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University talent can help you innovate and grow

Liz Beavis and Roger Jackson

Cumbrian businesses can sign up for a programme to help them innovate and grow, which offers access to expertise and facilities at two universities.

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is inviting applications for the second intake of its Innovation Development Programme.

The six-month programme, which starts on October 2nd, 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 available to businesses that meet ERDF criteria.

Angela Moore, Programme Delivery Manager at LUMS, said: “Change is accelerating at an ever-increasing pace and for business this means exciting new opportunities and markets to explore.

LUMS logo“For Cumbrian 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.

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 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 supporting the commercialisation of new ideas.

It gives participating businesses access to expertise and facilities at both universities including engineering, physics, chemistry and computing laboratories providing an opportunity to design, build and test, improve productivity, conduct feasibility studies and more.

For example, EJ Jordan of Windermere, which designs high-end loudspeakers, had help from Lancaster University’s engineering department with analysis, materials selection and manufacturing methods.

Invisible Systems, a software and electronics design manufacturer in Milnthorpe, used an engineering student on a fixed-term placement to work on new products and later conducted a study through Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications to focus on the use of artificial intelligence to enhance the way its software sensor-monitoring system works.

And glamping pod manufacturer Pennine Pods, of High Hesket, used four engineering undergraduates to carry out thermal and strength analysis of its materials to demonstrate the performance of their pods to customers.

Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and Project Manager of Cumbria Business Growth Hub, added: “The Innovation Development Programme 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 email Business Liaison Officer Pete Cornwall or call 01524 510728.

Liz Beavis
Liz Beavis

CASE STUDY: Liz Beavis of the Financial Management Bureau signed up for the Innovation Development Programme last year to help her diversify her business offering. She found it invaluable.

The Financial Management Bureau (FMB) has been providing independent financial advice for 31 years from its offices in Kendal.

Managing Director Liz Beavis had plenty of ideas about diversifying her business offering but needed help to turn those ideas into viable products and services.

She said: “We like to retain the family ethos but we’ve always recognised the need to be innovative. My father, one of the founders of the business, was always looking to be one step ahead. So we’re still asking ‘How can we improve and look for more opportunities?’.

“The Innovation Development Programme was brilliant timing for me.

“I was thinking about how to appeal to different audiences in different ways, but I didn’t know where to go with it or how to deliver it commercially.

“Suddenly there were people who could help us develop our ideas and show us how to get to market.”

One of her ideas was to develop a financial education package to benefit those who might not otherwise seek financial advice.

“Our motivation for running the business is to help people have better lives, and there’s a lot you can do to help people understand where they are with their finances, without seeing an advisor,” she said.

“The forum really helped me to focus in on how you deliver that, who do you deliver it to, and how you charge for it.”

Using the tools introduced on the programme, in particular the Business Model Canvas, she was able to identify a path to pursue – targeting companies that could pass on the package to their staff as a benefit.

Soon a fellow member of her cohort had invited her to trial the idea at his company and so was born FMB’s innovative Flourish, Prosper & Thrive product, for three different stages of life.

Liz said: “That ability to interrogate the business model really had a significant impact. But what surprised me more was how much you can learn from the other people on the programme – the trusting relationships you build and the support you give each other.”

The programme also gave her insights into the latest academic thinking.

These insights were put to the test on the Open-Innovation Challenge at a major regional business.

“It was eye-opening to work with a company like that and to realise that they don’t have all the answers either – that bringing in other people and using other channels can help develop innovation,” she said.

“I finished the programme with a head buzzing with new ideas, but also with an increased knowledge of how to develop them into a tangible business stream.”

Those ideas, she says, range from another new service, for elderly and vulnerable people, to future technological possibilities such as apps and video channels.

The ongoing links with the University should prove useful here, with options including engaging students on market research and projects with the Faculty of Science & Technology.

The most valuable lesson she has learned?

“Don’t be afraid to try,” she said. “Have the confidence to go with it, tweak it – and see where it takes you.”

While we are talking, Liz receives an email saying that another company has come on board with their financial education package. “It just goes to show,” she said. “Don’t put it off. Go with it!”

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is a quadruple-accredited, world-ranked management school, consistently among the UK’s top 10. It 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.

ERDFThe 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


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