Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI), hosted their largest ever Cornwall Innovation Club at the Alverton in Truro, 14th November. Eighty businesses registered to listen to specialists from within the digital-tech sector, who shared their knowledge and expertise in relation to the ‘Collaboration for Innovation’ theme.
Kicking-off the expert knowledge sharing sessions was Wo King, Founder of Hi9 and Director of the South West Internet of Things Network (SWIN). He started by sharing his honest account of the recession (2008), explaining how it forced him to innovate and led him to form Hi9, a Cornish tech business which specialises in creating voice user interfaces with smart speakers and chat bots (such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home Hubs).
When “working on the edge” creating voice user interfaces, King highlights the importance of inclusivity and diversity in his workforce. He described how he deliberately works with different people; people with new skills, new voices and that think a different way to those that already exist in the business. Hi9 employs developers (obviously), but when designing engaging voice-activated experiences for diverse audiences there’s a need for creatives, linguists, writers, psychologists, actors, and even comedians, within the highly collaborative design and innovation process.
King also spoke of collaboration in terms of partners and supporters that can give new businesses a step-up along the way. Take the formation of SWIN, his latest venture, where a mixture of influential partners, Universities and support programmes have helped him throughout his journey so far. To be the first to establish an Internet of Things (IoT) network in the South West (SWIN) meant that speed and agility were paramount. “Do it the Cornish way” and “let’s work together”, he says, because it is important to get it done before barriers to innovation emerge and begin to prevent our progress.
Our second speaker, Belinda Waldock, Author of Being Agile in Business and Co-Founder of Software Cornwall, shared her thoughts about innovation, collaboration and complexity in business – all of which benefit from an agile approach, she says.
“Responding to change rather than carrying on with the plan” is critical when innovating and collaborating, explains Waldock. Often, there is an element of the ‘unknown’ when solving complex problems or pursuing something that has never been done before. Unimaginable obstacles can pop up which cause you to deviate from your original plan, therefore, an “adaptive approach” is necessary to test ideas and make a decision whether to “pivot or persevere with the project” she says.
Waldock also emphasised how creating a “safe space” for collaboration ensures that ideas are not stifled. Innovation, also referred to as “magic”, happens outside of your comfort zone and, therefore, by its very nature is uncomfortable. For this reason, businesses that want to innovate must create a culture of openness and trust, form safe spaces to fail and safe spaces for employees to challenge the status quo. Thereby “enabling and empowering” its people to take risks, think for themselves, pursue new ideas and experience valuable lessons regardless of whether those ideas succeed or fail.
What’s more, as the theme for the morning was ‘collaboration’, ATI also opened up the floor to attendees that wanted to participate in their ‘Speed Pitching’ exercise. Thirteen businesses bravely pitched their offering in 90 seconds, with the view to maximise their opportunity of meeting and collaborating with new acquaintances in the room.
The bi-monthly Cornwall Innovation Club is just one of the ways in which ATI are bringing Cornish businesses together and encouraging valuable partnership throughout Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. Since relaunching the event as a members club in Spring 2019, the Cornwall Innovation Club has grown to 120+ registered business members. Membership is complimentary for Cornish businesses, thanks to funding support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
This particular breakfast and networking event surpassed organisers’ expectations after rapidly running out of seats. Subsequently, ATI’s events team decided to scale up the event and occupy the Alverton’s largest room, the Great Hall, to ensure that as many as possible of its active members could attend the morning.
The next Cornwall Innovation Club is all set for Bude (16 January) and titled ‘What the Future looks like’. Guest speakers from Cleaner Seas Group and Cornish Lithium will attend to add their views on what the future looks like within their respective sectors: sustainable marine and lithium mining. To register for this event or to find out more about the club, follow this link.
ATI is a project led by the University of Plymouth, funded by ERDF and supports small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by helping them to realise their aspirations for innovation, and/or bring new products, services and processes to market. Visit www.aticornwallinnovation.co.uk for more information.
Missed this event? Download the PDF PowerPoint presentations here: