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BCMS and Fight For Sight at the House of Lords

The big news out of Westminster this week was, of course, the resignations of two of the cabinet’s biggest hitters – Boris Johnson and David Davis. I imagine the wood-panelled walls heard some very “full and frank” discussions, as the politicians euphemistically say.

Elsewhere, in the House of the Lords, there were other, perhaps more positive and constructive discussions. These ones featured entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals, from across a wide range of sectors.

As guests of Lord Low, leading disabilities campaigner and cross-bench peer, BCMS and eye research charity Fight For Sight hosted a three-course lunch event in the historic Atlee Room. The speakers and guests – which included past clients, the BCMS Fellows - quietly proved again the importance of the dynamic, agile and forward-thinking organisations, who focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth. This informal, enjoyable event had broad theme: the power of innovation to transform businesses, and lives. I must admit I feel a personal interest in the brilliant work funded by Fight For Sight – I went blind at the age of 27.

An introductory address from Lord Low - himself blind since infancy - articulated the importance of cutting-edge research to prevent sight loss and treat eye disease in adults and children. Currently, Lord Low argued, there is perhaps too much funding focus on service and provision, and too little on pioneering research.

We heard from Fight For Sight CEO Michele Acton, whose organisation’s sole focus is to fund such research, and is frustratingly only able to fund one in eight eye research applications it receives. Fight For Sight has supported a series of ground-breaking firsts. This was brilliantly illustrated by a short presentation from Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr Pearse Keane, whose work on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning could transform how we treat diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), conditions that affect 100 million people worldwide. Based at Moorfields and UCL, Dr Keane is working alongside innovative AI business DeepMind – whose algorithms have helped power many of Google’s cleverest features, and are now helping to break new ground in the medical world.

Meanwhile, BCMS fellows Andrew Sesemann and David Fennell were on hand to offer practical advice, in a short Q&A. Having successfully grown and sold businesses, they spoke candidly about how they transformed their companies from within, in an entertaining session packed with first-hand anecdotes on the challenges involved in a business sale transaction. From innovation in customer service, via advice on maximising the value in your contracts, to the importance of focus on brand and reputation, these entrepreneurs offered the insider’s view on what makes a business appeal to acquirers.

All speakers were united by a common goal – a passion for doing things better, and a positive focus on the future. And as Andrew and David explained, life post-sale has been rewarding too, with both engaged in mentoring/volunteering roles and spending much more time with the family. In Andrew’s words: “Life’s good! I still pinch myself every Monday morning!”

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Liz Jackson's picture
Posted Jul 2018
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