The Times 'Supporting SMEs' supplement featured the following article today on how innovative growth companies overcome typical issues with Innovate UK EDGE help.
Innovation-driven businesses know that success hinges on small details, which makes them very particular about finding the right support, from the right people.
Innovate UK EDGE’s regionally-based innovation and growth specialists have been the first port of call for thousands of such businesses looking to accelerate their growth and scale. The service is a key part of the UK innovation agency Innovate UK’s investment in business-led innovation. It offers high potential small and medium size companies individualised, impartial guidance and access to useful resources to enable them to thrive.
Senior innovation and growth specialists Aldo De Leonibus and Viney Chauhan have provided leaders at some of the UK’s most pioneering companies with intensive, funded support. They shared their experiences of overcoming common growth challenges.
Talent, internationalisation, finance and market validation
Innovate UK EDGE clients are typically visionary teams working to transform their industries or society. As these companies expand, an outsider’s perspective can help identify how to build out the team with commercial expertise to accelerate growth.
Innovate UK EDGE helped TrakRap, a sustainable packaging company, to get the right people on board and scale.
“The technology was superb, but as a critical friend we identified where some extra commercial expertise could spur revenue growth and also how to find that management talent,” says Chauhan.
De Leonibus acknowledges that it’s not always straightforward: “It’s about challenging leaders’ mindsets. Deep down, they may know that changes are needed in the management team, but they need to hear it from someone they can trust.”
Regarding funding and investment, De Leonibus regards equity finance as important for meeting scaling ambitions and always considers how to enhance a client’s appeal to investors. But he mentions caveats: “Equity finance can be leveraged to accelerate business growth, but can be costly if accessed too early. There are different sources of funding, such as grants, debt and R&D Tax Credits, that can help innovators along the way too.”
Specialists who know what makes innovative companies tick can help them find the right financial vehicle: “We want to look at why you need the funds, what you’re hoping to achieve with them and appraise how much you actually need. Then we will help you negotiate a complex landscape.”
Internationalisation also presents particular challenges. When Innovate UK EDGE worked with 3D LifePrints, it saw limitless potential. It provides pioneering 3D printed medical devices, products and services to customers including the NHS, research institutions and the private sector. Recently for example, it developed patient-specific surgical guides for highly accurate bone sarcoma resections.
“Businesses need to go where the fish are and for 3D LifePrints, this means North America. But such innovative businesses face hurdles there, in terms of an entirely different set of Medical Device Regulations and intellectual property considerations,” explains Chauhan.
Thankfully, Innovate UK EDGE has extensive connections with associate specialists in other countries to help enter such waters.
“Healthcare is a particularly regulated field, but we have been able to help the business hone its approach to a significant new market.”
Last but not least, successful innovation means the widespread adoption of novel products and services. It can be tempting to hone the offer to perfection before taking it to market, but Chauhan believes this could be part of the reason that so many of them fail. It’s far more important, he says, to prioritise development in collaboration with end users.
“When Dropbox launched, it had not yet been fully developed, but a short video helped it to garner a waiting list of 70,000 people. It’s a good idea to educate and engage people early, even if that means you experience some initial embarrassment.”
It appears that ‘fail fast’, part of a well-known mantra for disruptive businesses everywhere, remains valid advice. Luckily, Innovate UK EDGE’s grasp of the detail means that ambitious British innovators have somewhere to turn to invert the second part of the mantra and ‘succeed often.’
You can read the full 'Supporting SMEs' supplement here.