An article in the Financial Times on Monday (7thJune) reviewed the latest NESTA report on the importance of high technology and innovation in economic growth. A couple of observations I have based on experience and indeed research we have conducted ourselves. Firstly, the UK has seen a significant amount of cash being poured into incubators over the past ten years – these are purpose built offices that nurture the growth of knowledge based companies. In certain areas these places have become a hot bed for new entrepreneurial talent in others they have bombed. High technology entrepreneurs by very nature of their being have sound functional skills but all too often they lack what I call customer connectivity – in other words they struggle with selling! If high technology is to be a route to economic growth then either the entrepreneur or someone in the team needs to be able to sell – this is a void I see so often – the resultant effect is that companies stand still and fail to move on at the pace they should be doing. NESTA need to bear this is mind when they push out their strategy pieces – high technology by itself without customer connectivity is a waste of time – that’s why so much of university IP ends up sitting on the shelf
Second point is that traditional and longstanding companies can be high growth not just start ups– they can reinvent and do things differently – some embrace technology others form partnerships and lots focus on building their brands!
The process of building a “Fusion mindset” is vital – connecting unconnected areas to create a new customer experience. Here are some examples:
- Lucazade the dying brand in the 80’s reinvented from medicinal to sports drinks – they fused the personality of Daley Thompson Olympic gold medal winner to their new isotonic drink
- Innocent drinks – built a high growth business on their brand and personality (nothing new about drinks in a carton)
- Liptons tea partnered with Pepsico to create canned iced tea
- Fit.me – fused fashion retailing to bio robotics and created an online fitting room experience
High technology in its own right won’t do the job – it’s the application. This must be supported by passion, drive, great sales and marketing, strong leadership and discipline. This is what gets the result!