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Dharma Nurse, Senior Innovation Development Manager for Innovation, examines the critical role of a catalyst that connects SMEs with the players that can help them complete the product development cycle. 

Greater Manchester’s innovation eco-system brings to mind a chess set: there are many pieces on the board, serving different purposes and working in different ways, but needing to combine effectively in order to ‘win’.

These ‘pieces’ include the national government and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, who steer the direction through policy decisions, such as the allocation of funding for businesses and communities.

There’s also the research and technology organisations and universities, whose facilities and knowledge transfer shape the future.

Added to this are a cluster of supporting services, including venture capital and angel funds to provide financial support for projects, as well as legal advisors and accountants to handle issues related to intellectual property and tax credits.

And, finally, the business community – from large corporations to SMEs – with the ambition to seize market opportunities with innovative product ideas.

Like in chess, these different elements might have their own separate functions, but they all contribute to achieving the ‘win’ of commercialising products and services. 

Going from ideation to commercialisation can be a complicated process, and to ensure every block in the eco-system complements each other there needs to be a connector that aligns the various players.

This is where the GM Business Growth Hub comes in. We join up the local support available in Greater Manchester, as well as that which is offered nationally, to make it easy for SMEs to get the help they need. And we’re more approachable than a chess grandmaster!

Bridging the gap to accelerate your product innovation

Due to their proximity to the market and consumer, the business community (be it major corporations or SMEs) is always the most recognisable source of innovative product ideas. Sometimes, an innovative product idea will help open up a niche market that satisfies a customer need and generates a revenue.  Other times, a minor tweak in the manufacturing process will reduce a substantial portion of production costs and enhance competitiveness.

It is always a significant challenge for a business to complete the product development cycle single-handedly. Insufficient finance and technical know-how are two major factors that can hinder a company from realising its idea into an actual product – and this is especially true for SMEs.

Business leaders at small or medium-sized companies might not even know that the other building blocks in the eco-system can assist them in product development, be it financial or technical support that’s needed.

However, on the flip side, it is often challenging for the likes of funders or universities to provide support for businesses around the product development cycle. Not only can it be tough for them to find who in the business community actually needs – and can benefit from – their funding or expertise, but it’s also not particularly easy for them to gauge the likelihood of the innovative idea being realised into an actual product.

With such hurdles, financial institutions and universities tend to be risk-aversive, especially when the business is an SME.

At GM Business Growth Hub, we have the right connections to bridge the gap between the business community, financial institutions and universities. Since 2011, we’ve supported more than 15,000 businesses – this hands-on experience and our strong links with the universities, and numerous other business-supporting organisations, gives us an unrivalled understanding of the needs of the SME community in Greater Manchester.

Extensive experience in various product development journeys means our innovation specialists can gauge the success rate of an idea, through direct contact and coaching with the business. Equally, we can provide a good reference for financial institutions and universities looking to choose a partner for collaboration. We also play the role of a communicator, conveying information and aligning actions of each party in the journey.

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