Three types of innovation explained

Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is responsible for encouraging innovation within the region, with the aim of building a more productive economy and creating more and better jobs. Here, he outlines the three main ways businesses can apply innovation to what they do.

The simplest way to define innovation is that it’s positive change.

All business innovation is about increasing your competitive advantage, whether it’s a change that you make to your products or services, to processes within the business, or to the business model. Positive change makes your business more efficient, more productive, and more competitive in the marketplace.

Here’s more on three areas where you can innovate within your business:

Product innovation

We see product innovation every day. There are always new products coming to market, whether it’s a form of wearable technology like smart watches that monitor our temperature and oxygen levels, or swimwear that warns us when we’ve had too much sun exposure.

Sometimes these new products are driven by consumer demand, and sometimes it can be due to outside forces, like the COVID pandemic, or the push to reduce carbon emissions – the rise in consumers’ awareness around Net Zero is contributing to innovation in the field of electric vehicles, with manufacturers working to develop batteries that will allow for longer journeys, as people move away from fossil fuels.

The world never stands still. Things are constantly changing, and there’s a constant demand for new products.

Process innovation

Process innovation is about changing the way you make a product or deliver a service, or improving processes in other areas of your business, like finance or administration.  

For example, it could involve making a change that reduces the time it takes to make a product, or enables you to manufacture more items at once. Or it could be a change that allows you to create a product at a lower cost – like using a new material, or investing in software that reduces wastage, like this North East print business did.

Business model innovation

Many companies’ business models are changing rapidly at the moment due to new technology and also due to the pandemic affecting how we work.

For example, for businesses that relied on selling their products via physical retailers, COVID has disrupted their business model and meant they’ve had to adapt to selling online, or through channels like home delivery.

Business model innovation may be more common in some sectors than others, and all businesses will have different pressure points which push them to make changes, but ultimately, if a business is not open to innovation then it’s in danger of falling behind.

Find more tools to help you embed innovation in your business in the North East Growth Hub innovation toolkit.