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Our CEO, Ken Toombs, reflects on how, in a year unlike any other, we protected our people, took our business virtual overnight and supported our clients as they navigated the uncertainty of COVID-19, delivering outstanding financial results. He also looks to the future, explaining how, with a clear purpose and strategy, plus a new investment from Jacobs, we’re well-positioned for sustained success.

With messages from the Chair of our Board, John Alexander, and Board Director, Alan Middleton.

PA in numbers

We’re not a traditional consulting firm. Our clients recognise we’re different – different in ‘what’ we do and even more in ‘how’ we do it.

Our clients


All too often, organisations stifle human ingenuity, whether intentionally or not. It’s the job of leaders to unlock it and build a positive human future.

In this section, we explore our work with clients in 2020 through our stories and insights, which we’ve organised around the four key behaviours successful leaders use to unlock the ingenuity in their organisations: nurture human optimism, empower teams to innovate, build evolving organisations and seek inspiration in surprising places.

  • Nurturing belief in a shared mission is key to fostering innovation and creativity. When people rally around a shared mission, they can see past obstacles and find opportunities to move forward.

    A shared mission was key to the success of the UK Ventilator Challenge. Our engineers, scientists and government experts brought together the public and private sectors, and led every aspect of the drive to get the new ventilators designed, approved for manufacture, through clinical trials and into mass production at speed. During 2020, everyone who needed a ventilator got one.

    At PA, we also share a mission to create a more sustainable world. A typical tea bag contains 20 per cent plastic and, with the UK alone using around 100 million tea bags a day, they’re a major contributor to the plastic waste problem. Our materials scientists and consumer experts saw an opportunity in this challenge and rapidly designed the plastic-free tea sheet. It’s an entirely unique product made from sustainable plant pulp, making it completely biodegradable.

    Another growing challenge for much of the world is how to care for the ageing population. Our research shows robotics has the potential to make care safer, more resilient and more effective – it will just take a range of stakeholders to rally around a shared mission to exploit the full capabilities of today’s technology. Social care leaders, supported by government and in collaboration with technology companies, can seize the moment and build on the transformation momentum created by the pandemic.

    Client story

    The UK Ventilator Challenge

    Discover how our shared mission saved lives during COVID-19

    Client story

    Tea Sheets

    Explore how our goal to create a more sustainable world resulted in a unique plastic-free tea bag


    Robotics in care: a moment of opportunity

    Find out how robotic technology can transform global social care delivery

  • Empowering people to propose and challenge ideas is essential to true innovation. No individual has the perfect answer, and only by fostering creative dissonance can teams optimise their performance.

    Finding different ways to empower people to innovate was vital to continuing the development of PulPac’s sustainable alternative to plastic packaging throughout the pandemic. Travel restrictions could have halted this world-changing work, yet we made it possible for PulPac’s team in Sweden, and ours in the UK, to keep collaborating. We replicated PulPac’s cutting-edge technology – including a three-tonne manufacturing press we’d developed for them – at our Global Innovation and Technology Centre in Cambridge, UK. This will ensure that, throughout 2021, we can continue working together to make business more sustainable.

    To help the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) meet the demands on doctors during the first peak of the pandemic, we brought together a diverse team of experts to develop a new digital system. By including all the specialisms needed to create the right solution, it took just five days to quickly validate ideas and build a robust digital network that matches doctors to hospitals in need.

    We’ve also developed our Circular Business Model Design Guide to empower organisations to be more sustainable. It distils the knowledge and experience of our sustainability experts, giving organisations all the tools needed to identify circular opportunities and design business models that capture them.

    Client story


    Find out how our diverse teams have come together to cut plastic waste with sustainable packaging

    Client story

    American College of Chest Physicians

    Discover how quickly validating ideas saved lives during the pandemic


    Circular business model design guide

    Get all the tools your business needs to seize the opportunities of the circular economy

  • When leaders accept uncertainty as an inevitable factor in modern business, they can turn it to their advantage. It can prompt people and organisations to become more adaptable – to be ready for whatever situation may arise.

    Failures in electricity distribution networks can have grave consequences for emergency services. To date, utility companies have found it difficult to predict failures before they happen. We created a way for Californian utility company San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to become more adaptable. The solution is iPredict, which uses machine learning – fed by SDG&E’s data – to warn of likely failures days, or even weeks, in advance, letting SDG&E adapt and plan repairs.

    As the nuclear industry seeks to address concerns over its own carbon footprint, we’re speeding the effort to make nuclear energy production even cleaner. We worked with a leading nuclear operator to develop a digital twin of their plant. The digital representation showed all the processes in real time using advanced sensors, which allowed the operator to adapt its processes. The solution will help avoid the release of an estimated 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.

    As change keeps accelerating, building resilient, agile and rapidly evolving organisations is key to business performance. We know from our survey of 500 global leaders that the most successful organisations are 30 per cent more likely to display agile characteristics. These organisations react fast, continuously improving the experience of their customers and empowering their people to deliver market-beating results.

    Client story

    San Diego Gas & Electric

    Explore how we’ve made utilities more resilient with machine learning

    Client story

    Nuclear operator

    See how we’ve used digital twins to help nuclear energy adapt to modern sustainability needs


    Organisational agility

    Discover how agility has helped organisations adapt through the pandemic

  • Often, the answer to our most pressing issues already exists in the world. Great leaders keep an open mind and seek inspiration in surprising places.

    Guide Beauty, a make-up company redesigning the industry for accessibility, arose from its founder’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. Terri Bryant had been a make-up artist and educator for 30 years before the degenerative condition made it too difficult for her to continue with her passion. Yet she realised that redesigning make-up applicators could help her and millions of others suffering with limited mobility. So, our team at Essential Design worked with Terri to reinvent make-up application, designing and developing award-winning ergonomic tools for everyone.

    Unexpected inspiration also enabled our quantum technology and telecommunications experts to build a quantum radio sensor demonstrator in just two months. The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) needs new ways to secure radio communications, so we combined our quantum expertise with off-the-shelf components to innovate at pace.

    As economies recover from COVID-19 and customer demands change, leaders are seeking to understand what the future will hold. Our FutureWorlds™ scenario planning methodology helps leaders anticipate the future to set a strategic direction. When we partnered with The Economist to survey 200 business leaders’ responses to the 2008 financial crisis, we found that those who made scenario planning a priority were much more successful than those who didn’t. As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, it will be equally important to find inspiration in the future.

    Client story

    Guide Beauty

    Discover the inspiration behind our design of a game-changing inclusive product

    Client story

    Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

    Discover how existing components inspired a secure quantum radio sensor



    Explore the insights the future holds

Our people

Life at PA

At the heart of our business are our people. They give us their ideas, expertise and commitment. In return, we give them the most stimulating work they can imagine, brilliant colleagues to learn from and an inclusive culture to help them achieve their ambitions and grow.

We’re also passionate about inspiring the next generation of innovators and leaders, so encourage our people to make important contributions to the communities in which they live and work.