Collaborative Partners: Sheffield Hallam University, Gripple, Technophobia and Creative Sheffield.
Collaboration Type: Innovation propagation
Cost/ Funding: approximately £1,200 plus in-kind contributions of the partners
Summary: An innovation themed case study. The Accelerated Innovation Workshop is a product of university – business collaboration aimed at encouraging and developing innovation with local businesses.
The Accelerated Innovation Workshops were born out of an idea: how to demonstrate to businesses that thinking differently about products, services and customers can be of benefit to them.
The workshops are the result of a four-way collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University, two local businesses Gripple and Technophobia, and Creative Sheffield. But why did these four organisations agree to collaborate on this project and what do they get out of it?
“The original objective was to find a different approach to just standing up and telling a story about innovation. We wanted to get local businesses actively learning about innovation and to give them the tools to do it themselves.” Gordon Macrae
“This is an unusual university-business collaboration,” says Alex Prince of Innovation Futures, Sheffield Hallam University’s business interface. “It is not directly about research or generating additional income, but something much more intangible, yet incredibly valuable. Innovation is absolutely central to the future prosperity of our region. Helping to facilitate and encourage innovation both internally and externally is of interest to and will ultimately benefit all of the partners involved.”
The workshops were designed with the explicit purpose of getting more Sheffield companies thinking about innovation and exposed to a range of innovation techniques. Gordon Macrae, from the engineering firm, Gripple, a company with an ethos of constant innovation, explains: “The original objective was to find a different approach to just standing up and telling a story about innovation. We wanted to get local businesses actively learning about innovation and to give them the tools to do it themselves.”
Led by the University, the four organisations came together and developed over a 10-week period the first workshop. The innovation workshop format is to spend a day developing an idea from concept to physical prototype, using profiling, storyboarding, brainstorming and user-observation to ensure as many aspects of the development were thought through as possible. To make this easier, the subject of the idea is pre-defined by the participants through voting. For the first workshop this was the simple, ubiquitous shopping trolley.
Colin Burns, a Professor of Innovation at Dundee University, presented and facilitated the first workshops. Each business sent two people along to help them both feel at ease and to provide learning support for one another once they returned to work. There have since been two more similar workshops, with a total of more than 40 participants from 19 businesses taking part.
Chris Dymond, Associate Digital Innovation Specialist for Technophobia, a web-technology consultancy, admits that for an SME rationalising involvement in a project like this was not easy. “It can be difficult for a consultancy, which effectively sells time and expertise, to see what it can get out of something like this. It helped that costs for the workshop were minimal; Gripple supplied the venue and we all gave our time for free.”
Chris regarded the workshops as an opportunity to develop staff and raise the company’s profile as an innovation leader. It allowed the company to expose members of their sales, design and implementation teams to ideas and practices they could later apply. Each workshop also resulted in blog posts that helped signal Technophobia’s credibility as an innovative technology partner to prospective clients.
“What we have created is a network of people and businesses that understand innovation and are now free to talk about it. We have created a piece of city infrastructure that is practical, innovating and tackling real problems.” Alex Prince
The success of the workshops and enthusiasm of participants has led the four partners to look at how to maintain the momentum and to get more businesses involved. They have developed a two- hour ‘Speed Innovation’ session that was run as part of Sheffield’s MADE2012 Festival fringe. They have also established the Sheffield Innovation Network, a network for people that have attended the workshops. It offers a confidential forum to which businesses can bring real problems and seek innovative solutions from their peers. The network is now on to its third meeting and is going from strength to strength.
The workshops have proved a catalyst for innovation. “What we have created is a network of people and businesses that understand innovation and are now free to talk about it. We have created a piece of city infrastructure that is practical, innovating and tackling real problems.” says Alex.
For further information:
Director, Innovation Futures
Sheffield Hallam University
Tel: 0114 225 5000
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