Iain Cameron's Diary
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2007-01-19 - 7:52 a.m.

It has been a very academic week. Yesterday I saw one of my heroes someone whose academic work and ideas has inspired stuff I have written and even been paid for. He was as inspiring in person as on the page a tall rather shambling New Englander in his early 60s probably but projecting enthusiasm for great thinkers of the passed and their neglected linkages, particularly Darwin and the Cambridge economist Marshall who is the intellectual forebear of the subject area under examination in the seminar.

The big surprise was a paper by a Professor at Birmingham, all about building public debate. He argued that public debate is needed because economic goals, and in particular regional economic goals are set by an US dominated elite at present. To get a broader range of goals introduced into regional economic strategy the general public needs to develop new capabilities of understanding and debate. He proposed art as the vehicle for helping to develop the capabilities.

I asked him a question the only speaker that I engaged with in this way. My question was about the relevance of Adorno who suggests that what made contemporary art contemporary was the fact that it came from the edge of society. This edgeiness is coded into its core. So my question was about the tension between the possibly inherent edginess of art and its ability, these days, to act as the vehicle for social integration around a debate about goals. The speaker seemed to agree that I had a point but he said he was trying this stuff out in communities which saw themselves as marginal for example in Italy. I find this easy to believe.

I met another academic from Birmingham who is interested in what is happening to the local automotive industry and I sent her my two big papers on that subject. I also spoke to another of the presenters when she had finished her stuff about the ONS data she is using. I use this kind of data a lot and have been in various debates over the last fortnight or so about it. This presenter had to actually visit the ONS and sit an office to look at the data about the location of R&D sites across the country. The ONS take fantastic care with their data.

A week ago I took off with Mike to Wroclau in Lower Silesia, part of Poland which it took over from Germany after the Potsdam Conference. Of course it was fascinating, especially the qualities of people in their 20s that we met taxi drivers and the hotel staff and all the young Polish people travelling to and from the UK on the flights. We met a Professor at the technical university, a bright shiny building.

We have been doing a lot of research on Poland and the visit gave life to the numbers and inspired me to dig out even more. Indeed on Wednesday we went up to Warrington to commission a bit more research. The Polish visit is linked to the announcement of research priorities by the European Commission just before Christmas and this event is stimulating a flurry of activity. The possibility of going to Stuttgart in the middle of February on the big Euro project emerged yesterday.

Unfortunately all this excitement coincides with two other deadlines next week. The first concerns a UK research call on how to get young people to think more positively about careers in science and engineering. The deadline for that is on 24 January. Francis and I spent a lot of time looking for academic partners and eventually we found some at Hatfield in the faculty of Automotive, Aeronautical and Design Engineering which is where we spent part of Monday. Francis and I have already carried out some low level research in this area and we need a proper academic partnership if we are to take our interest forward.

On 23 January I have an appointment with Leonardo in Birmingham. Leonardo gives out money for the Transfer of Innovation in vocational training between European countries. I have to explain to Leonardo where my ideas have got to.

I have sent a copy of 10 Short Stories to James McG.

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