THE economic climate has forced businesses to tighten their belts and cut back on spending in many areas.
Where some organisations have been forced to slash marketing spend, others have stopped investing in equipment and new developments.
For many, anything that could be deemed non-essential has unfortunately gone.
Nationally this has resulted in a ‘lost decade’ of innovation and since the recession first hit in 2008 the UK has reduced investment in new products and ideas by £24bn.
Highlighted in a recent study by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), the report claims that businesses have had a crisis of confidence in the 2000s, prioritising cash over investment in innovation.
It is understandable that businesses have felt reluctant to commit to exploring new ventures. However, innovation is fundamental to long-term sustainability and investment in this area is therefore essential.
At the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), we have always been committed to developing an innovative culture and our latest venture – the Innovation Programme – is designed to enable more businesses to explore their potential.
It provides access to specialists who will not only look at the viability of an idea but also the longer-term business benefits of developing it.
Utilising £724,000 of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment and part-financed by the European Union’s ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007 -2013, this project offers regional businesses more than
12 months old the opportunity to look at their organisations from a different perspective and explore prospects which may have otherwise been closed to them.
It is vital that we renew our enthusiasm for innovation, a process that begins by actively helping to dispel a number of myths – namely that innovation and invention are the same thing and that it is only relevant to the manufacturing industry. In reality, the reverse is true.
Innovation requires knowledge to create something new to satisfy a need or desire that would otherwise go unmet. Innovation is an ongoing, evolving process.
It can, therefore, be applied to a wide range of sectors and since launching the Innovation Programme in February this year, we have received interest from a broad range including everything from environmental to cosmetics businesses.
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.
Our aim is to create a step change in the region by enabling more businesses to pursue their innovative potential.
This could start with an innovation review or by offering access to up to 40% funding and, critically, access to a pool of innovation specialists and suppliers to help the businesses progress on their own innovation journey.
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 forward-thinking organisations, all of whom are seeking a brighter future by investing in developments today.
For more information on the Innovation Programme contact the North East BIC’s innovation team on 0191 516 6021 or visit
:: Elizabeth Shaw is innovation manager – North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC)