Annual Review 2016


Following on from the formal
part of last year’s AGM, there was a member discussion about the content of the future programme. Some of the ideas put forward

then have already borne fruit: meetings have already taken place on innovation in healthcare, the changes in city- regional governance and future relations with Europe – and more are planned for our future programme, discussed later in this report.

The Treasurer’s Report for 2015/6 demonstrates major nancial and organisational issues facing the Society: unless these are resolved, our capacity to deliver such programmes in future will be seriously compromised.

This Review is therefore structured around these two themes – our Events and the Society – for each looking back over the last year, and then looking forward to the next. As well as the constitutional purpose of informing members, this is intended to provide a starting point for an informal discussion, like that of last year. Our aim is to ensure that the views of members are part of the Executive’s decision- making process over the coming year, about the crucial organisational issues as well as the programme of events.

Looking back at 2015/16


Birmingham’s increasing prominence in healthcare innovation was re ected in the 2015 Boulton & Watt Lecture in September, chaired by the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair of the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust and Vice Chairman of the Society. In two complementary presentations, Tim Jones, UHB, showed how advances in IT, pioneered at UHB ,were transforming the management of healthcare, while Tom Clutton-Brock gave a live demonstration of wearable sensors for remote monitoring of patients allowing interventions to be more timely and appropriate.

The Annual Dinner in October drew a record attendance to hear Andy Street, Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership, talk about economic progress since the establishment of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Economic Partnership (LEP), which he chairs. Pointing to

the solid progress that had been achieved, he said that the combination of a wider and collaborative public/private leadership is generating con dence in the ability to deliver for the Greater Birmingham area. Looking forward, the Lunar Society could play a useful role as a politically-neutral forum for debating the merits of devolution (a real transfer of power from Whitehall) versus delegation (transfers with strings), new forms of governance such as Combined Authorities and wider collaborations like the ‘Midlands Engine’.

Two leaves from the Qu’ran manuscript held by Birmingham University’s Cadbury Research Library attracted worldwide interest recently when carbon
dating showed them to be part of the earliest known
copy of the holy book of Islam. In March, members were privileged to enjoy a private viewing enhanced by an expert commentary. In April we hosted a Royal Visit and lunch at Soho House, when HRH the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque commemorating 250 years since Matthew Boulton moved in, marking the beginning of the original Lunar Society. The same evening saw the return for the third year of the King’s Men (the adult choral scholars of King’s College, Cambridge), for a concert at St Mary’s, Moseley.

A paying audience of over 160 raised money both for the Society and Ammalife, which supports maternal health in poorer countries.

The Society

Continuing a theme of recent years, the Treasurer’s report for 2015/6 makes clear that event income has not been enough to make up for the continuing decline in membership numbers. This is not sustainable: changes will be necessary and the last section of this Review presents an outline of the Executive’s proposals for meeting the challenge.

Members will be aware of continuing problems with
the website, which are impeding communication with members at this critical juncture. The Executive has taken urgent steps to restore and improve both appearance and functionality that will see the introduction of a new, easier- to-navigate and explore website.

Looking ahead to 2016/17

Programme for 2016/17

By the time of the AGM the June dinner discussion on the European Referendum had taken place. This was our response to the widely-felt need to cast light on the

economic arguments being mounted by both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ camps. Our commitment to political neutrality does not mean we must avoid politically-controversial matters (very little that is important is not), but that we must avoid giving a political platform to one side. John Fender introduced a discussion with a survey of the economic issues from his standpoint as Professor of Macroeconomics at Birmingham University, initiating lively contributions from all points of view. Few can have left without food for thought, which is as good a de nition of the Society’s aim as any.

Major forthcoming events include the inaugural Sir Adrian Cadbury Lecture, to be given by Sir Vincent Cable on 29 September at Aston University. We felt that an annual event in his name would be a tting way of commemorating his contribution to Birmingham, business and the Lunar Society (he was Vice Chairman of the re-founded Society in its early years, and a holder of the Lunar Society Medal). In keeping with Sir Adrian’s interests, the Lecture will focus

on the governance of businesses and their relationship to society (locally and nationally).

Other aspects of business in Birmingham are planned to be covered by Lord Willetts, guest speaker at the 2016 Annual Dinner, to be held on 23 November. The original purpose of the Dinner was to provide a counter-part to the Chancellor’s Guildhall speech to the City of London. Lord Willetts was Minister of State for Universities and Science from 2010 to 2015, at a time of radical change in Higher Education, and he has been described as the Conservative Party’s leading intellectual. The 2016 Lunar Medal will also be presented at the Annual Dinner: we intend to announce the nominees at the AGM.

Will Hutton accepted our invitation to give the 2016 Boulton & Watt lecture, focusing on the fraught relationship between the need for innovation in business, the capacity of the nancial system to nance it, and the structural disincentives of business governance. Unfortunately, his address has been postponed until 2017 due to family health reasons, and we are looking at alternatives for 2016.

Ideas in the pipeline include a Christmas Lecture, aimed
at the younger generations, and modelled on that given annually by the Royal Society. Other programme ideas are part of the radical plans for the future detailed in the right hand column.