Features / Innovation

Examining Bristol’s innovative ambitions

By ellie pipe, Friday Jan 3, 2020

A multi-million-pound technology innovation centre to be built on Bristol University’s Temple Quarter enterprise campus will support new research, entrepreneurs and businesses.

It is estimated the facility will generate £232m of added economic value over ten years and will lead to 360 new jobs as part of a bid to strengthen the city’s thriving ecosystem and secure a position at the forefront of transformative digital, economic and social solutions.

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Innovation is a strength Bristol prides itself on.

The city was a runner-up for the title of European City of Innovation in 2019, recognised for the mayor’s One City Plan that sets out goals up until 2050, and it was even the first in the UK to launch an Innovate Bristol book, one of a global series that shines a light on some of the more creative and disruptive organisations.

Innovation is at the core of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which commits to increasing research and development spending to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, meaning the companies that can prove their worth in this field stand to gain and grow.

Yet, despite this emphasis, many businesses are struggling to measure their innovation and research & development efforts, which impacts the ability to advance in key areas such as healthcare, science and engineering.

The Solverboard team have written a report identifying key ‘innovation blockers’

A recent survey by Paintworks-based Solverboard sought to identify key ‘blockers to innovation’ in a bid to overcome barriers and help firms unleash their potential.

The data collated by Solverboard reveals the top five challenges are:

·         Struggling to measure and prove the value of innovation to others.

·         Getting senior management to support new initiatives.

·         Changing the organisational culture and status quo.

·         Getting employees to embrace new ideas and ways of working.

·         Lack of structure throughout the idea generation and development process.

“These challenges may seem every day, but they can have a huge impact on our economy and on society,” explains Charlie Widdows, one of the founders of Solverboard, a new platform for enterprise innovators.

“As the government looks to ramp up spending on innovation, the UK Research and Innovation hub wants to deliver measurable economic and societal impact – but this will only be possible if organisations can easily measure their own innovation efforts.

“We want Solverboard to solve as many of these real-world challenges as possible, so we’re widening out the conversation to find out what businesses in Bristol and the South West are struggling with most. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the last few years and turned it into a report that highlights the key blockers to innovation within enterprise organisations. We hope this report will start a much-needed conversation about what is stopping the UK from innovating.”

The report highlights resistance to change as a key factor keeping some firms from innovating and adapting, a cycle that can be self-reinforcing over time as they are less likely to attract talent that thrives on change and dynamism.

Jane Ginnever says having conversations about change can help to drive change within companies

Jane Ginnever, the founder Shift Consultancy is one of four experts quoted in Solverboard’s study.

“Having different conversations within the business about change and innovation can in itself begin to change culture,” she says.

“If culture is all about ‘how we do things around here’, making even small changes to the way things are done can initiate change, but some of them can take a while to bear fruit.”

Improving the diversity of workforces is also key to fostering innovation within industry.

Bristol24/7 is collaborating with tech career accelerator Develop Me on a new project, Code it Forward, which aims to facilitate access to employment opportunities and grow a more diverse workforce in tech, a key area of growth and innovation.

Programme directors recognise that as the digital revolution increasingly touches every aspect of society, the UK needs a tech workforce that reflects the full diversity of the people who use that technology.

The employability programme is specifically designed for students who are otherwise unable to afford training, outright or through traditional financing methods.

It provides participants with the skills to secure a first role in tech, with a 98 per cent hire rate upon completion and an average starting salary of £23,000.

Read more: Opening up access to employment opportunities and growing a diverse tech workforce

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