Do 'Black Swans' fly in flocks? Societies' vulnerability to infrastructure failure

Wednesday 5 February 2014, 5.15pm for 5.30pm

The Royal Yacht Hotel - Celestial Hall North, The Weighbridge, St Helier, Jersey, JE2 3NF


Professor Jim Norton FREng, BEng (Hons), Hon DEng (Sheffield), Hon LLD (Bath), CDir , CEng, CITP, FIET, FBCS, FIoD


This lecture examines the argument that,in the necessary drive for economic efficiency, we may have neglected the resilience and security of our national infrastructure, with potentially catastrophic results. It is clear that our society and economy are now much more interconnected and interdependent than they once were. The speed at which a major failure in one area, such as electricity supply, could cascade into other areas, such as communications, water supply, and public safety, is genuinely frightening.

The lecture acknowledges that much excellent work has been done, most notably under the aegis of the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat, and that the UK is better organized than many competitor nations. However, it explores the extent to which national infrastructure still contains many “accidental systems” where the interdependencies are not fully recognised and much remains to be done. It also details research on the understanding by businesses of infrastructure interdependency where the results are sharply at odds with the genuine reality and suggests further actions required.

Speaker bio:

Jim Norton is an independent director and policy adviser. He is an external member of the Board of the UK Parliament’s Office of Science & Technology (POST) and is also a Non-Executive Director of F&C Capital & Income Investment Trust plc, where he chairs the Audit and Management Engagement Committee. Jim is chair of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum, set up at the request of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). He is a Governor of Coventry University and a Board Member and Trustee of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR). Jim is a member of the ‘Electronic Communications Expert Advisory Panel’ for the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). He is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, where he is a member of the Engineering Policy Committee, and is a Past President of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

Jim has held senior roles in the private sector (BT, Cable & Wireless, Deutsche Telkom and Institute of Directors) and in the public sector (Chief Executive - DTI Radio Communications Agency and founder member Cabinet Office Performance & Innovation Unit, later known as the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit).

Jim is a Visiting Professor of Electronic Engineering at Sheffield University, where he provides guest lectures at the Management School. He is also Chief External Examiner for the Institute of Directors (IoD) Certificate in Company Direction and a peer review interviewer for the IoD Chartered Director programme. More information is available on Jim’s personal website.