Ken Cooper's commendation video transcript

Ken Cooper

STEPHEN SMITH: And now we come to our Honorary Award. These are awarded by the University in recognition of somebody who's made a very significant contribution in their particular field. I now have great pleasure in inviting Professor Warren Manning, Provost Innovation and Research, to give the commendation for the conferment of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University to Ken Cooper.

PROFESSOR WARREN MANNING: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure today to be presenting Ken Cooper for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Ken is Managing Director of Venture Capital Solutions at the British Business Bank. He previously held a similar role within Capital for Enterprise. He is responsible for the design and delivery of a range of programs that support the flow of venture investment into smaller UK businesses.

With a career rooted in public service, Ken has applied strong commercial discipline and an intelligent use of relevant research to develop interventions in the small to medium-sized enterprises SME finance market. Developing a genuine expertise in the area, which is recognised across the industry, he has supported mainly venture capital interventions that have delivered against economic as well as financial targets.

As a practitioner known for bringing forward innovative support structures, Ken has regularly been asked to present and debate at international level conferences and is actively involved in training others.

Ken has led the Enterprise Capital Fund Programme (responsible for around £1.5 billion of investment into the UK's SMEs); developed the VC catalyst fund (which became the basis for the £2.5 billion British Patent Capital Arm of the British Business Bank); and more recently has led on the creation of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

With MEIF in particular, there is a strong connection to Derbyshire. The program brought together the local enterprise partnerships across the West and East and South East Midlands to pool their available funding and create an efficient funding structure to support SME investment. The MEIF fund is on track to support the growth of around 2,000 businesses and should create around 3,800 jobs with more than £80 million expected to be invested in the D2N2 local enterprise area.

He recently led the delivery of the Future Fund, a Covid-19 response program investing around £1.1 billion into 1,100 small businesses.

Ken has operated largely behind the scenes for many years developing and sustaining programmes that support SMEs. Having invested more than £3 billion through various programs in a way that generates both financial and social returns for the taxpayer he has had a substantial impact on innovation and growth amongst the UK's SMEs.

Ken lives in Sheffield with his wife Gisela who is here to support him today with his son Phillip.

Chancellor, in recognition of his extensive work regionally and nationally to support the growth of small to medium-sized enterprises we are delighted to award Ken Cooper the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University.

KEN COOPER: Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen and graduands of 2020. I'm very proud and pleased to accept this award. Thank you very much.

I left school without much by way of formal education. The school system and I didn't really get on and I had a lot of other things going on at the time.

I left and I took up my first job. I was a tree surgeon - very much had its ups and downs. But I realised that it wasn't exactly where I wanted to be, and inspired actually by some students I knew I went back into education as a mature student.

So, all of you look young to me, you did even when I was at university, but it was there that I discovered that a formal education was the key to for me really understanding that education wasn't just about the institution, it was about lifelong learning and that gave me a great deal of pleasure but it also formed the building blocks of my future career.

So, I moved to the Civil Service where I worked with some really truly amazing people both within the public sector and the private sector and of course in academia. It gave me the opportunity to do some things that I never really thought I'd be able to. Things ranging from negotiating European directives on the safety of lifts and also steam engines which was always a very interesting thing to do.

But the opportunity to get involved in policy making at the heart of Government, to do things that diverse until I found my best fit and my best fit was really that interface between Government, business and academia, and that's how I've managed to develop the programmes that I've developed. So, if I may, I'd like to share with you 2020 graduands some of the things that I've learned on my journey and I hope that you find them useful too.

So, the first is that thing about lifelong learning, that really is a good thing. The more we can learn, the more interesting our lives and our work becomes and we can learn from a wide variety of sources, not least our own experience is good and bad.

And one of the things that I think is really important is always to look at what we've done and to see what went well, what went wrong and how we can improve it for next time. Essentially, don't make the same mistakes, make better ones.

So, secondly, you may well be leaving the University but don't forget it. Universities are a great source of help for the future. In my dealings with Derby I found it to be a really good source of knowledge with some really switched on people and I've been particularly pleased to see how the University has forged much closer links with business through initiatives like the Festival of Business and that fantastic new business school building that's being built.

So, I've always, as I said, tried to bring some academic rigor to what I do and I think the best way of doing that is to get academics involved. People who can step back from an issue and bring fresh insight as well as deep knowledge of the subject.

The final thing I'll leave you with is the importance of teamwork. Building a good team. Teamwork is not just for rugby players. No matter how brilliant you are and I'm sure all of you are, you will achieve far more and better things if you can do that as a team and with the support of a team. I genuinely haven't achieved anything on my own but I've had the benefit of great support from colleagues past and present and a wide range of other people I've worked with. I've always cherished the constructive challenge that they offer me as well as the support and the hard work that they've put in. Building a good team isn't just about people you might manage it's also about working with your stakeholders.

One of the best things about my work on Midlands Engine Investment Fund was that moment when a disparate group of people suddenly realised that we had the same objective and started pulling in the same direction. That made what would have been a chore turn into a pleasure.

So, my heartfelt thanks go to all the teams I've worked with over the years but also most particularly to my home team. My wife Gisela, and my sons, Philip and Dominic, who have supported, challenged, and entertained me over the years and without whom I would not have made it this far.

My final thanks to all of you for indulging me and listening to me. Good luck as you head out into the world. I hope you get the opportunity to put what you know to good use, and I hope you also catch that real joy of learning and keep that going throughout your careers. Thank you.

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