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Five tips from industry leaders to keep innovation on the agenda

First published by SmartCompany on 27 May 2020 as “I’ve had to unpick every part of the business”: Tips from industry leaders to keep innovation on the agenda

COVID-19 has brought about not only a health crisis, but a significant economic and financial challenge too. We’ve heard some heartbreaking and difficult stories. But we’ve also heard amazing and inspiring stories of innovation: businesses pivoting into new spaces and retooling to meet the demands of this new environment.

Brett Savill, CEO of Quantify Technology, maintains that innovators must forge ahead and stay nimble.

“The only way that we can thrive is if we innovate,” says Savill.

Here are some pointers from leaders across a range of industries on how you can keep innovation on the agenda.

1. Know the value of human capital

Lauren Barber, founder of NeedleCalm, was just a few weeks from market release when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“I’ve had to unpick every part of the business to try and save money

“Obviously I could consider cutting down staff. I run off nothing anyway, out of a home office.”

But Barber made the decision to keep her team close.

“It’s more important to keep my team together.

“If I did fire someone it would take six months to replace them and train someone new.”

Consider whether staff stand downs and redundancies will actually cost more over time.

2. Investigate alternative finance options

Cameron Owens, CEO of Radium Capital, says alternative finance solutions such as R&D finance are taking centre stage right now.

“Some traditional forms of finance are not as available as they once were,” says Owens.

“We’re seeing people gravitating towards alternative capital to help them continue doing R&D.”

James Graham, executive director of Recce Pharmaceuticals, is a proponent of R&D finance.

“By taking a short-term loan, only tied to future R&D refunds from the government, we not only boost our share price, but deliver on more objectives,” says Graham.

“We’ve completed that strategy about three times over the last three years… It works as a capital solution.

“You’ve got to think differently.”

3. Hone in on your business purpose

“Don’t see COVID as a marketing opportunity.”

Sound advice from Melanie Wiese, Chief Strategy Officer at Meerkats The Brand Leadership Company.

“It’s a context in which you can better serve your customers in a genuine time of need. But you need to follow your business purpose, rather than noticing a market gap and wedging your product through it.

“Because this time will end, and you’ll be left with something nobody wants and you don’t want either.”

Now is not the time to forget why you started your business in the first place, and what makes it unique.

4. Protect your workplace culture

“Making sure the cultural effect on your business doesn’t outlast isolation is really important,” says Wiese.

Building a culture of innovation is a delicate process. Don’t let the shift to working from home undo your work.

We’re seeing people gravitating towards alternative capital to help them continue doing R&D.

“Innovation is as much about peoples’ motivation to go forth, take risks and do new things and your ability to support it, as it is about your financial ability to invest in that.”

Wiese recommends “understanding the headspace” your employees are in, and developing a strategy to maintain a culture of initiative.

5. A deeper understanding of your customer

Any innovation your business undertakes during this time should be aligned with your customers’ needs.

“Check in with an audience that you haven’t surveyed before. It’s really important to understand your market and how it’s shifting beneath you,” says Wiese.

Wiese also suggests considering what other applications your product might have, and asking, “how can you extend your existing capabilities?”

Reach out and explore your customers’ needs rather than jumping straight on the pivot bandwagon.

Interested in R&D financing? Apply today and find out how a Radium Advance could help your business.

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