Innovating out of recession workshop summary

With innovation seen as a key way for businesses to navigate the recession, the Innovating out of Recession workshop at our Annual Conference brought together an interesting mix of speakers and delegates to discuss innovative practices, measuring innovation and how innovation may change the industrial structure of the West Midlands.

Cliff Dennett from thoughtengine, co-author of Innovation in a recession (chapter 7 in the Fit for the Future book ), kicked off a series of presentations covering a range of innovation related topics. Cliff’s presentation focussed on ways in which we can explore cost-cutting but value adding activities.

Brian MacAulay, Director of the Innovation Index at NESTA, presented on Innovation Matters and so does how you measure it… outlining the work that NESTA has been doing in measuring innovation:

Andrew Hermann, who leads the Enterprise and Innovation Team at the Observatory, gave a brief overview of some of the work that the Observatory is doing in measuring innovation in the West Midlands and benchmarking performance against the other regions. Here are Andrew’s slides:

Professor David Bailey from Coventry University Business School gave an overview of Towards a knowledge-intensive, green manufacturing future (Chapter 8 in the Fit for the Future? book co-authored with Lisa De Propris from Birmingham Business School).

He discussed how the region’s manufacturing businesses can build upon their expertise, adopting a more knowledge-intensive approach.

He spoke of how knowledge-intensive manufacturing could help the region out of recession and rebalance the regional economy, which currently relies too much on the service sector.

He also described ways of integrating services with manufacturing as a growing trend with great potential.

Simon Topman, Chair of the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, gave an entertaining and enlightening talk about how his whistle manufacturing company drives forward innovation. He also provided an excellent insight into how they work closely with some of the region’s universities to continue to develop innovative products.

Surfacing comments

The presentations raised a number of comments:

What are the future drivers for change? Will enforced carbon reduction be seen as an opportunity to drive innovation?

Why is innovation in some organisations (particularly public sector bodies) seen simply as cost cutting?

Does auditing and monitoring in the public sector promote a culture less receptive to innovation?

Can we teach innovation?

How can we stop businesses in the West Midlands innovating?

In an innovative fashion, delegates were asked to consider the question: “How can we stop businesses in the West Midlands innovating?”

Following a short brainstorming session, delegates were then asked to come up with solutions to ensure these scenarios do not happen.

Points raised during this exercise largely focussed around the themes of leadership, funding, infrastructure and skills. We are currently collating and reviewing the responses and will be continuing the debate very soon.

As well as the scenarios raised during the brainstorming, this interesting question was raised:

Is innovation good if it drives business growth but comes at the cost of employment?

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One Response

  1. On a similar note to the end discussion at the workshop, there’s an interesting post by NESTA’s Roland Harwood summarising eight simple ways to *not* succeed at open innovation:

    http://blogs.nesta.org.uk/connect/2009/11/8-simple-ways-not-to-succeed-at-open-innovation.html

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