Personal Background

  • My appreciation of the importance of universities in economic development has its roots in my early employment in Manchester University (intended as a gap year) which turned into four years spent as Assistant to the Chief Cashier at a time when the university was expanding rapidly and vitally important research had to be funded. Alan Turing’s pioneering work in the development of computers (based on his work at Bletchley Heath) was carried on in an attic room above my office.  The Jodrell Bank Space Telescope was being built  almost on a shoe-string.  And we administered all the grants to our post-graduate students  (and researchers including  Nobel Prize Winners) funded by the Government’s Department of Scientific & Industrial Research.

  • My experience of general  health  service provision  and administration comes originally from having married a medical student who subsequently   became a singlehanded General Practitioner. I was then  co-opted into the sorority of many GP wives who were at that time expected to take on the role  of ‘Practice Manager’ – not least because there was no money to pay staff.  It was all made possible because we had appreciative patients who became friends.  A few were farmers from the Fens  who would often leave  crates of fresh vegetables in our porch. Others would bring eggs and home-made butter, jams and honey and sweets for our four young children.  I was asked for advice on everything from child behaviour to managing their money and finding a mortgage.

  • After six years – having built up a very good practice with a full list – we both felt the frustration of being unable to do very much for our patients with the few medicines that were available.  We became convinced that the only way forward must be through public health and preventive medicine and  my husband enrolled on a Diploma in Public Health course at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Then, on completion of the course he was  invited to join the East African Trypanosomiasis Research organisation as a Senior Medical Research Officer for a three year posting (utilising his degree in zoology).

  • The political upheaval in Uganda brought his research work to an end and after a few months writing up his research in both science ( for an MSc) and medicine ( for an MD)  he took up an appointment in Public Health with Hampshire County Council.

  • In 1975 our family moved to live in Wales on his appointment as Chief Medical Officer for Powys and, with three of our four children at university,  I succeeded in a long-held ambition to take up farming. We bought a 90 acre farm in a most beautiful part of the Wye Valley and I studied for a Diploma in Farm Business Management through our local college.

  • I also entered a ‘Start Your Own Business’ Course, run by Manchester Business School and the Development Board for Rural Wales, designed to identify the traditional type of fiercely competitive entrepreneur by a process of elimination over several months of part time courses. Over eighty people started the course and were gradually eliminated through competitions until I was ‘last man standing.’   I recently described one of these business games in a letter to the FT about an article which declared that women are not competitive.

  • After the course ended I was approached for help by several people who had been on the course and I introduced a number of my fellow students to local business and professional people.  As word spread the demand grew and with help from the Powys County  Planning Officer and District Planning Officers for Breconshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire, as well as local accountants, solicitors and bank managers, I developed Powys Self Help – a county wide enterprise trust in Wales, with several local offices, which went on to assist in the establishment of several hundred small businesses at a cost per job (as measured by a Cardiff University study) of less than £50 (compared with many thousands of pounds per job created by the Development Board).  I gave my time free as did many other business people.

  • In 1984 I was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to study the creation and development of small businesses and social enterprise in the USA and Canada.  This award places a responsibility on Fellows to use their international experience for the benefit of their local communities. This life changing experience reinforced my belief that a mixture of private philanthropy with public and private investment, and strong links to major universities, must be the way forward for local economic development.

  • The following year, on the reorganisation of the Health Service in Wales, my husband was offered early retirement and he  took up an appointment  as Chief Medical Officer to Isle of Man.

  • After selling our farm it was agreed that  (as part of my commitment as a Churchill Fellow) I should  use some of our family funds to form a private company, Enterprise Training & Development (ETD). Members  of my first board included Sir Alex Smith (formerly a director of Rolls Royce and first Vice Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University) and Professor George Thomason CBE, Emeritus Professor of Personnel Management at Cardiff University. We were very fortunate in persuading a distinguished Manx businessman, David Corlett, (who later became an MHK) to become our first manager. He was able to guide us in dealing with the Manx business scene.  So in addition to offering management and leadership training we decided to develop some pilot local initiatives, with a view to replicating them in other communities later.

  • One of our first tasks was to launch Enterprise in Mann, an enterprise trust which then ran for 15 years, with three devoted volunteers who helped in the establishment of several hundred successful small businesses – with occasional support from the Isle of Man Bank, Shell and others.

  • We also established The Manx Community Help Trust  to support small charities, in premises loaned by the government and a substantial donation from The Bank of Ireland. Founding directors included His Honour Deemster Luft and His Honour Deemster Callow.

  • I had joined the Institute of Directors many years before when we formed a company to own our surgery. (I had found the IOD Advisory Service to be invaluable in managing the business elements of medical practice).  So I founded an Isle of Man Branch of the Institute of Directors (with the generous assistance of our first Secretary, Harry Pease).  This has now celebrated its first 25 years, and has over 300 members.

Government Committees
  • Whilst living in Wales I was  appointed to several government committees and working parties, including:

    • Bank of England and Cabinet Office Working Parties on ‘Finance for Small Business’ where an incautious remark I made at the Bank of England  “We could really do with a dedicated bank for Small Business” brought the unexpected response “We agree and have decided to ask you to head it up.”  They assured me I would have all their support, but I’m afraid my courage failed me – not least because I was looking after four small grand-children whilst our daughter was being treated for cancer.

    • Manpower Services Commission for Wales

    • Information Technology  Committee for Wales

    • Local Initiative Support UK, Wales and Powys

  • Following our move to the Isle of Man I was given a brief by the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry to design a Wholesale Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) (with tax reliefs granted to investors) This was launched in London with support from the Vice Chancellor of University of East London and Barchester Green Investment “Investing in Tomorrow’s Companies with Community Investment Tax Relief

  • I was given another brief by the DTI to design a tradable Small Business Investment Company  (SBIC) suitable for Islamic investors (reporting to the Cabinet Office)  Cabinet Office Invitation

  • I organised a number of conferences and was a speaker at several international conferences, including – as part of the 2005 UK Presidency of the EU –  a discussion paper at “The Risk Capital Summit: Investing for Growth and Competitiveness in Europe” European Commission Conference.