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A man with grey hair smiling. He is wearing a blue polo shirt.

Jeremy Brassington

The early experience of rejection gave Jeremy Brassington a drive which led through impressive exam results to studying chemistry at Oxford. Despite a well-received thesis on blood proteins, he found academic research unappealing, and instead qualified as an accountant.   Describing auditing as “the dullest subject on earth” he turned to banking, eventually focusing on tech venture funding and turning around failing businesses such as Oxford Molecular. “It taught me how not to run a business,” he says.

In 2003, Jeremy moved into Assistive Technology, redesigning an assistive listening device for the hard of hearing. Having had learning difficulties himself, he realised could help students with dyslexia, language problems and other disabilities.  “It was the first time I had run a business that was doing good,” he says. He managed it for the next 15 years, launching in 30 markets worldwide.

In 2019, Jeremy founded Habitat Learn, an Edtech group which combines automated note-taking and transcription with a smartphone app that helps disabled students take notes in lectures and is now pioneering digital education for all students. He hopes it will become a unicorn.

Michael van de Weg

MedTech pioneer Michael van de Weg was born in southern Africa and worked with IT majors before he teamed up with a friend in 2015 to form IMMJ in London to develop and sell an electronic document solution for healthcare.

Michael graduated from University of KwaZulu-Natal and joined IBM, where he was soon propelled into a project to recall and fix 10,000 smart card devices for a bank. He was offered an IBM career path but was inclined by his father’s experience and advice to become an entrepreneur.

Professor Bill Dutton

Professor Bill Dutton is an eminent authority on the role and impact of information and communications technology in society. He was the first Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, founded in 2001, with support from Dame Stephanie Shirley, to focus on the societal opportunities and challenges of the rapidly developing technology.

His graduate studies were in Political Science, since when Bill has held roles with many institutions, notably at the University of Southern California and at Oxford with Balliol College and the Oxford Martin School. Bill was also Professor of Media and Information Policy at the Quello Center and Professor at the Annenberg School for Communications.

He combines expertise in ICT and human behaviour to illuminate the interplay of technology with issues such as security, democracy, (dis)information and response to the pandemic.

Professor Danielle George

As a child, Professor Danielle George always loved asking “why?” and exploring how technology can deliver answers. On her Commodore 64 computer, she says, “I was much more a programmer than a gamer.”

She was also fascinated by space, waking in the small hours to watch lunar eclipses with the telescope her parents gave her aged eight. A maths teacher at her comprehensive school provided further inspiration with his university astrophysics books. Reading them filled her with awe, she recalls.

At university, she shunned the data-driven world of traditional astrophysics, in favour of radio astronomy. “I had always preferred the practical side of maths and physics,” she says, “and I felt I needed to use my hands.” Her work on the unmanned satellite project at Jodrell Bank became her doctorate.

Now Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering and Associate Vice President at the University of Manchester, Professor George’s research is dedicated to solving one the 14 world engineering grand challenges of the 21st century — engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

She loves teaching, which she says always brings “fire in my belly,” although doesn’t have much time for it with her present responsibilities. She is the current president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology — only the second woman to hold the post. An outstanding role model for women in science and technology, she is passionate about raising public awareness of the positive impact of STEM subjects on all aspects of our lives.

Gary Turner

It was the “catastrophic” failure of his parents’ business in Glasgow when he was just leaving school that triggered Gary Turner’s lifelong drive and passion for helping small enterprises succeed. Forced to abandon his university aspirations, he had always wanted to work in computing, and a sympathetic recruitment consultant helped him get his first job.

Gary’s ability to empathise with customer problems helped him rise through the IT industry to senior positions at Pegasus, Microsoft and Systems Union. Then, in 2009, he took a step which he says “must have looked crazy”, becoming co-founder of Xero, a three-person accounting software start-up.

It proved an excellent move. As Xero’s UK managing director, Gary grew the business to a turnover of £110M by 2020, with more than 600,000 UK customers. He has also served as a mentor at TechStars London and is a seed investor in early-stage start-ups across the UK and Europe.

Paul Excell

Paul Excell’s first job was working in his family’s village shop; he has gone on to become an entrepreneur, investor, NED, executive coach and eminent figure in the telecommunications industry. His father taught him crucial business lessons, such as having empathy with customers, being curious about their needs and understanding how you can help them rather than focusing on selling.

State educated, Paul gained much of his drive and inspiration from “fantastic” teachers in topics ranging from maths, physics and computer science to history. People who bridge the science / arts divide will be increasingly important as technology develops, he says.

Following BT sponsorship through university, Paul became an apprentice technician and rose steadily eventually to become a pioneering Chief Customer Innovation Officer, Group Technology Officer and SVP Global Services. While at BT he fulfilled his passion for innovation, launching internet, broadband, mobile and media services and serving on several of the group’s global boards. ”If you don’t innovate, you die,” he says.

After leaving BT in 2012, Paul founded Excelerate, which provides agile executive services focused on transforming leadership and team performance. In 2016 he established ScaleUp Group, which aims to support the many smaller UK companies which he says have potential for “massive impact” and growth. So far it has raised more than £30m and generated some £4bn in enterprise value.