Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-09-05 - 8:13 p.m.

I started the day in the office at 8-00am talking to Australia about how they might develop their industrial base - and the differences between say France and Germany on the one hand Australia, South Africa and the UK on the other. It made the day rather long - normally I donít start at the crack of dawn. So no flute practice this morning.

More digging around today in the linkages regionally, nationally and internationally between the different organizations which make vehicles in relatively small volumes. Porsche is one example which has attracted a lot of attention - I bought a Harvard Business Review case study on the way that the company developed in the 90s. I hadnít realized that the original Porsche sportscar came out of the classic VW Beetle and has undergone decades of refinement since. It has been judged as one of the to 5 most influential cars of the 20thcentury - along with the original mini, the model T and the Citroen DS. Its surprising how much info is lurking for free on the web - just as well really. Wikipedia just gets better and better.

The analysis which I delivered yesterday suggests that there is a strong concentration vehicle designers and makers in the Coventry area but a relatively smaller cluster of suppliers. Todayís efforts have been to identify what kind of suppliers might be added - I am not there yet but I am closer than I was. BMW differ from many companies in that they outsource the pressing of the large components that are welded together to make the car body. When I visited their plant to the north of pretoria I was taken to a big pressing plant owned by one of the classic german middle-rank industrial firms.

I have on order a very pricey book written by someone at Cardiff U on alternative strategies for vehicle assembly. Something went wrong with the order - one gets so used to e-shopping running smoothly that when it doesnt it can throw me into a sulk.

This research has made me aware of how strong the engineering heritage is in leantown. It looks like a classic early 19c spa town which implies a professional services base out of Jane Austen. In fact a tradition of innovation and invention is in the local DNA evidenced by the fact that its where the inventor of the jet engine went t school. I have a thing about Whittle because my dad was in the same class when they got to be RAF apprentices. The high level of invention is rooted in Birmingham culture - in Adam Smiths Theory of Moral Sentiments he takes a crack at trinkets of frivolous utility - over-artful contrivances which he thinks derails the culture. This is the Edinburgh enlightenment turning its nose up at the centre of english enlightenment - such as it was. These trinkets are nothing if not full of invention and Smith complains that the art of invention tricks the mind into thinking that the artefacts are really useful. South of Birmingham is where the folk with manufacturing money built their family houses - and the culture and art of invention flourished there - happens to be where Far Leys is.

Laurence called and we talked a bit about finding and mapping these intricacies in global value networks - something we both do - and how this is a necessary element in the grander theorising about globalisation.

I have been listening to T Carrollís record and I canít make up my mind about it - I most like the pieces where the virtuosity is least visible. Itís hard to make an impact with solo guitar however deep the technical underpinning.

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