Ten trends in the doing of innovation

Ten trends in the doing of innovation

In the world of innovation, I see increasing maturity, and shifts – in targets, (item 1), in leading players (item 2), and in supporters (items 3 and 4); but a continuing belief in Unicorns.

*         Attacking bigger issues: various approaches to challenge-led innovations

*         Accelerators migrate to new sponsors – charitable foundations, corporates and                                        even universities

*         Mentoring becoming more commercial you pay; but how do you find?

*         A programme of support for v hi-growth companies A new support          programme for 50 hi-growth companies; while the Government folds the Business Growth Service


Attacking bigger issues

Challenge-led innovation is a difficult topic because the range of possible challenges is so wide. In several sectors there have been Open innovation events where leading companies have pitched their challenges to potential innovators. Nesta has focused on Prize-led challenges. Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency, has focused on critical needs in society and industry, promoting new cross-sector collaborations and fostering systemic approaches. Innovate UK has focused on challenges and grants for strategic product development; and Silicon Valley’s Singularity University focuses simply on what might work for you.

Accelerators migrate to new sponsors

Accelerators have continued to flourish despite the entry of several charitable foundations that have reduced the cost to participants (in equity sought, and by paying more expenses). Corporates have adopted them with a vengeance despite the moderate chances of returns, and the smaller attraction to participants – in terms of finding ongoing funding (see Nesta’s report: nesta.org.uk/winning-together.) And interest is stirring in universities (notably in Imperial and Oxford).

Mentoring becoming more commercial

The mentoring weather has changed. It used to be: ‘No mentor who expects to be paid is worth his salt’, but nowadays there is virtually no such person to be found (except in Accelerators (in Incubators and their ilk they remain – for some reason – rare.)) The standard fee appears to be around 1% of equity, but finding the right mentors is still an issue. I resorted recently to encouraging two CEOs with complementary needs and skills to mentor each other! (The 24 Feb meeting of UCL’s INTER-CEP Symposium Series in London is on Mentoring – it still has places.)

A programme of support for v hi-growth companies

Growth Builder is a new, independent 12-month programme of support for 50 hi-growth companies – that provides tutor groups, workshops with hi-growth founders, networking events, introductions and other events to inspire and inform. The Government’s abandonment of the Business Growth Service (which provided access to mentors for businesses with hi-growth potential) seems more than perverse just at the moment when Innovate UK had begun to roll it out to its grant winners.

John Whatmore, February 2016

See http://johnwhatmore.com for recent commentaries on:

  • innovation centres – in Sussex and Oxford
  • mutual support groups for senior executives in SMEs
  • The latest and largest co-working space in Europe is in London
  • Five different kinds of mentors – all of whom you may need



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