What We Do How We Innovate Our People Articles Case Studies Contact Us Take the innovation health check
Innovation in the UK – the importance of inclusivity

Innovation in the UK – the importance of inclusivity

What is inclusive innovation?

Innovation should be open to all and, like recruitment, is seeing a much-needed shift towards diversity. This shift, happening in firms and businesses around the world, is not just about workforce inclusivity – but also about having diverse ideas in the workplace. At Groundswell, we’ve talked about the benefits that inclusivity can bring to businesses for a long time.

Inclusive innovation is about providing opportunities to talented individuals from underrepresented backgrounds and helping ensure that the rewards of growth are shared equitably. After identifying the barriers to access many people are faced with, a recent report commissioned by the UK Innovation Districts Group and Connected Places Catapult recommends how the innovation economy can be made more inclusive.

The UK IDG works to ensure that place-based innovation drives inclusive urban growth. Their co-commissioners, CPC, with the growth of innovation economies at their core, ‘have seen first-hand the deep pools of talent across the UK’s varied places’ and are steadfast advocates of building on the talent, skills, and ideas already present in places. Both these parties believe that, especially in this post-COVID climate, inclusive innovation – utilizing the varied talents and ideas of people from all backgrounds – can help ensure that the UK has one of the world’s most advanced and dynamic economies for years to come.

Nicola Yates (OBE Chief Executive Officer, CPC) expresses her certainty that “with inclusivity at the heart of innovation, we will enable the new ideas, enterprises, and prosperity that our places are capable of”.

So … why is inclusive innovation important?

Innovation underpins advancements in productivity. Innovative ‘knowledge spillovers’ from one firm to another increase productivity across an industry, creating new jobs in-house and in related parts of the economy.

Increasing the access that individuals from poor or marginalized backgrounds have to roles in the innovation economy, expanding the talent pool of future innovators, can increase innovation productivity and drive economic growth. Just as important, doing so helps create a fairer balance between underrepresented demographics and overrepresented counterparts.

A case study

Let’s take the BUILD business accelerator pilot in Leeds as an example since, like us, it’s in the north of England.

This pilot, managed by Nexus (located in the University of Leeds), supported early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups within innovation. The outcome of the twelve-week program was that participants turned their ideas, which were grounded in purpose and profit, into innovation-driven businesses that were investable. The consensus following the program was that it was an enormous success, demonstrating that making an effort to improve diversity and inclusion (at least in the Leeds enterprise ecosystem) can work in favour of the innovators and prosperity of a city.

The research

A successful inclusive innovation approach tends to have 3 key features:

  1. An intention to embed inclusion beyond market requirements.
    • Treating inclusion as a priority and an essential component of innovation
  2. Local engagement and tailoring.
    • Defining and understanding location and having objectives based on its unique characteristics and needs
  3. Going above and beyond to unlock additional opportunities.
    • Opening opportunities for parallel projects, investments, and interventions

What you can do

The report suggests that, if you are a private organisation, you can:

  • Model inclusion in all business operations through hiring and promotion practices
  • Commit financial and human resources to the development of innovative funding models, valuing and internalising social and environmental returns (alongside financial)
  • Reinvest and share the commercial and financial returns from successful innovation, at both fund-level and firm level, to create further inclusive and socially beneficial opportunities

With the understanding that implementing inclusive innovation can’t happen overnight, using these recommendations can be your starting point as you help lay the foundations for a future of more diverse ideas and increased productivity.

Key takeaway

Innovation districts often neighbour areas of deprivation, providing opportunities to harness the talents of individuals from diverse backgrounds; better utilisation of the skills of these individuals and their different perspectives and ideas can act as a catalyst for progress when ‘Levelling Up’ the UK.

Here at Groundswell Innovation, we believe in getting the right ideas to market faster and fitter for purpose. Being considerate of inclusive innovation can help you come up with more great ideas – we can help you get them out there.


The Report: Opening the Innovation Economy: the case for inclusive innovation in the UK

Written by: Kyle Kirnon, Groundswell Innovation

How is your innovation health?

Take the test