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How Transport Systems Catapult IT Director Alex Farr and his team add value, helping businesses transform and grow

Matt Egan | March 10, 2017
We find out about the ups and downs of Alex Farr's career in IT.

Farr's current role is as the IT Director of the Transport Catapult. "The Catapult are innovation centres that stimulate the economy and drive innovation," Farr says. "The UK is brilliant at coming up with ideas, and at making these ideas come to life. We're bad at taking them to market. The concept of the Catapult is that we take these small ideas, and accelerate their time to market.

"We get them exposure to places they wouldn't usually be able to reach. We can introduce people and see where the synergies are. We are an enabler, and an accelerator.

"We also offer resource, which is where the innovation centres come in. The innovation centre is designed in such a way that these SMEs to come in, and use the space and use the technology we have, in order to showcase their products, have conversations with people in large organisations, and work with us on projects.

"It's a really exciting programme. There are a number of Catapults that all sit in different sectors. Transport Systems is my employer, so we sit in the transport industry. We're looking into intelligent mobility. You've probably seen the driverless cars on the TV in Milton Keynes. We partner with a spin out of Oxford University on this.

"If we can sell products abroad it helps here in the UK. We're not for profit, and we're funded by Innovate UK who get money from the Business and Innovation Skills Department of the Government.

"A third of the funding comes from Innovate UK, a third is from collaborative R and D, and a third from commercial work that we actually go out and win. The idea is that if anyone one of those revenue streams drop, as an organisation you continue to function. Over time we become less and less reliant on Innovate UK. We are a really interesting organisation."

And the role itself is very interesting. "There's a chance for me to put everything I've learnt into practice. Not only build the IT from the ground up, but identify the building, and help put processes, policies in place. We could set the agenda from the outset.

"The Catapult has catapulted my career in all honesty. They really invest in their people as well. So the training, and the exposure they've given, means I am very grateful to them.

"I report to the CFO. I'm responsible for IT, facilities, the virtual dev ops team and visitor experience. Anything that comes into the building comes under my responsibility.

"The facilities and visitor experience side of things is not my background, but it comes hand in hand with the soft skills you need whether you're working in IT, or customer experience, or the facilities team."

 

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