One week to launch a Podcast

Sharing to Learn

The number of people who ask me "What is it you do?", "What do you mean by industrial research?" and "How do you do research in IT?" is huge. In fact, it is a question I think my Mum has been asking me since I started in industrial research.

Recently I've been thinking about how I do my role and what techniques I use. It has been quite cathartic and educational. Just writing down what I do has made me question it and try to improve it.

I've discovered that one of the best ways to learn is to share. So now I'd like to share what I've learnt, get some feedback on it, and hopefully help some fellow researchers along the way.

Launching a Podcast

So, this week I'm going to try to launch a podcast. There is a lot to get done to make this happen, and today is day one.

I know my own personality type well enough to know, I'll come up with great ideas, but seeing them through to conclusion requires a lot of effort, and my energy often wanes toward the end. So, to keep myself honest, I'm going to do a quick daily blog, one post each day this week. So far, I've:

  • Created my logo
  • Recorded a pilot episode
  • Scripted 3 more (very long) episodes
  • Started researching podcast hosts (and costs)

I don't expect my podcast to be the next "This American Life" or "Serial", hey industrial research is niche, but hopefully it will help.

Things I am learning

Logo Creation

Graphic design is hard and you do need a good bit of time to get it right. However, with a one-week time frame and already consuming 20% of that time today, I just need to get on with what I have. Let me know what you think.

My original plan was for a pixel art guy with a bubble above his head quoting a line from my son which seemed quite apt; "What, what?". Pixel art with vector graphics tools takes ages, and the dude I drew looked more like a bad squiggle. It has been decades since I last drew anything artistic and unfortunately it shows. I'm not going to show you that here... needless to say I could do with improving it.

Recording Audio and not fluffing it takes ages

Ok, I know we all talk, but when there is a microphone in front of me, I don't seem to be able to get 30 seconds down the line without fluffing something. The first pilot took about 1h 30min to record about 5 minutes of audio. Yikes I'd better work on that.

Industrial Research Podcast Logo

Creating an Ident is hard

The audio equivalent of a logo, a sound bite and branding. Man, that's tough. I opted for some music published under creative commons. It's a bit electronic, but hopefully enough of a contrast from my voice to keep folks awake! The full track is available on the FMA website, it is called "Bust This Bust That" by "Professor Kliq".

Tomorrow

That is about it for now. Tomorrow will see me trying to set up a website, re-editing the pilot, selecting a podcast hosting provider and attempting to get the very first, intro episode up.

What has the EU ever done for us?

The EU does a lot of work to help drive Science, technology and innovation across Europe, and I think in the mist of the Brexit debate this can get over looked. My day job involvesĀ  working with these EU programmes, so I thought I'd share what I've been involved in, and have worked on.

European Research Programmes

There has been so much talk recently about how the EU imposes restrictions on business, and creates silly rules. Now, not every organisation is perfect, but national politics aside the EU can and does do some good work.

The EU works hard to support the creation new jobs via new technologies and the associated research. To do this theĀ  EU is constantly looking at how we in Europe compete against other major counties, and it tries hard to ensure success for everyone living in the EU. This, as you can imagine is no easy task. Europe is big and has many millions of people, all with different skills dotted about many different countries.

I want to tell you about the European research programs I've been involved in and how, they have in the past created thousands of jobs across Europe, including the UK. The very same research is touching on the cutting edge of technology today and has the potential to create an amazing future for us all. Before I cover the European research program it is important to go back in time and to a different continent, North America.

Research Grants and The Birth of the Internet

Back in the 1980s the European Commission studied how each member states sponsored research and innovation policies compared to other counties from outside Europe. Specifically they looked at the DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) research grants issued by the US. Although these grants were, and still are, focused on defence research, Europe recognised the huge impact they had on the US economy. To give you an example of the impact DARPA grants have, I should point out that the entire internet was born from a DARPA grant. The initial research lead to the birth of the ARPANET, and eventually to the internet we know today. More recently the self driving cars we see from Google; that core technology is also from DARPA.

The Birth of European Research Projects

The DARPA grants are big, much bigger than any of the support packages that any individual state could provide. Europe decided it needed something on a similar scale, that would maximise the research value of everyone across Europe. From this was born the "Framework Projects". These projects started in the 1980, and continue to evolve. The latest iteration of the Framework Project is called Horizon 2020, or H2020 for short.

The Framework projects have had some huge success. The "3G" technology that powers almost everyone's mobile phone was designed and developed in Europe, with the support for European Research Grants.

Beyond Defence Research

The DARPA research grants, are by their very nature focused on defence. In contrast the EU Framework Projects and H2020 are not bound to defence. They include topics as diverse as archaeology and healthcare. The H2020 website contains a collection of "project stories" which highlight the diverse nature of the research grants and what they have achieved. This includes stories about a project designed to spot pancreatic cancer early which would dramatically improve survival rates, to a project about preserving ancient documents with digital copies.

And me?

Well as someone who works in software, my focus in H2020 research has been on extending the "cloud" from data centres, right out to the phone in your hand - turning that to into a cloud machine. I've also been working on new ways in which computer networks can operate (SDN/NVF) and how the software that manages that works. This all sounds quite geeky, and I apologise - it is. But I hope that some of this research will help contribute to the next wave of mobile and cloud technology, some of which could end up being in that little "5G" logo that will appear on your mobile device some time in the future.

H2020 Research Grants

I should add, that the research grants are available to all companies in Europe. The EC holds open days to educate people on how the programme works. Each year the EC announces a set of research topics, these are broad problem statements, or "calls". Groups consisting of universities, SMEs and large industrial organisations from 3 or more member states get together in a consortium to submit a detailed problem statement and proposed solution which would address the problem outlined in the "call". This is a competitive process and the EC uses a bunch of external experts to review the proposals it receives. The top solutions are then selected for funding.

The process of writing a good proposal can be hard, but as a researcher even this can be very rewarding. Imagine getting the time to work with some of the smartest people in Europe in some of the biggest challenges in your field. Thinking of creative ways to address these issues with them, brainstorming and then working hard to refine the solution. It really can be a lot of fun, and when done well even the act of writing the proposal can open up a world of new ideas.