This month I get to sit on the Northern Power Women judging panel for the category that I feel most strongly about – inclusive innovation.
Congratulations again, to Claire Buckle and Ability Consultancy – last year’s winner of the award, and to the 2023 shortlisted candidates such as EY’s Neurodiverse Centre of Excellence, Lisa Edge‘s GB Shared Ltd, Fund Her North (we were at their 3rd birthday party recently – see the photo above!), Financielle, YZen.ai, OnSide Youth Zones, the Multicultural Network United Utilities, BioGrad, and ORCHA. Quite an illustrious list, though I’m confident we will see submissions that are just as strong this year.
As a category, inclusive innovation tends to get caught up in a bunfight over definitions. Though really, this is just a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal.
What’s the difference between mainstream innovation and the inclusive kind?
In a word, funding.
Brand-new-to-world research draws strong interest, as it should, from private and public funders. The inclusive variety, which often seeks to work with existing ideas but adapt them to the needs of underserved groups, not so much.
If there is a ‘hotspot’ and a ‘notspot’ in the world of innovation, then companies and projects focused on social impact as well as profit are definitely in the latter category.
This is the current reality of UK investment into inclusive innovation, as outlined within Connected Places Catapult research that Groundswell Innovation completed earlier this year.
The funding disconnect means that tragically, many outstanding projects that have strong economic potential do not gain the profile or the investment that would enable them to maximise long-term social value creation.
It’s time that more people woke up to the fact that:
Inclusive Innovation = Financial Returns + Benefits For Society
It’s your standard BOGOF deal.
So the more that campaigns like the Northern Power Women Awards highlight commercially strong initiatives that are ALSO solving a problem in society, the better off we will all be.