Two-time F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize finalist and 2015 Grand Prize winner, Paul Clarke, shares his insights on what it takes to win this annual competition.
It’s that time of the year again – time for innovators and fans of F1 to embark on an absolutely unique challenge, with their eyes on an epic prize!
For those of you who are new to the competition, I can tell you first-hand that this is not just a photo-op. Lewis Hamilton and the other judges are genuinely interested and keen to talk through the concepts, we are in their territory, talking their language – they can’t help but be in awe of the concepts and talent on show. I guess, in general, that is the theme of the challenge – it’s is not so much a competition as it is a search for innovators. If you have the right idea to solve the right problem at the right time, who knows where it will take you.
For me, this has led to some unbelievable adventures, following the sport I am so passionate about. It has also provided me with some valuable insights and connections. It’s not often that you get a pat on the back from someone like Mehul Kapadia, listen intently as John Morrison, Martin Brundle and Paddy Lowe speak so highly of you, or hear that James Allen is a fan of your work. Yeah – crazy, I know!
My first introduction to the competition was seeing the winners at the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix. A group of smart people that had invested their time and expertise in a challenge, being rewarded with a once in a lifetime prize – I couldn’t think of a more perfect outlet. I was hooked and eagerly awaited the launch of the 2015 competition. Before I knew it, James Allen was talking about it on www.jamesallenonf1.com and I received an email informing me that the first brief had been released.
If you haven’t registered for updates, do it now by visiting prize.tatacommunications.com and following #tatacommsf1prize. Like most things in F1, timing is critical.
Whilst my background as an IT professional over the past 20 years provides a solid baseline, the challenges require a significant investment in problem solving, ideas generation, and of course research, research and research. A successful entry should also make the judges go “wow – I can really see how this idea could transform the sport!” so another top tip is to bring your idea to life with images and illustrations.
I can also credit the challenge with helping advance my career – it is without a doubt one of the most significant achievements in my life and people love hearing about it. In addition to my professional experience, I am fanatical about the sport. Having followed F1 for as long as I can remember, it has become a huge part of my life and, without sounding crazy, it forms a strong bond within our family. This also seems to be true for the other finalists: their concepts are not simply a means to use technology X in sport Y. They are true F1 fans, or teams of fans and technologists, with some incredible ideas. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in technology and innovation over many years. Also, I already come as a package, which means that my plus one has been my beautiful wife, Michelle. Although not strictly a ‘team-mate’, she puts up with the late night light bulb moments and countless draft reviews, but for her it is totally worth it as she is as crazy as I am about the sport.
Whilst the challenges are extremely tough and you’re competing against fans across the globe, it is important to have fun and enjoy the process. I entered because I wanted the who’s who of the sport to see my ideas and now these guys are fans of my work – it is an absolutely surreal experience. With James Allison and special guest judge Ross Brawn joining the panel this year, you are presented with a priceless opportunity have your ideas considered by an audience which covers every level of the sport.
I honestly had no more expectations than having my concept judged, so to find out that I had been shortlisted, was an unbelievable moment. Even more so because I hadn’t told my wife I’d even entered in 2015, so she went from zero to Abu Dhabi in 5 minutes!
The trip itself can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, even though it’s happened twice to me. The events, hospitality, VIP access, a stunning trophy, cheque and the ceremony itself are incredible – the ultimate prize for a fan of an ultimate sport. As a finalist, you are a winner in an environment that knows how to treat winners. Whether you take home the Grand Prize or not, you are on the podium, enjoying the champagne alongside first-class innovators and the greats of the sport.
Having reached the podium twice and stood on the top step in 2015, I can tell you that there is no better feeling. The prestige of the prize is incredible, and Datu YogaBrata‘s response last year, falling on his knees, typifies the emotion. For me it was breath-taking, from simply wanting my concept to be in front of the judges to being selected as a finalist to standing on the top step. I’m filled with a level of pride and accomplishment that I can’t describe and I encourage you all to enter this year – I certainly will be.
The deadline for entries to Challenge 1 of this year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize is Thursday 15th June at 09:00 BST. Visit the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize homepage to submit your entry now!