A Previous Incarnation

Application for Knowledge Transfer Officer for detectors and related technologies

IPT-KT-IP-2016-28-LD at CERN

The answer was NO….

Do you have any experience managing innovation in industry, involving technology partnerships (technology licensing, collaborative R&D and / or open innovation)?

I helped manage, at board level and in the lab, the technology in Powerlase. This involved overseeing putative technology road-maps. The basic lesson is that however long you think it will take, it will take longer. There is a shortage of highly skilled people to work entrepreneurially. One of the major barriers is always communication between mind-sets. No matter what ideals you have there is no way around the physics. The experience of EUV for lithography, as a whole, is an example in case, people did the engineering without understanding the physics. Budgets were over spent. One has to be grounded. In partnerships there are always mixed agendas and these need to be discussed not avoided. There is no point in burying your head in the sand.   

Do you have experience in management of intellectual property?

I have two US patents of my own. For Powerlase ltd. I was effectively the pipe-cleaner. This involved meeting with various patent attorney firms and selecting one, then learning the ins and outs of the various stages of priority date, filing and examination. I learned that one has to translate academic stuff into claims and to be very thorough in one’s research, because patents are expensive. In the case of patents clarity is very important. Having gone through this process I then advised on the other patents as they were prepared for filing. A major part of the success of the start-up funding was a strong patent portfolio. IP was deemed to be very important. As the company grew we had various patent review meetings to decide strategy. I was a major part of these reviews. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) used us as a case study of good patent practice. One has to think very strategically when resource is limited. In fact, patents leave a trail of the difficulties encountered. If one looks at the patents of a company one can see where they are struggling and what problems they encounter in their technology road-map, it tells a story for one “skilled in the art”.

Since that time, I have looked into working for a number of companies and as part of my research I have reviewed their patent portfolios. It is something I enjoy. I can scan very many patents quickly to get an over view and then drill down into the detail.

Please give an example of your experience engaging industrial partners, technology commercialisation and contract negotiation.

Whilst at Imperial I engaged with Tokyo Electron Limited (TEL) in order to ascertain if the reflectance difference spectrometer which we were developing would be suitable for online monitoring the plasma etch back of gate oxide on silicon. The technique works well for single crystal Si substrates but may not work with polycrystalline Si. This involved talking with TEL in Japan via conference calls and then arranging a visit. This involved flying out to Japan and being hosted at the company country club, having an onsen with people I had only just met and several formal dinners. I had to then present and pitch to around 20-30 TEL employees including senior vice presidents. I was questioned thoroughly. In Japan how you interact with the seniors is very important and I seemed to get on well. There are several unwritten “tests” which you have to pass. 

We then negotiated a £270k contract (all cash) which was to build and deliver a bespoke version of the spectrometer whilst doing tests on oxides of varying thickness in the labs. The negotiation was a little complex in that deliverables are not easily defined for a new project. In the end it was fairly open.  We had to do regular progress reports both written and by conference call. At the end of the contract we shipped a trial device to Yamanashi and I installed and tested it live….

During this process I overcame the language barrier and the difference in expectations between process engineers and scientists. It was a steep learning curve. In this case they did not take up a licence for the technology because it did not really fit their needs.     

Please give brief examples of experience in business development, start-up companies or project management.

I have co-founded start-up company Powlerase Ltd. I have personal experience of the trials and tribulations. I could, without doubt, support the set-up of new CERN start-ups. The technology behind Powerlase was based upon high power diode pumped solid state lasers and laser produced plasma(LPP)extreme ultraviolet(EUV) light sources. Myself and two others founded the company. I was, perhaps, the lead. To do this we wrote and filed patents under the auspices of Imperial Innovations. I designed and built a LPP-EUV source and we readied a prototype laser for demonstration purpose. We did this on the back of a £1.6 million Joint Infrastructure grant. We incorporated a company. I then did extensive market research and prepared a business plan. We engaged a financial house to help us in the fund raising. I wrote the business plan with some help from an accountant at the financial house (Gordon House Asset Management). After several drafts the business plan was ready. We practiced pitching with the financial company. In one day we then pitched to six venture capital groups. We hit five out of six and were told by the others to come back when we needed a much larger tranche of funds. After this there was a period of due diligence and investors visited the labs. We engaged a CEO and the £5 million funds were released. I was responsible for handling the finances in the early days. As a part of this process we had a very large foundation agreement document drawn up by a top flight city firm. In retrospect this was a waste of money.

We then initially rented offices near Imperial with view to moving off campus fast. The CEO took over operational responsibility and we rented space in Crawley. We looked to relationship build with Canon, Nikon and Gigaphoton in Japan, in which I acted as the expert. I then acted as non-executive director. I designed a second generation light source in collaboration with BOC Edwards and this was joint funded. The CEO wanted to do things his way and I effectively took a back seat. In time the company grew to a turnover of ~£9 million with > 50 employees. It went into liquidation in the downturn and was reborn as Powerlase Photonics.

Briefly describe your experience with detectors or related technologies.

I have over 20 years’ experience of using detectors. These range from photomultipliers using boxcar or digital storage oscilloscope detection, through to those configured for single photon counting using on board or off board discriminators. I have used infrared detectors (usually cooled), photodiodes and ion detectors in very high sensitivity time of flight mass spectrometers. I have used photodiode array broad spectrum detectors and CCDs. I have used micro channel plate detectors for very high temporal resolution. I have used microphones in photoacoustic spectroscopy.  I have used multiple laser beam experiments in heterodyne detection and lock in amplifiers. I have used EUV detectors to quantify in band (though multilayer stack filter) EUV output. One has to know the spectral sensitivity, temporal response and noise characteristics (and their thermal variation) of whichever detector one uses. All measurements need to be corrected for detector response. There is sometimes a compromise between the detector you want and the one you can afford.

Because of my background in semiconductor growth I understand how solid state detectors are made and what their failure modes might be. I am confident that I can “get my head around” any detector.  I am also confident that I can present these effectively to others both technically skilled and those less so.

What is your motivation for applying for this job.

I am looking for a change. When I saw the job advertisement I thought that sounds interesting and it is something that I could definitely do. I enjoy getting things off the ground and setting them in motion. I am very novelty focussed in many ways. I enjoy thinking strategically and am very much a self-starter. I can do strategy and business plans. I am good with budgets. I am sure that I can stimulate entrepreneurial thinking in CERN staff and have sufficient academic gravitas to communicate with them effectively

I am very good at organisation having organised multiple residential events from venue selection, through programme and down to menu. I have had a pastoral care role, this required confidentiality. Part of my consultancy is about team working and self-development. I am happy to help others develop and evolve.

I enjoyed Switzerland when I was at Bern.

The position has many things which appeal very strongly to me. I am confident that I can do it and would enjoy it.