Innovation Ecosystems: Why the Big Picture is Important

Consultants are often accused of focussing too much on the “big picture” and not appreciating the issues relating to implementation. While this is sometimes true, ignoring the big picture can lead you down the wrong road from where it becomes expensive or even impossible to recover.

An Innovation Ecosystem is a “big picture” issue. The ecosystem comprises all the constituent parts required to enable an innovation- and entrepreneur-based economy. And, as with any economy, there are many players, each with their own inputs and outputs, that must work in collaboration to deliver the desired results. Getting the overview of the ecosystem for your environment is a precursor to planning any specific initiatives. 

It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle; you need to see the full picture before you can begin to complete the puzzle. You need the map of where you are heading in order to organise the pieces.

An innovation ecosystem comprises:

  • research – from universities, research centres, business
  • education – to create problem-solving high-value employees
  • intellectual property (IP) policy and law – for IP creators and exploiters
  • commercialisation support – through technology transfer
  • start-up support – via incubation, seed fund, business development
  • entrepreneur development – via education and training
  • regulatory environment – to make it easy to start, grow and sell businesses
  • appropriate incentives – to encourage idea generation and innovation

And these are just the highlights. Each area has several levels of detail in terms of strategy, resourcing and implementation. But, as you can see, if you don’t start with the big picture, it will be much harder to bring these disparate entities together as a coherent economic model.

Posted in blog

The Nine Most Terrifying Words in the English Language

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help‘” – Ronald Regan

Whilst Mr Regan was clearly an extreme proponent of small government, I believe he had a point. In my view, government’s role is to create a stable, efficient, open and positive environment that enables entrepreneurs to rapidly try out new business ideas with minimum cost and hindrance. But how does this apply to the world of business incubation?

Incubation, as we know, is an extremely cost-effective way of creating sustainable employment. Well-run incubators support the establishment of new companies in innovative fields that have a significant chance of still being in business five years after they started. They do this by having smart entry evaluation criteria that picks winners. They provide the right support at the right time, but let the entrepreneurs take the responsibility for their own decisions. They coach, mentor and train as necessary, without stifling the new-born company.

Government can help by enabling incubators to be established more easily, with public funding for capital set-up costs but then allowing the incubator company to run its own affairs as a commercial entity. The best model I have seen is where a new building is built or refurbished at government cost, and then handed over to the (not-for-profit) incubator company for one euro or at a peppercorn rent. The incubator then rents out two-thirds of the building at commercial rent levels as a exciting space for established SMEs and retains one-third for the incubation of new start-ups. The rent generated from the SMEs subsidises the cost of incubation. And with good management, no further public funding is required.

Such a model, replicated across a country, would initially stimulate the traditional construction industry, and then leave a legacy of entrepreneurial support infrastructure that would continue to benefit the economy for many years into the future. The real power is the elimination of continuous budget support which in times of economic austerity will continue to be hard to come by. Many governments are considering capital projects, and I would argue that the support for new incubators could be a project with significant long-term return on investment.

Posted in blog

Ultimate Elevator Pitch

In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo there is a small section on the Ultimate Elevator Pitch. In all my research I have not been able to beat it. And every entrepreneur I meet is forced to listen to me while I expound its virtues.

Basically there are four key questions that an investor wants the answers to:

1) What do you do?

Your business. Your product. Your service. What is it that the business does to make money?

2) What problem do you solve?

The value proposition. Who are you adding value for and it what way?

3) How are you different?

There should be other players in the market, but how do you stand out?

4) Why should I care?

What is in it for the investor? What are you looking for? Over what time period? With what return on investment? And what type of exit?

And each question needs to be answered within a couple of sentences with the whole answer presenting the business, is value proposition, its USP and the investment opportnity.

For example, one of my businesses is the Business Incubator magazine. Our elevator pitch is as follows:

The Business Incubator magazine (TBI) is the first global publication for incubation professionals that provides the latest industry news, examples of successful practice, reviews of useful resources, and insight from industry practitioners and experts. It is delivered on paper, online and on tablet.

Whilst often in national or regional networks, incubation professionals do not always connect with the latest thinking from around the world. The best ideas are not shared as widely as possible leading to missed opportunities. TBI makes these connections and opens up access between diverse incubators.

TBI is not a traditional business magazine, nor academic journal. It is a highly accessible, thought provoking periodical that delivers insight in a readily consumable fashion. With high quality design principles it stands out against the range of newsletters currently available.

TBI intends to become the hub of international incubation thought-leadership, best practice and other content. The opportunity is to participate in the rapid growth of the business with a potential exit to a global media business within 4-5 years.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in blog, pitching

is a network of quality assessed incubators. Please visit the site for more information.