BT's Clive Selley's future vision

See a video of Clive Selley's CIO Summit 2010 presentation here

Clive Selley ushers us into his off­ice. He appears full of energy, it’s Monday, and I expect he’s had a restful weekend. Not a bit of it: he’s had a total­ of five hours sleep all weekend as he was busy overseeing major technology upgrades at BT, the global British-based telecommunications and services provider he is CIO of.

A Dilbert card on his office windowsill jokes: “Clive began to realise he’d lost control of the meeting”, and depicts a prone IT worker asleep on the desk. Is this how we should be seeing Selley? Again, not a bit of it, especially as conversation turns to his particular passion — research and development (R&D).

At last year’s CIO Summit, Selley’s presentation on R&D gained a great deal of interest from his peers and it is clearly a subject dear to his heart. This CIO is devout in his belief that R&D is central to the future of business, technology and especially BT.

The corporation has its own R&D nursery at Adastral Park, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk. Selley and BT are proud of this innovation centre that should really be better known amongst the technology and wider business community.

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“We do most of our networking and software development there and it really is the hub of our research,” Selley says. "They create a hi-tech buzz and you sense a vibrant feel to the place.”

“We’ve extended it to host partner com­panies and small innovators as well as some big suppliers, so it has an ecosystem feel."

Selley travels up from BT’s central London HQ to Ipswich once a week and makes sure that he gives himself at least one hour for “just looking at stuff” that is being ­developed there.

“R&D is about casting 100 seeds and expecting three, four, five will grow. If they are significant it will pay for all the other seeds. I can plug the developers and ­researchers into the big sales teams,” he says of the CIO’s role in incubating these new technologies.