Elizabeth Shaw, innovation manager at the Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) and EEIF member shares her thoughts on the need for innovation to support the growth of the low carbon sector in the North East.
A report released by Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) earlier this month (July 2012) has highlighted that UK investment into new products and ideas since the recession hit in 2008 has fallen by £24bn.
Nesta’s study also found that businesses had a crisis of confidence in the 2000’s prioritizing cash over investment in innovation and unfortunately the pattern has continued, resulting in a ‘lost decade’ of innovation.
Investing in innovation is critical and the only route to long term, sustainable growth and I feel very strongly that allowing businesses to unlock their innovation potential will be a major factor into getting us out of this recession.
It is understandable that in 2008, when the recession hit, many businesses simply lost the time to spare and the funds to explore their innovative ambitions. But innovation is crucial to businesses long term sustainability. It is what makes the individual business stand out in the market place and more importantly prevents it from becoming stagnant.
Innovation is not invention. Invention requires knowledge to create something new to satisfy a need or desire that would otherwise go unmet, innovation is an ongoing, evolving process. Coming up with the idea in the first place surprisingly is not the hardest part, encouraging the organisations commitment to changing their culture; being imaginative and coming forward with new ideas is the tricky part.
It is also a myth that innovation is only prominent in the manufacturing sector and initiatives like the Innovation Programme are helping to dispel falsehood. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the Innovation Programme gives businesses access to a range of specialists who will not only look at the viability of an idea but also the longer term benefits of developing it.
Innovation is particularly important in emerging industries like the low carbon sector. The opportunities are significant and we need to be innovative to compete with other economies. Fortunately this is happening in the North East.
A great example of a renewable company hoping to tap into their innovative potential is Green Marine Solutions (GMS). GMS provide management, consultant, personnel and product solutions. Everything from vessel suitability to the Great Gabbard Wind Farm, which at the time of construction was the largest in the world and I am very excited to see where the next three years can take this truly innovative company.
There are many other examples too from large scale projects to much smaller ones. Patrick Parsons has developed a ‘world first’ hydro electric scheme at the Tees Barrage which functions no matter what the tidal conditions.
Maintaining a promise to commit to innovate ultimately keeps businesses moving forward and can reduce waste, increase profits, improve efficiency and attract not only new customers but also new staff, which in turn will make the business a success and contribute to the region.
The real threat to business is the inability to see innovation as an opportunity and I am delighted to be able to work with so many forwarding thinking organisations that are seeking a brighter future by investing in developments today.