Cumbrian SMEs are being offered a unique opportunity to access specialist support for innovation development.
Lancaster University Management School is inviting applications for the second intake of its Innovation Development Programme, which equips businesses with the tools they need to innovate and grow.
The six-month programme starts on October 2nd. It is open to senior decision-makers from Cumbrian SMEs with ambitions to explore new markets and identify opportunities for product or service development.
The group will explore and evaluate opportunities, challenge each other and learn the tools and knowledge needed to accelerate innovative business ideas.
Places are fully funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which makes them free to businesses that meet ERDF criteria.
Angela Moore, Programme Delivery Manager at Lancaster University Management School, said: “Change is accelerating at an ever-increasing pace and for business this means exciting new opportunities and markets to explore.
“For Cumbria businesses, this is a chance to evaluate new opportunities through workshops, business tools and a trusted peer network.
“Over six months, businesses will access our expertise and support on their journey to developing tangible and innovative business ideas.”
The programme starts with a two-day, overnight experiential followed by monthly workshops delivered by Lancaster’s world-leading academics and local business experts. There is also an Open Innovation Challenge and access to inspirational masterclasses delivered by world-class speakers.
In addition, there is a significant element of peer-to-peer learning, where participants develop and learn from each other.
Workshops will cover topics such as developing a culture of innovation and innovative terms; types of innovation; innovation in the world around you; creating a dynamic business model; idea generation and evaluation; understanding and applying open innovation.
Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and Project Manager of Cumbria Business Growth Hub, added: “This is a great scheme offering a valuable service to businesses, with access to fantastic resources to enable innovation and growth.
“It can help with specific ideas and more broadly is an opportunity to explore the possibilities available to you as a business and then move forward with one or more.
“I’d really encourage anyone who thinks this could be of benefit to get in touch with the University and find out more.”
For more information about the programme and to book your place please contact, Pete Cornwall (Business Liaison Officer) email@example.com or 01524 510728.
CASE STUDY: Colin Shelbourn of EJ Jordan Designs signed up for the Innovation Development Programme last year to help him take new products into new markets. It led him to start questioning everything his business was doing and how it was doing it.
EJ Jordan is a small company in Windermere built on the technological innovations of its founder, Ted Jordan.
It continues his distinctive legacy, designing and manufacturing high-end loudspeaker units for the home.
As one of two multitasking Directors, Colin Shelbourn recognised the need to create time and space to think more strategically about the business and what the rest of the industry was doing.
Having already worked with Lancaster University on engineering student projects, he heard about the new Innovation Development Programme being run by the Management School, checked if he was eligible and applied to take part. It was to turn his thinking on its head.
“I came into the programme thinking that I had a product to sell,” Colin explained. “I’ve emerged from it realising that I have a business to grow. It was a whole new perspective on what we were doing. If you like, by the end, the business had become my product.”
He continued: “When you’re a small company, you don’t have many people to challenge you on a regular basis.
“So it was very powerful to be on a programme that was structured to make you think differently – and to be working with other businesses, sometimes in smaller breakout sessions, who could point out things you’d overlooked.
I came into the programme thinking that I had a product to sell. I’ve emerged realising that I have a business to grow
“I found myself looking afresh at how the business operates, at what we can innovate, at our place in the market, what makes us unique and what differentiators we can have.”
It was during the second workshop that everything started to gel.
He said: “We were looking at how Steve Jobs said ‘don’t compete by trying to be better, compete by trying to be different’. That was when I realised how important this programme was going to be for us.
“I saw how crucial it can be to put the brakes on and understand that what’s right for the competition might not be right for you. How, as a small company, we can do something new – and be seen as different and interesting.”
Another highlight was the way the programme opens up access to the resources of the wider University, helping businesses to accelerate their innovation towards testing or prototyping new products.
“They made introductions and gave us the opportunity to go and look at the facilities across the Faculty of Science and Technology,” Colin said.
“We saw that there were lots of people you can draw on who were used to looking at things from a different angle.
“I’ve already had help from the Engineering Department with analysis, materials selection and manufacturing methods and I’m very excited to take the solution forwards. It gives us a clear route to build on our distinctiveness and achieve something unique.”
Overall, Colin says, the programme has left him much more open to collaboration with other experts and other companies.
He added: “It has given me ideas on different, less traditional ways to sell our products – which we’re actively in the process of developing at the moment – and a lot of that involves looking for closer collaborations with other companies and developing those as a route to the market.”
One example of an opportunity that requires a change of mindset, he says, is the retro market.
“In one of the workshops we looked at how Polaroid were tackling this – and it’s very big in the hi-fi field as well. Instead of regarding it as a curiosity or a threat, it’s a challenge that can be turned around to our advantage.
“That’s what the programme does: it gives you a lot of extra confidence about how you tackle things, creates the space to question what you’re doing – and then helps you find a better way to do it.”
The Innovation Development programme is supporting 60 businesses over three years. It is part of the Cumbria Innovations Platform, which is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
This £4.1m project is a collaboration between Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria. It aims to accelerate innovation in Cumbria by driving transformative thinking and support the commercialisation of new ideas.
Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is a quadruple-accredited, world-ranked management school, consistently among the UK’s top 10. Lancaster is one of the few business schools in the world to hold quadruple accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS, the Association of MBAs and the Small Business Charter.
The Cumbria Innovations Platform has received £2,311,725 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce