Around the globe, big corporates are increasingly looking at new ways to 'become more innovative'. Approaches range from hiring an in-house innovation team to interrogate internal processes, to outsourcing it entirely via a hack or challenge event.
While this is encouraging to see, the main challenge lies not in resourcing a company's innovation, but in changing the mindset of the entire organisation. And this is exactly why the North East has been at the forefront of open innovation for the last few years. The North East embodies all the key drivers for successful innovation, in organisations large and small:
A strong SME and startup community
For innovation to thrive at a corporate level, an area needs an established startup ecosystem. Startups by their nature have to innovate - without big budgets and track records they cannot rely on processes or 'the way things have always been done', regardless of what sector they're in. Not only does a thriving startup community create a general buzz around disruption and innovation (which corporates do take note of) but it also provides big businesses with a local, ready-made 'innovation supply chain' to tap into.
The North East has a long history of being a driving force in industry and although our traditional industries (shipbuilding etc) may have vanished, their legacy hasn't. You only have to look at the areas that are being developed at the moment, such as Stephenson Quarter, to see the enduring impact of former industry leaders. And we have historical buildings like the Lit & Phil and Mining Institute that remind us where we've come from, while playing a role in where we're going.
The inherited skills, drive and inspiration that our history gives us, feeds directly into our ability to become world leaders for the current industrial revolution - Industry 4.0.
On just about any scale that you use to compare the North East to the rest of the UK, we come across poorly:- public money spent per head, employment stats, impact of recent company closures (SSI, Carillion). But rather than complain about 'being forgotten' by the rest of the UK, we need to recognise that from adversity comes growth.
When everything goes well (personally or professionally) it is easy to become complacent, and complacency is the enemy of innovation. The North East has a reputation (one I'm personally quite fond of) of being a little bit scrappy. We'll go up against the big boys and even if we don't win, we give it a good shot. Whether it's public service reform, bootstrapping a business because funding is unavailable, or challenging 'the way things have always been done' - here in the North East we already have the right mindset to affect change.
And that's why we're going to thrive during the Digital Revolution.
Done right, these partnerships can mean big rewards and benefits for both parties. Startups can reap the benefits of scale, distribution and financial resources that corporates can bring, and such partnerships can add credibility too. Corporates can innovate more quickly and cheaply by partnering with startups.