Industry News

Innovation hubs – more than just drawing on a wall

Realm Digital 16 August 2022

Innovation is often essential for businesses to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. By constantly introducing new ideas and products, companies can stay ahead of the curve and keep their customers interested and engaged. There are a number of ways to foster innovation in your business, and in this article, we will be focusing on innovation hubs, their importance, and how to set yourself up for success. 

Innovation hubs are popping up all over the world as organisations seek to tap into the power of collaboration and creativity. These hubs provide a space for people to come together to share ideas, work on projects, and build new businesses.

Types of innovation hubs

An incubator is a type of support system for startups and early-stage businesses. They typically provide workspaces, mentorship, resources, and access to funding. The goal is to help these businesses thrive and eventually become self-sufficient.

Company accelerators or incubators are types of open innovation hubs focused on strengthening a company or the incubation of a startup. The goal is to help these businesses thrive and eventually become self-sufficient. The balance of this type of innovation hub is managing the perceived company goals/mandates, and whether the appetite is truly there for disruptive innovation. 

Another form of innovation hubs are based on a partnership model, typically allowing companies to combine resources and talent. The partnership model has been quite successful, especially in companies offering complimentary services to gain more of a stake within the value chain for consumers. Innovation hubs with partnerships between universities and companies have been running for some time and have various success stories. The University of Stellenbosch has seen a few startups within the agricultural sector take flight by marrying technology and farming techniques. The upside is not only a successful partnership but an effective way to create mentorship and jobs for graduates.

Hackathons often partner with businesses in order to provide participants with real-world challenges to work on. These partnerships can be beneficial for both parties. Businesses are able to generate new and innovative ideas, and participants are able to gain valuable experience. Businesses may also offer prizes for the best ideas or solutions that emerge from these hackathons. This provides an incentive for participants to actively brainstorm new and innovative solutions to various challenges, as they could potentially win a cash prize or other type of award.

Why are innovation hubs important?

Innovation hubs are important because they foster innovation and entrepreneurship. By bringing together a diverse group of people with different skill sets and perspectives, innovation hubs create an environment where new ideas can flourish. With the right mix of people and resources, innovation hubs can be a hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurship.

Innovation hubs provide the perfect platform for shaping ideas and providing go-to-market solutions. Organisations that create innovation hubs have the ability to mobilise innovation initiatives quickly. This can optimise the time taken to create new opportunities for their end users and themselves. 

Common mistakes

An innovation hub is about more than having great coffee, writing on the walls, and being “edgy”. Too many organisations get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the process of idea generation that they fail to understand the core proposals need to be sustainable, real and implementable. 

What’s the purpose of having beautiful pictures and amazing sketches without the actual ability to implement them? The age-old saying “innovation is ideas implemented” comes to mind and, unfortunately, lots of great business ideas never materialise directly as a result of this. 

Lack of direction and structure

Another common mistake is not having a clear direction, structure, purpose or goal when running innovation hubs. This might sound counterintuitive, but innovation needs to have structure and direction to really be impactful. This allows for adding real value and allowing increased quality of implementable ideas materialising. 

Lack of tangible measurements

Without having tangible measures in place from the beginning, it becomes difficult to track progress and show value. This could lead to stagnation and, eventually, to the collapse of the innovation hub altogether.

Limited skill set to execute

Many innovation hub initiatives are led by people who are not directly responsible for the execution of the ideas proposed. This can be a recipe for disaster as execution sits in the hands of team members without the required skill set, resources and bandwidth to actually make the idea a reality.

How to create effective innovation hubs

There are a few key things to keep in mind when creating an effective innovation hub:

  • Define the purpose and goal/s of the innovation hub
  • Create a structure and framework for the innovation hub that will allow for new ideas to be generated and implemented
  • Ensure the team leading the innovation hub has the necessary skill set and resources to execute new ideas
  • Select a diverse group of people with different skill sets and perspectives to participate in the innovation hub
  • Foster an environment of creativity and collaboration
  • Measure progress and show value through tangible metrics
  • Have the development capability to assist with rapid prototyping – vital to the transformation of ideas into minimal viable products

Let’s chat 

We offer a wide range of technology solutions, from identifying ideas to developing MVPs, that are perfect for driving innovation in your organisation. If you are looking to set up your innovation hub, or collaborate with us in bringing your ideas to life, let’s chat.