Put open innovation on your 2017 to do list

By Angela MacOscar, Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork

In September, I kicked off the Innovation Challenge project and I’m delighted to report it is off to a flying start.

This project is a key part of the Innovation SuperNetwork which is also home to VentureFest and FinanceCamp. These projects all work together seamlessly to help boost the amount of innovation happening in the North East. And 2017 is set to be even bigger, with an exciting pipeline of innovation challenges and funding competitions that are applicable to a broad range of business sectors.

New year, new opportunities

The aim of the Innovation Challenge project is to find local solutions to the big issues facing large corporates, the public sector and society at large. Put simply, a problem can’t always be solved in-house. But the solution is out there and we have the know-how to find it. By working in an open innovation environment, it is possible to find the technology, talent or know-how from another company. It is a win-win for everyone, as the solution could make a huge difference to efficiency or profit and the solution provider has an opportunity to work with a new company or in a new market.

I have been amazed about the amount of talented businesses in the North East that have created or developing brilliant products and services that can be readily applied to new sectors or in new ways. I am really looking forward to working with more of them this year to help them get access to new markets or funding to help them grow. Innovation does not mean invention but is often the re-application of a technology or business model used successfully in another sector.

How does it work?

The Innovation SuperNetwork has a unique positioning as a connector and translator. I use our vast, cross-sectoral network to broadcast the challenges, work with our key partners to identify SMEs that could have a potential solution and make these connections. The translator role is also key to success, to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language across different companies, small and large, across different business sectors and technology spaces. The varied experience I accrued working on a global stage at P&G and as a small business owner provides me with real insight into the different environments of the companies I work with and I enjoy leveraging my technical background to help them.

Early wins

It’s early days for this project but the interest that’s been generated so far has been phenomenal and I can’t wait to see how the conversations we’ve already begun will develop in 2017.  For example, I helped a large company identify a pipeline of potential solutions to a huge internal problem which will make a big difference to future profit and efficiency. I also successfully helped several local SMEs apply for competitions that could access funding opportunities, test markets or testing facilities. I am looking forward to finding out how these developments make a difference to their companies.

Get involved

If your company has a problem to solve or if you are looking for new markets and funding opportunities this project is for you. It could not be easier to get involved:

So for 2017, put open innovation on your to do list and get involved.

Partners

Our work is only possible with the support of our local and national partners, including Innovate UK, the Knowledge Transfer Network, the North East LEP, Northumbrian Water and North East BIC, with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Huge thanks go to all our partners.