The UK Government’s Connected Places Catapult teams are big fans of inclusive innovation. They plan to make sure that entrepreneurs from all walks of life receive the support they need to scale up, and that ideas tackling all kinds of societal problems, flourish.
After all – we’re not so overflowing in UK GDP that we can afford to overlook whole swathes of ideas, productivity and revenue growth, just because they are all being created by people who don’t look, sound or act quite like the kind of people who usually receive innovation funding.
Whilst most savvy business types will accept the concept that diversity – of background, ideas, working style – is a good thing for boosting company growth prospects, a disconnect continues to exist between the need for growth funds and the funders willing to back people who don’t walk, talk and look just like them.
That’s why, earlier in the early part of 2023, Connected Places Catapult commissioned Groundswell to examine the UK investment landscape around inclusive innovation a bit more closely.
This is what we found:
- Inclusive innovation funding in the UK appears to be much more accessible now than it was say 10-15 years ago.
- Change has been driven by factors such as procurement processes pushing for evidence of social value and the recognition from civic bodies that more can and must be done by them to address increasing levels of social and geographical inequality.
- Social shocks such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have also encouraged wider thinking about diversity and inclusion, and its relationship to innovation.
- Even so, very few Accelerator schemes are focused on inclusivity. Those who do mention inclusivity, generally focus on more commonly discussed areas such as gender and race. There is a sense that such conversations are often designed as marketing campaigns rather than deep-rooted principles guiding choice and action.
- Some funders have, however, understood the fact that inclusive innovation can generate growth. The ‘win-win’ nature of such projects is seen as a strong positive for funders whose vision incorporates values-based decision-making as well as financial gain.
For most inclusive innovators, a gulf still exists between scale-up plans and the funds to achieve them. This gulf is made up of layers such as:
- A lack of shared vocabulary and low understanding of terminology sought out as ‘keywords’ by funders.
- Funding application and procurement processes that are perceived as off-putting and time-intensive by potential applicants. This is particularly poignant in traditional pitching events but also relates to application deadlines and focus areas not fitting innovator need or agenda.
- A lack of role models or similar case studies, visible to project leaders seeking funding.
- Little or no point of intersection between networks of funding contacts and would-be applicants.
- Metrics that remain centred on increased employment (skills agenda) and economic growth and otherwise vague, around areas such as qualitative social value gains.
If you would like to hear more about our work or discuss how we can help you innovate in your business, get in touch.