Luke Rust is Immense’s Head of Commercial Development, a new dad and rugby player.
Tell us a bit about what you do at Immense?
My role at Immense is Head of Commercial Development which broadly means I’m helping us transition from building cutting-edge technology under R&D funding to enabling that technology to add value to client partners across the UK and globally.
Talk us through a typical day as Head of Commercial Development at Immense?
No day is typical. Usual first step is check emails and make sure nothing has blown up overnight, before following up on our wealth of exciting opportunities. I could then spend time with the product team to ensure we are successfully delivering everything I’ve promised… and ensure we have good platform demonstrators that I can show off. It could also be a combination of attending events to spread the Immense message, meeting collaborators and potential partners to share what we do or working on our latest press release. The variety is part of the fun!
What would you say is the most difficult part of the job?
Similarly, the variety of work is challenging… as a small ambitious business, there are a lot of things we all need to do and not enough hours in the day.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Winning! Winning new business and working with fantastic partners is the most rewarding part. We’ve been very ... I want to say lucky ... but its more than luck. We work hard to ensure success. Winning some of the big government funded projects is great and provides a noisy platform to launch from. We’ve just won Project Apollo, one of the first autonomous vehicle service deployments in the UK, which is a globally relevant project for us to be a part of. I think supporting these big global showcases is very, very exciting for myself and for the Immense team.
What’s it been like working for Immense from when you started to now?
I started in an Applications Engineer role - a more internally-facing role but working with key clients to support their use of the tools. Our platform was still in early development, so it was a lot more hands-on to help clients use the technology and ensure we learn how to do things better - fast. Now we have transitioned to a more consolidated technology base, enabling us to deploy real SaaS (simulation as a service) packages to clients. We have paying users testing the tools and using them to inform decision making - which is awesome. One of my biggest personal changes was having a baby back in September… so life around work has changed substantially. I’m now juggling my role to make sure that Immense are winning plenty of work with my role to support Lauren to grow a small human!
How did you find out about Immense and become involved in the company?
Whilst studying at Imperial College London, I was doing an MSc thesis on the impact of autonomous vehicle fleets on our energy systems. Robin, Immense CEO, was at Imperial for many years and taught on my MSc course so I was pushed towards him by my supervisor. I came to an event at the Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes where I met David, Vittoria and Robin (some of the first Immense employees) on a stand when they were less than a year old. I had a chat with Robin and in classic Dr North style he gave me everything I asked for... I arrived a few weeks later for a 3-month internship where I pre-alpha tested the tools and produced useful outputs for my work. Following that period, we decided that joining forces could be useful, and I joined the company in September 2017.
What did you want to career wise when you were younger?
I always had quite a boring answer to this. Whenever it came up at school, people would answer with F1 driver or Astronaut… but I wanted to be an architect! I always liked designing new buildings and new ways of living, so enjoyed design and technology. I guess I’ve always been interested in designing better cities!
What’s been your biggest career achievement so far?
I think my master’s course at Imperial was the biggest achievement. It’s not an easy task to learn the entire breadth of the energy industry in one year - from policy to economics to turbine engineering to sustainable transport to nuclear power. It was really challenging but incredibly rewarding. To receive my MSc degree from the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year was also pretty cool!
What is a key value or message you have learnt from working at Immense?
One of the big ones for me is ‘have courage’ because, as a small business, there isn’t always someone available to make decisions for you, so you have to have confidence and trust your own judgement to make the right call. So, have courage and be brave to deliver the bold solutions!
Immense’s work is linked to the roll out of Autonomous Vehicles. How will they shape the future of mobility?
I think they have the potential to revolutionize how we all travel around cities. In the near term, it will be focused on campus environments, where there is a density of people willing to use them in an enclosed location. I think we could see drones adopted quite quickly to support on-demand logistics. The major rate limiting factors to these new systems is linked to regulation and consumer engagement. The technology will be proven - I’m confident that autonomous vehicles will be able to function properly. The major question is whether people can be engaged to use them properly and understand the value of having them as part of their everyday life, and that regulators make sure these systems support more efficient, cleaner, and accessible cities. They can have a massive impact, but it could take another 10 years before we see the true impact of autonomy in the industry.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the mobility industry?
Behavioural change. Getting people out of private cars. How do we prove the benefits to the people who are not engaged and aware of some of new ways of travelling? How do we nudge people’s behaviour towards autonomous vehicles or shared mobility or MaaS (Mobility as a service)? These are going to be the biggest challenges.
What do you think mobility will look like in the 10 years?
2028? I think MaaS will be widespread. You will be able to use one app to travel around cities. I’d like to be able to pay one fee per month for all my travel. Around that, there will exist some levels of autonomy. Campus environments initially (airports, universities) will have autonomous vehicles for sure. Let’s all wait and see how the latest CAV projects go…
When you’re not working what are your hobbies and interests?
I’m a rugby player for Guildford RFC in the London & SE premier division, but I’ve torn the Medial Cruciate Ligament in my knee so not playing at the moment! Around that… gym and now babysitting!
If you were stuck on desert island (food and water provided) and could take three things with you what would they be?
Oh wow! I would want a knife, so I could build stuff! I’d probably want a mobile phone!
Would you get signal on a desert island?
Well aren’t they rolling out 5G? You never know! So, a knife, a phone and… some suntan lotion, safety first!
You can find out more about Immense and our other team members here.