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Dr. A. Michael Noll

Dr Noll has been active in the Internet and Computing industries for over 60 years and a theme of this conversation is that there is nothing new under the sun. Michael is an entertaining speaker and a great communicator: I am indebted for his kind and clear explanation that his birthplace of “Nork, New Jersey” is not be linguistically confused with our town of “New-Ark on Trent.”

He started his career with an incisive paper in 1961 about the opportunities and dangers that computers might bring and has seen much of it come to pass. Michael’s career has spanned a huge range of technologies and it is fascinating to see that many big ideas were conceived in the very early days of commercial computing but had to wait to realise their potential. Michael, for his PhD, built a haptic or force-feedback device (and patented the concept) 50 years ago and still has a vision of how more could (and will) be done with the technology. He can cite at lease two false starts to the realisation of what we now know as the Internet, to which he made his own contributions as well as being an acute observer of its potential and use.

Michael is an outstanding scholar, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, an enthusiast for the Arts, including his own role in them, and a world-renowned pioneer of Digital Computer Art.

Malcolm Penn

Malcolm Penn could have been a rock star but turned out a market researcher, analyst and authority on the electronics industry.

R&B music subsidised his electronic engineering degree sandwich course of four years with Vickers Aircraft in Weybridge and Wisley, where he worked on the VC10 programme, testing one plane almost to destruction, and Venner Electronics in south west London. He spent 14 years with ITT Semiconductors and ITT Europe, where he learned his trade in chip design, product marketing,  manufacturing and as a chip user.

He set up the US market research company Dataquest in Europe, before forming his own market research company, Future Horizons, to explain what the numbers mean. He has trenchant views on Intel and ARM, which are well worth hearing.

Sean Coutts

As a boy, Sean Coutts enjoyed designing and building things, and dreamed of becoming an architect. Instead, as co-founder and director of technology at Graphium technologies, he is creating a company which transforms unstructured research data into visual insight.

After studying materials science at university, and a few years working in accounting and project management, Sean went back to university to do an MSc in computer science. Then, keen to found his own business, he signed up for Entrepreneur course at the Alacrity Foundation — an organisation set up to support talented young graduates turn their ideas into commercial reality.

Since completing the course, Graphium has raised £250,000 seed funding — enough to last 18 months to two years without making any sales, “but we hope to start selling by mid-2022.” Alacrity has a stake along with the founders, who have 13 per cent each.  Sean hopes Graphium will eventually be acquired. “That would be our preferred route,” he says. “It fits with our values as a company — we are more interested in the process than creating a Microsoft or a Google.”

He sees himself as serial entrepreneur. “This is the first time, but none of us wants it to be the last.”

Dave Miles

As Director of Safety Policy at Meta (formerly Facebook) for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Dave Miles has more than thirty years of executive management experience in the technology, regulatory and charitable sectors.

Among Dave’s significant career moments was his participation in the Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress and 2017 Declaration of Rome, returning to the Vatican in 2019 to respond on Facebook’s behalf to the Pope’s call to action.

He is optimistic that technology can now provide safer solutions for young people, and says the industry is highly motivated to keep its platforms safe, so that people will continue to use them.

“The challenge will be about balancing privacy and safety for young people. The UK’s draft Online Safety Bill is very exciting and Meta looks forward to its publication,” he says. “If we get it right here in the UK, other countries will follow. In 10 years, the internet will be a more mature, regulated environment and we will stop perhaps calling it the “Wild West.”

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting has been fascinated by telecommunications since childhood, and a love of science fiction, particularly the writings of Arthur C Clarke, fostered his enthusiasm for technology.

At school his best subjects were English, French and Latin, but in those days it was hard to combine sciences and arts. So he did A’levels in chemistry, maths and his favourite, physics, going on to gain a degree in electronic and electrical engineering at the University of Surrey, and a PhD.

In 1985, Sir Martin set up Surrey Satellite Technology with about £100 and four employees. The company pioneered rapid-response, low-cost and highly capable small satellites, on which much of our modern life depends. In 2008, SST was sold to Airbus Defence & Space for £50m, but Sir Martin is still executive chairman. The company now has 400 professional staff, annual revenues of more than $100m and total export sales in excess of $1bn to 25 countries. Among its many focuses is clearing up the increasing amount of space debris, which represents a significant threat to the next generation of satellites.

Sir Martin was awarded an OBE in 2002 and won the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and listed by Sunday Times as one of the 500 most influential UK citizens.

Professor Jim McLaughlin OBE

Professor James Mclaughlin OBE is working on portable / wearable diagnostic devices that will transform personal healthcare with automatic monitoring of heart rates, blood sugar levels and the like, reporting the results and triggering alerts over mobile . He worked on the team that developed the first external defibrillator and is now the director of the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre at the University of Ulster. He holds over 30 patents including for the world’s best-selling disposable medical electrode. He has successfully co-founded a set of spin-off companies while raising over £100 million of research funding.

Dr Martin Read CBE

Dr Martin Read CBE is credited with the transformation of Logica, from the archetypal British 20th century software house with a headcount of 3,000 largely centred in the UK, to a 21st century dynamic enterprise with a headcount in excess of 40,000 based in over 40 countries. Martin followed the familiar path from grammar-school boy in Basingstoke to Oxford DPhil in Physics via Cambridge. He then deviated from a classic scientific career path and commenced his employment in shipping container logistics, where he applied his intellect to operations and strategic planning and worked abroad.

After a spell in the marine business of International Paint, his commercial and management skills were honed working for Lord Weinstock at GEC, before he was headhunted to Logica. After 14 years in the software industry, Dr Read again switched track and has been in high demand for a diverse portfolio of chair, non-executive director and senior advisory roles in industry and Government. His advice to the next generation is to begin their careers in well-managed organisations and to gain early experience in sales and working abroad .