If UK technology firms want to compete globally, they must pay attention to intellectual property—and culture
Having seen the human cost
of change management at IBM—"automation was about eliminating jobs in the UK; purchasing was about outsourcing to the Far East"—Chris Allington was excited when he spotted an opportunity to become more creative.
Following an MBO from IBM in 1994, he led restructuring programmes for Xyratex, one of which involved surplus corporate property. He first thought of selling the 700,000 sq ft space, but felt it could support growing businesses. Langstone Technology Park, a fully serviced property model, was born. "It didn't feel simple for the five years that we were doing it, but it was successful. We sold the underlying asset in 2005 for £54m."
As new managing director of Oxford Innovation business centres, he aims to grow the portfolio into a national network. Surrounded by small firms, he's helping UK business to get back on its feet. "We've got to work harder at nurturing intellectual property," he says. "We're not going to compete on a factory level any longer."
He admits he's been up "lots of cul-de-sacs", but they've taught him "to be light on your feet", and have a tight control on costs. If you're looking to sell or merge, "look at the culture", he advises. "We bought a company that was a mistake—the price was right, the contract was right, the culture was wrong." And if he's learnt one thing? "Be focused on the project you're working on. Pay attention to the detail."