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Innovation Boost for SMEs

Innovation Boost for SMEs
23 February 2015 James Dillon

Innovate UK is looking to work with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and new business start-ups that would like to have the help of an external expert to develop ideas and improve performance.

The good news is that the SMEs can receive a grant of up to £5,000 to help pay for it.

Exponential Training Wins Grant

Undertaking research and development can be expensive, but not doing it is even more expensive. Too few firms invest sufficiently in innovation and development which is holding back productivity improvement, business growth and lost opportunities. This month, Exponential Training was awarded an Innovation Voucher worth £5,000 to help with the development of a specification/prototype for an assessment platform to transform the learning experience of students completing professional qualifications online via distance learning.

Standing still is just not an option in today’s highly competitive, fast moving technologically dominated environment.  Many smaller business owners believe that innovation is something only practiced by large or high-tech businesses. In my experience, even small innovations in a business can lead to dramatic improvements in profitability, efficiency and competitive advantage.

One of my Director’s philosophies is to constantly seek out ‘marginal gains and improvements‘ just like former British Cycling performance director Sir David Brailsford did with the British cycling team – and look at how well they have been doing in recent years! The problem is many businesses view innovation and development as a cost and NOT an investment.

What is Innovation?

In its broadest sense, innovation is the development and application of ideas that improve the way a business does things. Innovation is about developing new ideas, adopting new approaches or improving existing technologies and working practices resulting in added value.

There are broadly three types of innovation: product innovation, product improvement innovation and process innovation. Product innovation is more about developing and introducing new products, services or technologies. Product improvement innovation focuses upon implementing improvements to current products or services. And process innovation is about streamlining and improving business processes to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Innovation is not only about designing a new product or service to sell. It can also be about focussing on existing business processes and practices to improve efficiency, find new customers, cut down on waste and increase profits.

Innovation Vouchers

An Innovation Voucher gives you up to £5,000 to work with an external expert for the first time. It allows you to gain new knowledge to help your business innovate, develop and grow. Your expert help could be advice on a novel idea, on using design within your business or on how to make the most of intellectual property (IP).

If successful, you will be awarded an innovation Voucher of up to £5,000 to engage an expert of your choice. You can spend more if you wish, but you will only be reimbursed up to £5,000 – and you must pay any VAT due.


Application Process

Applying for an Innovation Voucher is very straightforward. The application process is online, through the Innovate UK website. You can apply at any time, with around 100 vouchers being awarded every three months – in October, January, April and July.

You only need to answer a few short questions about your idea, the impact it could have on your business and the kind of supplier that you might consider working with. All in all, this should only take around 30 minutes.

If you need to innovate some aspect of your business, I guarantee, it will be 30 minutes of you time well invested!

James Dillon is Business Development Manager at Exponential Training and has over 5 years experience working with current and aspiring Managers, Coaches and Consultants. James works with both past and potential clients in order to help them find the right training & development solutions to meet their specific needs. You can contact James or connect through LinkedIn.


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