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Innovate UK

3 tips for growing and scaling your business

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As I embark on a fresh start and a new part of my own innovation journey, leading our growth and scale work for infrastructure systems, I wanted to seize the opportunity to reflect on some common missed elements of company pitches and areas of our connect showcasing work that helps facilitate the very best of UK businesses to achieve their goals.

1. Where is the customer need?

Understand customer need

During my 10 years working at Innovate UK, I’ve noticed that one of the common gaps in companies’ innovation stories has been a failure to adequately address the question of:

Where is the customer need?/Who will buy your innovation?

This is something so essential to us, investors and customers that it is always a surprise when I encounter conversations that require a lot of digging to understand.

For me, a great example (and there are many!) of a company that really takes these questions on board is Upside Energy. They have created their Virtual Energy Store for relieving stress on the electricity grid, while helping households and small business sites reduce their energy costs and environmental impact.

It’s great to see that they have managed to grow rapidly from their roots in August 2013, as a finalist in Nesta’s “Dynamic Demand Challenge”. They have secured funding both from Innovate UK and BEIS to develop their innovations and also received support from Climate-KIC to develop the team and the business. They secured private seed funding in 2016 to expand their operations, build out the senior management team and run a large-scale pilot with National Grid.

I’d encourage you to follow their story and take note of how they are delivering a technology solution and finding the pull they need to succeed.

2. What is your ask?

Make your ask clear to investors

Over the last few months I’ve been involved with several events that have an element of company showcasing with the intention of bringing innovators in front investors and their peers.

Having the confidence to stand up and put your company and innovation out there is a requirement for developing your business and I can only encourage you to do it well and often.

There will be a time when you are likely to need help from outside your network of known contacts, be it for financial investment, finding new collaborators or customers. Raising your profile will always be important, as everyone else will also be doing it, and you will need to keep up!

If this is all news to you, one resource I would recommend to take a look at is Guy Kawasakis’ 10 slides piece, and please, one plea, remember to include content on what your ask is! I’m quite amazed about the amount of times this can be missed in a pitch to investors.

3. Get yourself out there

Business networking at Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation
Business networking at Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation

There is a great community out there to help you with developing your company story, and plenty of chances to get yourself known (and even perhaps land an award!). It does feel like an exciting time to be thinking about how we can support this space in the future, with all the challenges and opportunities we’re facing ahead of us.

More specifically we are working with Long Run Works on developing our next Clean and Cool mission to San Francisco in Summer 2017 which is very much focussed on the human factors of innovation and is run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.

There are also a number of forums, shows, and awards events happening through the calendar year in the sustainable technologies space to bring together innovators with the investment community including most recently:

I’m pleased to say a number of companies we have been working with such as BIPV Co, SEaB energy, Upside Energy, and ITM Power (to name but a few) all came away with awards to celebrate their efforts.

We also have a great amount of resource to help you on this journey through our innovation family partners of KTN, Catapults, and EEN.

So what is my point in this part of my blog? Well, simply put, and to reemphasise a mantra of one of our past governing board Chairs, Graham Spittle, Innovation is a contact sport… need to be out there:

  • growing your business
  • developing your networks
  • gaining insights into markets
  • developing your pitch
  • realising your ambitions

Innovation isn’t just about getting some funding to do some research, it is about the journey you undertake to realise and commercialise that innovation. It requires a great idea, a great team, and the passion and drive to succeed.

My ask if you finish reading this blog all the way to the bottom? Think about your network:

  • who is missing?
  • what customers have you not identified yet?

Go out and find them, and use the resource network available to help you develop those winning relationships.

You can follow me on Twitter: @chringlis

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