Watch the webinar
The webinar panelists offered practical advice and support to businesses seeking to innovate:
I want to innovate but I am unsure where to start and what support is right for me:
- The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has been set up to help businesses, and especially SMEs, navigate the innovation landscape and find the partnerships that are appropriate for their specific needs
- Once you have engaged with them, if you decide that you are in need of financial support, KTN are able to link you to government bodies such as Innovate UK, as well as a large network of private capital
- If you are thinking of testing a new technological solution or product, KTN can also connect you to the various points of the UK's pioneering research base, including universities.
I am looking for funding to help implement a new process or build a product:
- Innovate UK offers a variety of different funding programmes that help overcome some of the financial, time or technical challenges that businesses face when trying to innovate. This includes:
- SMART funding, which is open continually, and to businesses of all sizes and sectors
- An Innovation loan which can range between 750K- £1M If your idea is close to market
- SBRI: the Small Business Research Initiative helps public bodies to access novel solutions from companies. Firms receive 100% of money through contract and it is a useful way to plug into the procurement system
- The aim is to make the process as simple as possible. It is online and firms will be asked ten questions as part of the grant application. Guidance is available to help with this process.
I want to work with universities and ensure my assets are protected:
- Working with universities allows business to access world leading research and facilities. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have allowed many businesses communities to respond swiftly to the challenges caused by the pandemic
- It was acknowledged that issues around IP have hindered some business/university collaboration in the past. It is important that both sides feel they are adequately protected but this confidence is only built by continuing to engage with the process and building stronger relationships.
David Wilkes – Deputy Director, Innovation Collaboration and Engagement, Innovate UK
- Innovation is not just new, it can mean doing things better with less resources
- Innovating businesses grow faster and remain more competitive, so firms of all sizes should be considering innovating
- Being more innovative allows firms to be nimble to changing circumstances, but in the short term it can be risky
- Bodies like InnovateUK help to mitigate some of the risks through advice and support
Jon Kingsbury – Executive Director, Strategic Development, The Knowledge Transfer Network
- Firms are using innovation to capitalise on the situation caused by the pandemic
- Connections and networks matter, and allows for greater sharing of ideas and knowledge
Tamsin Mann – Director of Policy & Communications, Praxis Auril :
- The UK is a leader for University-Business collaboration, and SMEs are a vital part of this.
- The Covid lockdown has accelerated the ‘digitisation’ of working, and the speed with which it’s been adopted has been stark
- Going digital has broken down geography and time barriers, which will hopefully drive further collaboration through the creation of collaboration platforms
Kully Johal – Managing Partner, Amaryllis Ventures Ltd:
- The Covid lockdown has allowed innovators some ‘breathing room’ to properly assess how their business currently runs, and think about how to improve it
- This includes gleaning an understanding of the skills, technological and equipment requirements they’ll have as we enter the ‘new normal’ of working
- When developing a new product or service, its vital to be all over the detail and fully consider who the product is ‘for’
- Investment funding is still available, but in uncertain times, knowing the detail of your new product is vital
Questions on the call
Felicity: Where do businesses looking to innovate start? Navigating the world of govt help can be very confusing.
- Always consider ‘who is going to buy it?’
- Innovators can sometimes get ahead of themselves pursuing a ‘new’ idea
- KTN can advise on range of funding available
- Funding is often not the biggest barrier, and deep knowledge of the ‘idea’ is often of greater value
- Nurture your networks as these are vitally important and can help to develop your understanding of a wider innovation landscape
Felicity: Innovate UK’s approach to specific industries – do InnovateUK mark down applications that may have a negative impact on climate change targets?
- NetZero/COP26 etc is a huge issue, and IUK will focus on technologies that can support reaching net zero.
- Looking at oil and gas, done a lot of work with sectors where companies are beginning to pivot to being more sustainable.
Felicity: SBRI: Does the client/supplier apply to provide solutions to the public sector? How does SBRI work?
- Welsh Govt had looked at how to more effectively sanitise ambulances. Used SBRI to help find solutions, many business may have already had tech/capability to deliver this, even if it wasn’t their business model.
Felicity: Tamsin – IP issues. Imbalance between universities and how they view their ‘IP;’. What principles should be applied when entering conversations with a university around collaboration?
- Collaborations shouldn’t be about giving away your IP; it should be about growing and developing it
- Universities have a ‘guardianship’ of their assets, so IP created through collaboration has to be seen in a particular way that appreciates everyone’s assets
Felicity: Research shows businesses that innovate are more likely to survive. Where do they go for building their own innovation capability?
- Explore the various funding streams available, and enter into dialogue with bodies like Innovate UK
- Grant funding is preferable at the start-up/design stage as it provides more structure than angel investment or crowdsourcing
- Continue to engage in discussions with Angel Networks and corporate investors as there is still appetite for innovative ideas – especially amongst the big corporates who need start-ups to survive and continued growth