Building ‘local’ eco-systems to support innovation Nesta’s recent report The State of Small Business highlights networks – among key levers of influence, as does the recent report from the Scaleup Institute. Hubs, like Scotland’s CivTech programme can be supported by online networks like MIT’s U.Labs which link groups together effortlessly.
‘Business networks are an important source of resource and advice for SMEs’ says Nesta’s recent report (1). ‘From the perspective of local authorities, business networks…can be established and maintained with relatively little financial commitment’.
‘Network theory points to how networks can provide an SME with cost-effective access to external resources – and many of those interviewed for this report (both SMEs and local authorities) highlighted the practical benefits of sharing knowledge and experiences with peers.’
‘In effect, cooperation through business networks gives small firms economies of scale without diseconomies of size.’ And research has shown that access to business network support among SMEs has a positive relationship with business growth.
The recent Scaleup Institute’s report (2) adds that ‘Scaleup business leaders most value locally-rooted resources to foster their growth. They want more local solutions tailored to their needs: more peer-to-peer networks where they can meet their counterparts, easier access and deeper connections to local educators, university research facilities, and UK collaboration partners whether that be in local authorities, large corporates or Government.’ And recommends that ‘local stakeholders signpost effective mentorship programmes and matchmaking programmes between peers and non-executive directors who have scaled businesses before.’
The Scottish Government’s CivTech programme (3) – for making use of outside expertise for developing new solutions to persistent public issues – made use of MIT’s U.Lab (4). This programme invites people ‘to form Hubs (any place where course participants meet and learn together) and coaching circles (self-organised groups of five that set their own meeting times and use Google Hangout or Skype to engage in a structured deep listening and dialogue process)’. For the Scottish Government and its CivTech programme, it has proved itself a useful networking tool. ‘We found it to be one of the most effective learning experiences we’ve ever had,’ reports one participant. ‘It builds skills we need in working collaboratively and co-producing outcomes with others; it is a highly participative approach – anyone can take part free of charge; it builds on people’s and communities’ assets and strengths; and it champions the use of improvement science.’
- The State of Small Business, Nesta,October 2017. https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/launching-state-small-business-report
- Annual Scaleup Review 2017, the Scaleup Institute http://www.scaleupinstitute.org.uk/scaleup-review-2017 Chapter 2 Leading programmes breaking down the barriers for scaleups: Leadership.
- CivTech and the Scottish Government: making use of external expertise to deliver innovations in public services, Nov 2017 http://wp.me/p3beJt-m3
- MIT’s lab in Scotland – Prototyping a u.lab movement in Scotland for social change. https://ulabscot.com/
John Whatmore, December 2017