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A six-month programme as part of the Cumbria Innovations Platform, designed for Cumbria based SMEs to explore new markets or ideas for product and service development. Explore and evaluate opportunities, challenge each other, and learn the tools and knowledge needed to accelerate innovative business ideas.
The Innovation Development Programme is a new programme delivered by Lancaster University Management School and has been specifically designed for senior decision makers of Cumbria based SMEs. This six month programme will provide you with the tools you need to explore new markets, adapt to a changing environment, identify opportunities for product and service development, and implement an innovative mind-set within your business.
Over six months, you will cover:
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The Innovation Development Programme includes one-two day workshops per month led by academics from Lancaster University Management School and key business people.
An Overnight Experiential over two days (one night) at a hotel in Cumbria to meet and build relationships with your peer group.
Accces to Masterclasses delivered by inspirational, world-class speakers.
Monthly, interactive workshops delivered by leading academics and experts from the business world.
An Open Innovation Challenge with a large business from the region to share best practise and test new ideas.
Examine today's innovation landscape with sample case studies and group challenges.
Introduction and access to specialist facilities, equipment and expertise from Lancaster University.
To discover more about the Innovation Development Programme, and how it could transform your organisation,please call 01524 510728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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You will learn through interaction and exchange with your peer network, the tools and techniques needed to accelerate business innovation. You will learn how to generate, evaluate and test ideas and translate them into a strategic business model. You will develop the leadership skills to guide your organisation through innovative processes and embed a culture of innovation. Throughout the programme, you will have access to specialist equipment and technological expertise to aid progression.
Although Liz Beavis, MD of Financial Management Bureau (FMB), had plenty of ideas about diversifying her business offering, she knew she would need a lot of help to turn those ideas into viable new products and services. Fortunately, the Innovation Development Programme came along at exactly the right time.
FMB has been providing independent financial advice for 31 years from its offices in Kendal. “We like to retain the family ethos but we’ve always recognised the need to be innovative,” says Liz. “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 programme, delivered by Lancaster University Management School, is a new initiative for senior decision makers of Cumbria-based SMEs. “The programme was brilliant timing for me,” Liz says. “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 says. “The forum really helped me to focus in on how do you deliver that, who do you deliver it to, and how do 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 who 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.
“That ability to interrogate the business model really had a significant impact,” Liz says. “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 fascinating insights into the latest academic thinking and these 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.”
“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. 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 says. “Don’t put it off. Go with it!”
Colin Shelbourn of EJ Jordan expected the Innovation Development Programme to help him take new products into new markets. What he didn’t expect was to start questioning everything his business was doing and how it was doing it.
This small Windermere company was built on the technological innovations of its founder, Ted Jordan, and continues his distinctive legacy, designing and manufacturing high end loudspeaker units for the home. As one of two multitasking Directors, Colin 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 explains. “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.”
“When you’re a small company, you don’t have many people to challenge you on a regular basis,” he says. “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 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 for him. “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 & Technology. 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. “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.”
"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.” Angela Moore, Project Delivery Manager
This programme forms part of the Cumbria Innovations Platform, a new collaborative project between Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria. This is a £4.1m project which is intended to accelerate innovation in Cumbria by driving transformative thinking and support the commercialisation of new ideas.
This programme is fully funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) eligible businesses. Businesses must meet the ERDF criteria as below:
For more details or to to join our next programme starting in October 2018, please get in touch with us below.