How does innovation happen? Q&A with OGIC Project Manager Paul Robb


Behind each innovation project we support at OGIC, there’s a huge amount of work putting projects together and making them run smoothly. Our Project Manager Paul Robb gives some glimpses into how innovation happens.

Paul Robb joined the OGIC team in October 2017 as a Project Manager. He has over 25 years of oil and gas experience, starting out as a field engineer, and then progressing to operations management, product development, business development and geoscience. 

Firstly, Paul, can you tell us how OGIC fits into the innovation landscape in Scotland?

We connect businesses to academia in Scotland. Our research expertise here is world-class, but it’s difficult for businesses, especially SMEs, to know which researchers in which universities will be able to help them. So, OGIC makes connections, supports projects, and helps people collaborate productively.

And why is that important?

It’s a very effective way of helping businesses access the expertise they do not possess, and generally encouraging the exchange of creative ideas within Scotland. The development of creative new products, services or processes, through the innovative projects we support, inevitably reduces the overall operational cost to the oil and gas industry.

As a project manager at OGIC, how do you gather projects and get businesses coming to you? 

We generate projects through a variety of ways – the common theme is that the team at OGIC have extensive networks and connections and we’re constantly looking for collaboration potential.

Sometimes, academic contacts within a university identify a company that could apply the technology they are working on or are expert in. I periodically meet with universities to encourage this process.

Sometimes, an idea comes to light when we meet a company representative at an event, talk, presentation, or in some cases before or after an entirely different meeting. We then work with them to develop it further.

Sometimes companies contact OGIC directly with an idea, and we go out to all 14 universities in Scotland to garner expressions of interest.

It’s all about knowing the marketplace, being open to good ideas, and turning them into a project.

Are there any common elements in the innovation projects that go really well?

When the company, or the main contact from the company, has a clear vision and understanding of what they wish to achieve. It sounds obvious but it isn’t necessarily always the case.   

From there, concise and clear communication of the problem and how the project will address this – essentially the pitch. Thereafter, clarity about what roles the individuals from the company will fulfil – they each do what they are good at and are responsible for. This usually leads to a well written application, and follows on to an organised approach to progress during the project itself.

Some previous project management experience also tends to help with the smooth flow of the project.

Paul will be representing OGIC at various events in April, including Innovate UK and KTN’s ‘UK Funding for Innovation’ event in Edinburgh on 2 April, and the official launch of the new EIT Digital Satellite Office, at the Bayes Centre, University of Edinburgh on 3 April.

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