Paul Davison: Case study

at Department for Transport (DfT)


Paul decided to apply for the Fellowship to gain wider experience and reach out beyond the Whitehall bubble. He saw the Policy Fellowship as a way of reaching beyond some of the usual suspects who he might encounter and to ask some of the broader and more conceptual questions than the day job allowed time for. The experience of visiting Cambridge and going round to see different experts meant that he had the chance to remove himself from the day-to-say and immerse himself in a more academic experience.

Paul had two parts to his Fellowship. Firstly, when he was Assistant Head in the Defence and Security Organisation at the Department for International Trade, he led on supporting UK cyber security companies to export their capability in support of UK commercial and national security objectives. He found that the mix of meetings arranged for him in Cambridge updated him on technological developments, as well as addressing how start-ups and others in the industry could be supported. He also explored geopolitical questions including future risks to be concerned about. Paul appreciated experts in the wider Cambridge cluster being brought in, including Alex van Someren, who was at the time working in venture capital and now has the role of Chief Scientific Adviser on National Security to the UK government.

Secondly, by 2019 Paul had the role of Head of Strategy, UK-Africa Investment Summit, Department for International Trade and he came to Cambridge as part of his preparatory work for the first UK-Africa Investment Summit in January 2020. He used the academic meetings to help inform strategic perspectives for the summit. For example, it was helpful to hear from academics with on-the-ground partnership experiences in Africa, to help understand sectors with growth opportunities in Africa, and where the UK had a comparative advantage. Paul gained new contacts through his meetings, some of whom he could invite to the summit.

In summary, Paul would recommend the CSaP Policy Fellowship programme to colleagues to help broaden networks of contacts. He concluded:

"The biggest benefit of the programme is having the space outside of the day job to think through things from a different or lateral perspective, and to engage with an expert body on new and emerging challenges and potential ways to address them."