Finding the winning formula for successful innovation

Posted on: 05/11/2016

Last week, Innovate UK recognised five of the UK’s most innovative small and medium-sized companies as part of the Innovate UK SME Innovation Awards.

Finding the winning formula for successful innovation

By Liliya Serazetdinova

Last week, Innovate UK recognised five of the UK’s most innovative small and medium-sized companies as part of the Innovate UK SME Innovation Awards 2016. It was part of a journey that often starts with KTN: we work with many innovative companies across all business sectors and technology areas, helping them through their business cycle to achieve success.

It is interesting to consider what made those SMEs successful; how they have achieved a real impact on people’s lives, and how they have helped to grow the UK economy. These stories could inspire many other companies to achieve their potential.

Innovation can take many different shapes and forms – enabling companies to grow new markets, transform their business model, improve productivity, or save resources. Each of the shortlisted companies achieved their success in a different way, but what do they have in common? Their technologies address large markets, deliver solutions that have a positive impact on the environment, and help their supply chains to become more productive and efficient.

These businesses achieved this by working in partnership with other companies, academic organisations, sector specialists, and funding bodies. These relationships and partnership helped them to develop, prove, and scale up their technologies.

Many of the shortlisted companies received support from KTN, including the horticultural business Saturn Bioponics, the winner in the “Innovation leading to productivity improvement” category.

We advised Saturn Bioponics on the most suitable funding schemes and guided them through the application process. By helping them to navigate a complicated landscape of funding opportunities and find alignment with the right schemes, there was less time wasted and a greater chance of success.

Engaging with government bodies and funders early in the commercialisation, and understanding what impact they are looking to achieve from public investment, is very important – but so, too, is having a “critical friend” or a “sounding board” to run through your project ideas.

Those that are most successful at commercialising innovation usually have a technology that can provide a solution to significant problems or challenges,which is scaleable, and can be adapted to different applications.


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Saturn Bioponics has developed a new modular 3D system that can grow leafy salad, vegetable, herb and soft fruit crops in layers and grow them faster. As well as increasing crop density, this makes cultivating and harvesting cleaner and easier, reducing labour costs and resource inputs, whilst producing almost 100% saleable yield.

Saturn Bioponics has very successfully negotiated the funding pipeline in order to win a series of linked projects, each contributing to their eventual goal of commercialisation of the three-dimensional growing system.

It is this sort of dedication and commitment – a willing to be daring, and to grow to meet customer need – that marks out those best able to move forward in the innovation landscape.

Hopefully, the success and the journey of Saturn Bioponics will inspire many other innovative SMEs who will make use of the winning formula for successful innovation that drives the UK economy.

Liliya Serazetdinova is the Knowledge Transfer Manager for Plants and Crops.


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