme Moral Maze. He has written for newspapers including the FT and Observer and journals including Management Today and the Municipal Journal.  He has posted over a thousand times on his RSA blog site and tweets as RSAMatthew.  |  @RSAMatthew

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