Sir Hossein Yassaie on the UK's need for TechWorks

May 09, 2017 //By Peter Clarke
Sir Hossein Yassaie spoke to eeNews Europe about the re-organization of the UK's National Microelectronics Institute (NMI) and its renaming as TechWorks.

Sir Hossein, founder and former CEO of Imagination Technologies Group plc, has been serving as chairman of NMI since late in 2016 but he told eeNews Europe that agreed to take up the post on the basis that there would be a number of changes. The result has been the re-org and renaming that will be formally announced on May 10.

"It was my observation that NMI had passed its peak relevance. It has fantastic grass roots but they need more punch. So a key part of the re-organization is changing the board and strengthening the executive," Sir Hossein said. "In the past there was a focus on traditional semiconductor business. The two communities of design and manufacturing will carry on, along with the IoT Security Foundation and the automotive initiative [AESIN], under TechWorks as an umbrella organization."

This will allow it to be driven by the membership creating specific groups as they achieve critical mass, he added. "There's a power initiative and artificial intelligence and machine learning are candidate areas," he added. TechWorks will continue to have one leg in semiconductor business but add systems and software, to create a broad technology zone covering where the commercial future is, Sir Hossein said.

TechWorks has even coined a phase for it: Deep Tech. Deep Tech can include processing and computing architecture innovations, advances in semiconductors and electronic systems, power electronics, vision and speech algorithms and techniques, artificial intelligence and machine learning, haptics, sensors and actuators and more. Such technology is becoming highly pervasive and impacting many application segments including autonomous systems and automobiles, robotics, smart home/cities, medical devices, clean tech, energy efficiency and many more developing or emerging application areas.

Next: The board

Sir Hossein said it had been important to secure the services of the right people to provide TechWorks and the UK's technology sector with the required clout and a set of voices that would be listened to in political circles.

The TechWorks board comprises:

Chair: Sir Hossein Yassaie

Chief Executive: Derek Boyd

Board Members:

Hermann Hauser – Amadeus Capital

Simon Segars – ARM

Tim Luke – Barclays Capital

Stan Boland – Five.AI

Mike Risman – Vitruvian Partners

Luke Ibbetson – Vodafone Group R&D

It is notable that a number of venture capitalists are on the board and Tim Luke of Barclays Capital was a previously a government policy advisor working for Number 10, Downing Street.

"It is important this is not to be policy talking shop but also not purely engineering tech talk. These are people that make a dffierence," said Sir Hossein.

"The NMI had good grass roots but only a few ways to make a difference. This mix of people has punch," Sir Hossein said. He added that he had been concerned that while the UK engages in excellent academic research and some disruptive engineering it struggles to commercialize that work and take it global, with one or two notable exceptions.

"We don't achieve scale easily in the UK," he said. "TechWorks will solve real technical problems but we want the UK to punch its weight in terms of creating companies."

When asked if Brexit was a threat to the UK technology sector, Sir Hossein said: "Brexit makes TechWorks even more necessary. I am not in favour of Brexit; but the politicians accept that the nation has spoken. So let's do what we have to do to make UK thrive."

Next: Reach out