How entrepreneurs can reclaim UK innovation

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By  Martin Davidian, Managing Director Sales, UK West & Ireland at FedEx Express

The UK’s standing as a beacon of innovation excellence is currently beyond dispute, with the country achieving second place in the latest Global Innovation Index (GII)[1] and a recent increase in innovative businesses to 53%[2].While research has shown a slight discrepancy in the type of business which is renowned for innovation – 61% of larger businesses are considered to be innovative compared to 53% of smaller businesses[3], there are now just as many opportunities for small businesses to develop game-changing technologies and products capable of having global impact.

Often seen as a catch-all term, innovation encompasses things like cutting-edge technology and product design. But ultimately it is about seeing the market in a different way from the competition, continually reviewing performance and customer needs to make sure that the business is not missing a trick. Particularly in today’s digital economy, where consumers demand instantaneous access to products and services, innovation has every right to restate its claim as the driving force behind small and medium-sized enterprises.

At FedEx, we work closely with a number of thriving SMEs to help them realise their global ambition, and we are often inspired by their spirit of innovation. Whether running as a successful SME or one that’s just starting out, we’ve put together the below tips to help a variety of businesses to reclaim innovation.

  • Don’t be afraid to think differently and start something new

From working with a number SMEs, we’ve learned that they don’t necessarily need to be a big company to create something new. For example, Snugs Earphones, a small business founded in 2013 was one of the first to use 3D image scanners in the consumer market[4].

  • Take the plunge and go global

The world has indeed become a much smaller place allowing businesses to truly realise the benefits of exporting. This can include building up the prestige of your brand and tapping into unexploited economies such as in the APAC regions.

Developing markets are after all where businesses can find the fastest growth and if exporting ambitions aren’t realised then companies are missing out. A recent survey found that risk aversion at the top is holding the UK back by as much as £64 billion a year[5]. UK businesses can be supported by the wider European SME community to help them take this plunge.

  • Adopt a personalised approach

It’s often said that knowledge is power and that has become even more apparent today. The economy has moved away from one of heavy industry to one of knowledge. There has been a surge in high-quality and personalised products, with one in three customers saying that they want a product different from the rest[6].

Paul Jobin, Founder of Snugs Earphones has successfully capitalised on this demand for personalisation, crafting an individualised product with biometric 3D scanning for a growing customer base. This shows that by staying abreast of the latest technological developments, and aligning this with more demand for personalisation, businesses can take advantage of a boost in revenues and customer loyalty.

  • Customer feedback can help you innovate

There is a tendency to see innovation just focused on a specific product, when actually there is scope for it to exist in all facets of the business, driving innovative practices even further. Ambitious smaller businesses are for example pioneering the use of social media to interact and innovate with their customers and with good reason – 33% of millennials identify social media as one of their preferred channels for communicating with businesses[7].

By remaining finely tuned to the customer feedback on social media, businesses can react to customers quickly, maximising the potential to develop new products and innovate.

Innovation is just the beginning of a journey

Innovation can certainly be a platform to further growth, with increased sales and more international markets being entered into. Whilst it’s fair to say that there is a lot of untapped innovative potential out there within the small business community, small businesses can easily build up their confidence by learning from innovative peers and collaborating with larger firms who are clearly tied to the SME community.

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[1] Global Innovation Index, 2017
[2] Nesta 2017
[3] Nesta 2017
[4] Smarta.com, 2017
[5] PA Consulting 2017
[6] Deloitte. 2017
[7] Idea Drop, 2017