Embracing disruption

Embracing disruption can boost innovation

The importance of innovation in sparking fast-growth is well documented – businesses that innovate grow twice as fast, both in employment and sales, than firms that fail to do so. [1] Productivity is boosted too with innovative companies 13% more productive than their non-investing competitors. [2]

Innovation can come in many forms, from improving a product through to utilising a new marketing method to attract customers. Scale-up businesses are often best in class when it comes to delivering on good ideas.

"Investing in the algorithm behind Love Home Swap's points system transformed the business. The innovation spurred x6 more home swaps and improved the liquidity of the business."

1 Debbie Wosskow, CEO and Founder, Love Home Swap

When interviewed, fast growth companies talked at length about the products and services that had stimulated their fast growth. The challenge identified by these thought leaders was often how to ensure their company retained its innovative core as it grew larger. From retaining the close contact with customers that keeps the product at the cutting edge of the market to competing against new disruptive influences in your sector, the need to engrain innovation in a company is paramount.

4 tips scale-ups use to spark innovation

1 Actively think about how your business will be disrupted, adapt and adopt early

2 Provoke ideas at all level of the company through internal innovation events such as ‘hackathons’

3 Retain a relentless focus on the customer and understanding their challenges

"It's an exciting process developing new cider products. Customers taste change and we are always keen to stay at the cutting edge of the market."

1 Helen Thomas, Managing Director, Westons-Cider

4 Think bigger – consider how your product can be adapted for new markets, whether that be new industries or international markets

Scale-up case study

Name: busuu

Founded: 2008

Growth: 55m+ users in seven years

Founded in Spain, busuu is the world's largest network learning languages. A few years ago their CEO Bernhard Niesner moved the business to London to get better access to the city's talent pool and financing opportunities.

Originally the language platform was web focused but with the huge uptake in smartphones Bernhard made the decision to pour technical resources into developing the mobile side of the business. Awareness of this broader market trend and the strategic choice to disrupt busuu's original business model were integral to the company maintaining its scale-up progress.

busuu has the clear goal of being the largest platform for language education and working closely with Apple and Google as well as targeting emerging markets have been key drivers of the company's growth.

Actions for government

Double department funding for Innovate UK by the end of this parliament and increase overall spending on R&D in this parliament, with a long term aim of reaching combined public/private R&D spend of 3% of GDP.

  1. The UK's research and development spending is the lowest among the G8 and action must be taken so that we lead from the front.
  2. Government should build on the UK's research excellence by fuelling the UK's innovation ecosystem with investment, fresh ideas and skills.


[1] NESTA, The Vital 6%, 2009

[2] Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Our Plan For Growth: Science and Innovation, 2014

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