Skip to main content

Blog Innovate UK

Innovate UK
Innovate UK

Open to Innovation

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, ISCF, Support

I’m Maria Ingold, a strategic Chief Technology Officer in emerging visual technology via my consultancy mireality.  I’ve seen individuals, education and industry limit how they think about innovation, thereby limiting their potential – potential for growth, success and revenue. So, I delivered my TEDx talk, Innovating the Impossible, to help change that thinking.

Part of my talk, which I summarise below, explains just why Innovate UK’s Open Competition is so valuable to our future – because it encourages innovating in multiple dimensions through diversity of thought.

Vertical innovation

Current thinking around innovation tends to restrict it to a single dimension – vertical.

Vertical innovation is what most of education and industry is geared to – deep narrow thinking, typically into specialist STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) topics.

Elon Musk is a great example. Each of his companies advances each of its industries by innovating vertically.

Examples of vertical innovation companies, shown as rocket shapes ovals with names and logos for the following companies: Spaceex, Tesla, Solar City, Open AI, Neuralink, Hyperloop, The Boring Company.
Examples of vertical innovation companies

SpaceX has created reusable rockets. Tesla has made electric cars so accessible and desirable, that the UK has mandated that most new cars need to be electric by 2030. SolarCity (now part of Tesla) has attractive solar roof tiles and Tesla’s battery storage is powering islands and backing up South Australia. Open AI is open-sourcing friendly artificial intelligence. Neuralink is creating cybernetic interfaces between humans and machines. The hyperloop concept was open-sourced and has created a flurry of advances. And The Boring Company aims to make tunnelling go faster than its pet snail, Gary.

While these are all incredible advancements, they’re all vertical innovation – and that leads to evolution, not revolution.

Thinking in terms of vertical innovation is only the first step.

Lateral innovation

Because when you laterally innovate across all of Elon Musk’s companies… you get the infrastructure you need for a Martian colony.

Image showing lateral innovation across companies. shown as rocket shapes ovals with names and logos for the following companies: Spaceex, Tesla, Solar City, Open AI, Neuralink, Hyperloop, The Boring Company with a 'Mars' image of a rocket and plant across the whole.
Image showing lateral innovation across companies

SpaceX’s reusable rockets get us to Mars… and back. Tesla’s electric cars, solar power and battery storage are essential for a planet without fossil fuels.  Artificial intelligence and neural interfaces can help humans think quickly in an inhospitable environment. Hyperloop can travel quickly between outpost sites. And The Boring Company can create conduits as well as underground living spaces in a high radiation environment.

See how lateral innovation changes things? It leads to revolution, not just evolution.

Three-dimensional innovation

Beyond vertical innovation and lateral innovation is three-dimensional innovation.

Image showing three dimensions
Image showing three dimensions

Three-dimensional innovation is internal to the human mind. It permits the use of both sides of the brain and often takes place at an unconscious level.  Our conscious mind can only process a few things simultaneously. Our unconscious mind can process millions.

Thomas Edison would nap in an armchair with a ball bearing in each hand. When they fell he’d write down the ideas he’d had on the edge of dreaming.

Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table in a dream – identifying not only the pattern, but accurately predicting missing elements. He was a chemist, physicist, geologist and meteorologist.

Einstein was also a pianist and violinist. He said:

The greatest scientists are artists as well

- Einstein

He innovated in feelings, images and music, then translated those ideas into words, logic and mathematics.

Diversity of Thought image. Depicted as images of batteries, rockets, cars, fuel, music and smiley faces all joined by a white thread on a black background.
Diversity of Thought

My father is a rocket scientist and linguist (and many other things) who solves problems in different languages, which he visualises in an image cloud. He always says, "Learn everything about everything".

My background is Computer Science and Fine Art, amongst other things.  Now I innovate visual emerging tech and built one of the most successful on-demand movie services in Europe.

I always say, "Innovation is diversity of thought". Learn everything about everything, because your unconscious mind will use everything you’ve ever learned to solve what your conscious mind thinks is impossible.

Major advancements – creating the impossible – come from three-dimensional innovation.

Yes, there’s a fourth dimension – time – but that’s a future story.

Innovation is diversity of thought

Innovation is diversity of thought and diversity in a company has been shown to create three things:

  • Better culture
  • More innovation
  • Higher return on investment / equity

So, encourage diversity – of thought or otherwise – and open your mind to innovation.

Apply to the Open Innovation competition

To celebrate your diversity of thought, Innovate UK has the Open innovation competition.

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £19 million to deliver game changing or disruptive innovations with significant potential for impact on the UK economy.

  • Competition opens: Monday 11 December 2017
  • Competition closes: Wednesday 28 February 2018 12:00pm

Watch TEDx: Innovating the Impossible

Watch TEDx: Innovating the Impossible


Follow me on Twitter: @MariaIngold

Visit mireality website

Follow Innovate UK on:

Sharing and comments

Share this page