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Ford & Stanley Executive

Head of Research & Innovation: Opportunity Brief

Ford & Stanley Executive Search (Part of the Ford & Stanley Group) are specialists in Executive Interim and Permanent appointments to the UK, European & North American Rail, Engineering, General Manufacturing, Transport & Digital Industries.

We have been exclusively entrusted and appointed on a confidential retained search for a Head of Research & Innovation.

Below you will find an ‘opportunity brief’ developed from notes taken during the scoping meetings (Situational Discovery) held between the F&S Search Director, Research Manager and our client. This brief is designed to give candidates a deeper insight into the opportunity inherited within the role, the challenges the role presents and provide access to the detail that sits behind the job specification.

Client Opportunity Statement:

“We want to make our railways, both trackside and trainbourne, better, through innovation”

“This role offers freedom to roam, explore, innovate and work / collaborate with some of the smartest engineers in the UK to find solutions to problems. Blue sky thinking is most welcome!”

“The right candidate will lead research and innovation across the organisation – ensure that we are at the forefront of new technology”

The Opportunity

Main Challenges the role presents:

  • Independent working – There is a lot of trust and autonomy offered with this role.
  • Can sit with the senior Leaders of Rail – need to be on the pulse of innovation in the industry and be seen as a subject matter expert in this field.
  • Strong list of high-profile projects across the whole of the rail industry.
  • Balancing that of being outward facing and making time for head down innovation. 

Top three deliverables in 1st year

  • Whilst there is pipeline of work for the next 18-24 months – a continuation, maintaining of healthy Pipeline is key – Seeking new partnerships, collaborations, projects and relationships with Universities.
  • A present leader in Innovation – stakeholder engagement with the leaders of the industry
  • Lead research and innovation across the business – ensure that our client is at the forefront of new technology and leading the way. Promoting the innovation Hub within the industry.

Candidate Essentials:

  • Breadth of experience in innovation and/or research and development. A rail background is ideal but not essential.
  • Experienced with creating new products and taking them to market. NPI / NPD. This can be from transferable industries with similar products.
  • Technical background with a supporting degree (Eng or BSc)– ideally a member of a professional body (Chartered or Incorporated)
  • Commercial savvy, possessing experience of customer engagement, presenting, building relationships and understanding customers’ needs and presenting solutions.
  • Experienced working with academic establishments such as Universities, colleges, and R&D Facilities.
  • Ability to work with a high degree of autonomy/self-motivated
  • Strong communication skills – able to build relationships and work with key industry stakeholders and ‘manage up’ within the  Group.
  • Ambitious, hungry and driven to make the role their own and take full ownership and accountability.
  • Strong client-facing / engaging personality.

Good to know:

  • Role reports to the Engineering Director who is an open, trusting and communicative leader who gets their hands dirty. Former MD who is a Calm, Mild Mannered, Firm but fair individual with over 30 years’ experience in Technology & R&D.
  • The role will benefit from having no direct reports (yet several indirect across various teams) in addition to having 3 other ‘Head of’ counterparts/colleagues in other areas of the team to include, Head of H&S, Head of Eng & Design and Head of Assurance.
  • This is a newly developed role within the business, which has previously been undertaken periodically by Engineering Director along with his other responsibilities. It has now reached a point where our client would like to invest in a full-time dedicated appointment to spearhead the R&D department.
  • Without this role our client could lose commercial opportunity for innovation, maintaining status quo is not an option. It could also have a more serious knock on effect to current and pipeline project delivery and obligations.
  • Our partner is at the forefront of translating academic research and innovation to solve strategic industry challenges and to enable and develop the next generation of products.
  • This position will influence and make an impact on the future of the R&D business and impact / help shape the wider rail industry.
  • Location of the role can be flexible, the candidate is expected to visit other rail sites and customer sites. There will be freedom and autonomy with the role but does require a present leader across various locations.


  • Base Salary Banding: Low of £75k, Mid of £80k and top end of £85k
  • Annual Salary Reviews
  • Car Allowance of £5,784 P.A
  • Private Healthcare for family
  • 4 x salary life insurance
  • Sick Pay
  • 25 days Holiday + 8 Statutory
  • 3% & 5% Pension contributions

Likely Job Titles:

Head of R&D, Head of Innovation, Head of Engineering, Technical Director, Software Manager, Electronics Engineering Manager

Executive Search Delivery Team:

  • Oliver Nunn – Research Manager
  • Dan Taylor – Search Director
  • Cat Lane – Executive Research Assistant

About Ford & Stanley Executive Search:

At Ford & Stanley Executive Search we go beyond a recruiting transaction with our core mission being that of every interaction we have with clients and candidates is best in class. We are select in the opportunities we represent, as such, work under strict exclusivity or retained agreements with forward thinking and proactive Rail companies that place their trust in our ability to deliver a winning shortlist at the first time of asking.

Our Search Directors (who are themselves members of the F&S Group Board) and in-house research team invest time at the front end of process with our client’s leadership team or stakeholders to consult, understand the opportunity inherent within the role, business need, map and agree timescales with supporting delivery plan well in advance of conducting the search.

All candidates both active and passive (head-hunted) can expect full and professional engagement from the Executive Search team in addition a timely, thorough and engaging recruitment process from a committed employer that seeks to secure ‘cream of the crop’ from a busy and noisy Global Rail candidate market.

Ford & Stanley Group Ltd is committed to a policy of equal opportunities for all opportunity seekers and approach all opportunity with a mindset of who is right for the job irrespective sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, age, disability, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief or political beliefs and we place an obligation upon all staff to respect and act in accordance with the policy. We shall adhere to such a policy at all times and will review on an on-going basis all aspects of recruitment to avoid unlawful or undesirable discrimination


    • Job type: Permanent
    • Location: United Kingdom
    • Date posted:
    • Salary:£75000 - £85000