Celebrating 10 years of FIS360
This October we celebrated 10 years of FIS360. There was painting, there was archery, there was a very competitive team ski challenge. And there was a good deal of reflection about how far the business has come in those all-important first 10 years. From founder Frank Allison having only an idea and a good deal of determination, to a team of 13 people having a positive impact on the innovation landscape by helping to deliver the UK’s largest nuclear innovation programme, training, networking opportunities, technology commercialisation advice and more.
In the beginning
Like most great ideas, FIS360 was created as a solution to a problem. After spending time in a variety of industry sectors around the world, and gaining a PhD, Frank took on a role specialising in intellectual property and technology transfer at the University of Manchester. He quickly recognised a need for an independent company outside of academic institutions that could help support technology transfer and innovation across organisations of all sizes and types. Following a collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and the university’s Dalton Nuclear Institute to create Innovus – a technology commercialisation programme designed to encourage individuals and small businesses in Cumbria to develop solutions to decommissioning challenges on the Sellafield site – Frank created just such an independent business. And so, in 2013, FIS360 was born.
Running alongside Frank’s other commitments for a couple of years, FIS360 eventually became a full-time pursuit in 2016. Later that year, as Innovus was coming to a close, a new opportunity was evolving. Andy Cooney, Innovation Lead at Sellafield Ltd, wanted to combine elements of Frank’s previous roles and projects – delivering Innovus, open innovation programmes for National Grid and Scottish Energy SSE, and initiatives for Saudi Aramco – to create a new innovation model specifically to address the decommissioning challenges faced by Sellafield. The Game Changers innovation programme was designed by Frank to bridge the gap between Sellafield and potential solution providers. Rather than relying solely on internal innovation structures, through Game Changers, Sellafield would be able to propose challenges and gain access to a much larger network of solution providers and technology companies than previously available. At the same time, external organisations, both those already working in nuclear and those in other sectors, were offered a route into developing technology for a large corporate organisation, with access to funding and wider opportunities that would have otherwise been difficult. The symbiosis thrived, with FIS360 supporting both sides of the relationship.
“Game Changers was and continues to be so successful because of the passion and resilience of the team (FIS360 and Sellafield) and our ability to be agile as the programme scales and evolves to accommodate the changing requirements of Sellafield and the wider NDA.” Frank Allison, CEO, FIS360
And then there were two
In 2017, Frank asked Jo Tunney, his long-time friend, walking companion and fellow business owner, to come and help out in the office for a day. That day turned into weeks and then months, and she’s still onboard 6 years later. Continuing to work on Game Changers, the pair also provided commercialisation support to an increasing portfolio of clients that included Innovate UK, Scottish Enterprise and the University of Manchester.
In 2019, the office space grew. Then, while many companies struggled and strained under the pressures of the COVID pandemic, FIS360 tripled in size, increasing the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience on offer to clients.
FIS360 has continued to grow year on year, delivering innovation programmes for Sellafield and other partners, extending its contact network, and looking towards increasing cross-sector collaboration to solve a multitude of complex industry challenges. We have many responsibilities within each innovation programme: evaluating, translating and interpreting the needs of all parties, meditating and aiding communication, organisation, training and mentoring, and more. We cultivate ongoing relationships with our clients so that we can tailor every programme to exactly what each one needs. And it shows. Our independent and agile nature, service level, expertise and enthusiasm have earned us a strong, international reputation and a number of accolades. For example, the Game Changers programme was highlighted as an example of good practice in an Office for Nuclear Regulation submission to the IAEA Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and Radioactive Waste Management.
“The ‘Game Changers’ initiative, focussing on identifying and developing cutting edge technologies that may deliver significant advantages and savings in decommissioning is a commendable programme and the results of the current projects are awaited with interest.”Australian Government response to an ONR report to the IAEA joint convention.
While continuing to focus on open innovation and technology commercialisation, we now also offer mentoring and entrepreneurship programmes, panel speaking and event organisation. Whether these are benefitted from as part of a bigger programme or as standalone services, they are delivered with the same quality standards as everything else we do.
What our staff have to say
Any good company knows that its people are the most vital part of the picture when looking at a company’s success and reputation. Despite hybrid working, our company culture and employee engagement are strong. And, as demonstrated by our recent celebrations, we really take full advantage of any opportunity to get together. Whilst many of the team have an engineering and science background, we all bring with us wide experiences that help make FIS360 successful. Teamwork is at the heart of everything we do – with regular internal communication and collaboration, we all ensure that the whole team is supported and encouraged to develop.
“Reaching our 10-year anniversary is a huge milestone for FIS360. From joining the business at a time when it was just me and Frank, to building a strongly connected and ambitious team with diverse talents, I’m enormously proud of what we’ve achieved and excited to see what the future holds.” Dr Josephine Tunney, Programme Manager, FIS360
“FIS360 is an exciting and fun place to work, with inspiring individuals throughout our team who are fully committed to delivering the highest quality service to our customers. So much has been achieved in the past 10 years, and the opportunities for us to keep learning, keep innovating and keep growing are boundless. The future looks bright for FIS360 and I’m thrilled to be part of it.” Dr Deborah Bowering, Operational/Programme Manager, FIS360
And so, to the future
From the past to the present and now onto the future. To quote Frank, “The world is our oyster.” With planned growth in nuclear, cross-sector, international and for the team itself (both in size and knowledge), we are investing in the future of FIS360. So here’s to the next 10 years (better start planning the 20 year celebrations).