New directions for Innovate UK

The new 5-point plan for Innovate UK succeeds in focusing onto hi-growth SMEs, local clusters, the commercialising of research and new funding models; and it focuses not just on funding but also in a big way on support. So it raises the question of how its potential beneficiaries, especially hi-growth small businesses, are identified and how their growth is to be monitored in relation to this fulsome provision of support.

The bones of Innovate UK’s new mission are:
* Accelerating UK economic growth, nurturing small, high-growth
companies, helping them to become high-growth mid-sized companies with strong productivity and export success.
* Building on innovation excellence throughout the UK, investing locally in areas of strength.
* Developing Catapults within a national innovation network, to provide access to cutting edge technologies, encourage inward investment and enable technical advances in existing businesses
* Working with the research community and across government to turn scientific excellence into economic impact, and improve efficiency 
* Evolving our funding models; exploring ways to help public funding go further.

Innovate UK is also offering SMEs who are successful in their competitions additional support to help them to realise their growth ambitions. And SMEs who have received an offer of a grant since the beginning of this year are also invited to participate in this support programme, delivered through existing services.

The programme offers:
* Diagnosis of Business Needs
Attending Growth Workshop, meeting a dedicated Business Growth Manager, and developing a Growth Plan (provided through the Business Growth Service)
* Connecting to Business Support
Participating in Coaching, Mentoring &/or Entrepreneurial Skills training (provided through the Enterprise Europe Network)
* Connecting to other Government Support
Introductions to UKTI, IPO, KTN, EEN and Catapult centres
* Connecting to Investors
Showcasing face-to-face (e.g. at Venturefests) and online (through

Innovate UK has already invited over 1000 innovative, high-growth potential SMEs to participate. These activities have been designed taking into account both the academic evidence that a relatively small number of younger, smaller businesses (who tend to be innovative and export-oriented) contribute disproportionately to economic growth, and evidence from a pilot programme that showed that a combination of support for R&D activities and support to enhance business capability resulted in accelerated growth in terms of revenue generation and job creation.

Innovate UK believes that this is an effective and scalable way to combine funding, support and connections to stimulate and drive economic growth through innovation.

Apart from the not insignificant factor of making support available free of charge, it might be said that it does no more than direct to hi-growth companies support that already exists. So it raises questions about how effectively it will be directed.

High potential along with rapid progress are what is being sought; and there is no better evidence than what has been achieved so far by an early-stage venture. Recent work on identifying students’ progress (by the Open University and by others (1)) by using an algorhythm based on their work and life styles (2) is only one of a number of predictive algorhythms that are finding a use in business, and a similar approach to that of a website for start-ups called Dreamstake (3) that uses such factors as
• team composition,
• number of pivots,
• working product
• early customers
• evidence of product-market fit and
• funding to date
to compile an index of business ‘maturity’. And the speed with which this index advances is shown on the website together with a comparison to that of other ventures registered on the site.

Innovate UK’s interests are effectively similar to those of potential investors, and information like this, whose collection Dreamstake has made as simple as possible, can help to tailor interventions to needs without personal contact (ie without a mentor already in place.)

(1) See FT Weekend 25/26 July “We know what you’re learning”.

(2) Similar approaches are used eg by Dartmouth College and by student monitoring service Skyfactor (130 universities in the US).

(3) A website for aspiring entrepreneurs – who have no money!
Dreamstake uses a collection of information to provide an assessment of the maturity of the enterprise – as a venture, and to help raise that profile. June 2013.

John Whatmore
September 2015


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