Tag Archives: Innovation

Tech City Croydon: London’s Fastest Growing Tech Cluster

LONDON is a major innovation centre and for a number of years Tech City (aka Silicon Roundabout) has been the dominant London Tech Cluster. With rising prices and increased competition for office space in Shoreditch, tech and media start-ups are being attracted south. Croydon in South London is rolling our superfast broadband and offering tax incentives to tech entrepreneurs. Tech City Croydon is now the fastest growing Tech Cluster in London.

The Croydon Flyover with a slip road heading u...
The Croydon Flyover with a slip road heading up to it from a roundabout with Old Town, Croydon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tech Cluster Competitors: Tech City and Tech City Croydon

According to the Office of National Statistics Business Register and Employment survey of 2012, 185 Tech and Media businesses employing some 1385 staff have been established in Croydon city centre. Croydon was in the news for all the wrong reasons during the London riots in the summer of 2011. As a result of the unrest it was reported that major employers might leave the area. Croydon Council is investing billions in the redevelopment of the city centre and this is paying dividends.

Building High-Tech Clusters

Councillor Vidhi Mohan a Cabinet Member of the Communities and Economic Development at Croydon Council, said: “The growth of the TMT sector in Croydon has been spurred on by the council’s £3.5 billion investment in the city centre, including 28 new parks and public spaces and major improvements in and around East & West Croydon stations.”

In its 2011-13 report on “UK Business: Activity, Size and Location”, the Office of National Statistics highlighted an overall growth rate of 23% in Croydon compared with 17.1% across London and a UK average of 11.3%. A further £1.5bn investment by Hammerson and Westfield under the Croydon Partnership is planned.

Tech Cluster Incentives

The Croydon Tech Cluster could further Croydon’s economic revival and bring substantial innovation and high-tech, high-value jobs to the area.

Croydon is offering a 100% business rate discount scheme, the eligibility criteria of which are:

Your business must:

  • Take premises with a rateable value of £12,500 or more;
  • Have less than 250 employees and £40m turnover;
  • Have been trading for a minimum of one year;
  • Take out a minimum one year lease;
  • Have not already received public financial assistance, or, if it has, then it must have been less than €200,000 or £130,000 within the last three years (the State Aid ‘de minimis’ threshold);
  • Have a minimum occupancy rate of one staff member per 12 sq metres (however, this could be less in exceptional circumstances).

Jonny Rose, founder of Croydon Tech City, said: “Initiatives like Free For A Year are a boon to our vibrant tech cluster in Croydon Tech City. It’s an incredible opportunity for early-stage tech start-ups who are finding themselves priced out of East London to get accessible and accommodating office space without having to worry about cost.”

The Shoreditch Tech Cluster in East London is unlikely to experience immediate pressure from Tech City Croydon. Shoreditch enjoys funding from central government and benefits from an established ‘tech city chic’. It also boasts significant surrounding infrastructure and the presence of academia, large corporations and London’s financial centre.

Clusters of Creativity: Enduring Lessons on Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Silicon Valley and Europe’s Silicon Fen

Affordable office space in London is a major issue and cheaper pricing in Croydon will be a major decision point for new start-ups. Central Government, London boroughs and Smart City planners must grapple with real-estate prices if urban tech clusters are to be sustainable. Tech clusters may become ‘nomadic’, popping up in under-developed urban centres, helping to drive economic growth and moving on when office space becomes cost prohibitive. This might appear fickle, but it has helped move Shoreditch up the social-economic ladder, and it looks likely to do the same in Croydon.

Smart Boroughs in London should be courting tech companies and providing more incentives for entrepreneurs. Tech City in East London has had the lion’s share of central government funding, but there is a strong argument for greater ‘localisation and democratisation’ of funding and support.

Books about Tech Clusters and Smart Cities

12 Principles for Successful Innovation

Successful innovation is not based on luck. It is based on ingenuity, engagement, creativity, delivery and sponsorship. When setting up your innovation function, what principles should you use and why?

Innovation (Photo credit: MeoplesMagazine)

Here are 12 principles I find invaluable in client situations:

1. ‘Challenge led’ and linked to strategic goals

  • Make Sure that: You are focused on solving specific business or technological challenges in the near to medium term and are guided by business and IT strategy.
  • Because: Unstructured or unguided approach quickly loses focus, funding and business sponsorship.
  • Which means that: Business and technological challenges must be identified and prioritised. A forum, steering group, special interest groups and workshops should be used to develop ideas and possible solutions.
  • And in practice: Allow disruptive thinking to challenge, stretch and break established strategy. Innovation should be focused, but not overly constrained.

The Innovation Expedition: A Visual Toolkit

2. Customer centric

  • Make Sure that: Innovation is focused on customer demands, problems, desires. The customer may be an internal stakeholder or department, a partner or supplier or consumer. Focus on their delight.
  • Because: Customer focus helps maintain a sharp commercial edge.
  • Which means that: Understanding customer segments, demographics, desires, requirements and frustrations is essential. Engage customers and encourage them to participate in generating ideas and creating new products and services.
  • And in practice: Set up focus groups, market testing, prototyping. Use competitions to engage end users. Understand your competitor’s customers and why they like and buy their products and services.

3. Innovation is ‘unconstrained’

  • Make Sure that: Legal and regulatory constraints are respected. Treat other constraints as optional and effectively ‘self-imposed’.
  • Because: Innovation breathes the oxygen of freedom.
  • Which means that: Unnecessary process, policy and governance will stifle or derail your initiatives.
  • And in practice: Under-regulation is better than over-regulation.

4. Open and democratised

  • Make Sure that: Joy’s Law (“not all the smart people work for you”) is respected.
  • Because: The power of innovation lies in collective experience, insight and intellect. Use the Crowd!
  • Which means that: No one should be excluded from the innovation process. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
  • And in practice: The crowd amplifies noise. Beware cognitive biases and domineering people. As the size of the crowd grows, think about segmenting problems and problem solvers.

5. Innovation has near, medium and long range focus

  • Make Sure that: Innovation is not skewed by either over focusing on short-term tactical challenges or long-term ‘blue sky’ thinking.
  • Because: Innovation is about delivering benefits in the short, medium and longer term. The balance is important to get right, to fulfil the innovation mandate and to ensure the longevity of the innovation function.
  • Which means that: It is wise to keep fairly tight commercial control on short term / near range innovation. Formalise your innovation funnel and implement processes and controls to enable you to manage a portfolio with more strategic focus.
  • And in practice: Ensure that business challenges are framed in the short, medium and long term. Think about using scenario planning and war gaming to help frame some of the more challenging longer term thinking.

Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change)

6. Viewed through multiple lenses

  • Make Sure that: Innovation has the right representation across CEO, CIO, CTO and CFO agendas. Multiple stakeholder views will give you a richer and more complete understanding of challenges and opportunities.
  • Because: Without a Systems Thinking approach it is very easy to solve either the wrong problem or an incomplete problem. Improvements can be made by acting holistically and fully engaging stakeholder groups and perspectives.
  • Which means that: Hypothesis led problem solving is a useful technique to consider. Balance top-down business centric innovation with ‘bottom up’ technology centric innovation.
  • And in practice: Systems Thinking is good practise for innovators. Good innovation comes from a good understanding of the business, the business context, customers, suppliers, competitors, societal trends and technology. 

7. Innovation is Multi-modal

  • Make Sure that: Innovation focuses on the short, medium and long term. It also needs ‘two speeds’. Incremental innovation focuses on incremental improvements of existing products and services. Disruptive innovation is about ‘breaking the mould’. Balance both of these in a multi-modal innovation approach.
  • Because: Incremental innovation is the ‘heartbeat’ of your innovation function. This enables the delivery of regular innovation benefits. Disruptive innovation is harder to make work, but is essential to stretch your innovation ambitions.
  • Which means that: You need good incremental thinkers and good disruptive thinkers. Incremental thinking is “how do we do this better”, disruptive thinking is “why do we do this at all”.
  • And in practice: Disruptive thinking demonstrates ambition and a willingness to be bold. It can frighten ‘conservative business leaders’, so be cautious in terms of pushing ‘too far, too fast’. A solid track record in incremental innovation makes bolder proposals more credible.

8. Incremental with Agile methods

  • Make Sure that: Agile principles are applied to incremental innovation.
  • Because: Agile is well suited to prototyping and delivering a Minimum Viable Product.
  • Which means that: You need to understand Agile and how to avoid its pitfalls.
  • And in practice: You need strong Agile product owners who can drive the prototype increments. A lack of vision, uncertainty or weak leadership will destroy an Agile method’s potential.

Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process

9. Intellectual Property and funding flexible

  • Make Sure that: You have a well thought through IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) strategy and a Risk Reward model to incentivise innovation both within your organisation and across your supply chain.
  • Because: IPR retention is a thorny subject and easily kills collaboration and innovation. Commercial organisations will want to share in the profits of invention, so be realistic in your IPR demands and use a Risk / Reward model to drive co-funding.
  • Which means that: You need to know which Intellectual Property (IP) battles to fight and how to share IP with others. This demands a good IP strategy and a willingness to be flexible.
  • And in practice: Don’t dismiss the use of creative funding models such as Crowdfunding / Kickstarter.

10. ‘Model Driven’

  • Make Sure that: You structure all of your innovation processes, policies, principles and supporting collateral into a simple, cogent  model.
  • Because: Models are very useful for explaining your innovation approach to others. They are also useful for finding gaps, providing context and aligning innovation roles and responsibilities. Use the model to structure your innovation workshops, forums, challenges, competitions etc.
  • Which means that: You should think like an ‘innovation architect’. Your innovation strategy may not be reachable in one step, so break up your target into a set of transitions / maturity steps.
  • And in practice: Aim high, be bold. Use innovation to stretch your ambitions. Deliver incremental benefit by breaking up your innovation journey into smaller more realistic and more manageable chunks.

11. ‘Data Driven’

  • Make Sure that: You use analytics to help you quantify your starting point and demonstrate how innovation initiatives are delivering improvements. Link this to the transition steps mentioned in point 10.
  • Because: There is a qualitative aspect to innovation, but innovation needs to deliver tangible results. Let the data speak!
  • Which means that: Innovation can be focused on performance improvement. Understanding performance and how innovation ‘interventions’ are helping to make improvements is extremely valuable.
  • And in practice: You should think about how analytics fits with your innovation approach, what data you want to collect and analyse and what Key Point Indicators go into your ‘overall scorecard’.

12. Innovation is introspective and recursive

  • Make Sure that: You apply innovation principles and techniques to all of your processes.
  • Because: Innovation processes should be subject to continuous process improvement. Innovation applies to all of your working practices, including innovation itself.
  • Which means that: Set up periodic reviews to analyse how innovation is performing. Much of this can be done through actual business benefits, KPIs, reporting etc. but also look at qualitative and other ‘soft measures’ like collaboration and communication.
  • And in practice: Implement ITIL best practices for continuous process improvement.

Innovation needs to be led by the right people and involve the right people. Defining innovation principles, policies, standards and processes will help you tailor and then formalise your own innovation approach.

What principles do you use? What are the key issues and challenges you have encountered when applying them? Would you re-write or discard any of mine – and why?

Innovation Books

Connected Cars Crash Too

Competitive Spirit

LAST YEAR I was an adjudicator for a Connected Car competition. Students from various universities submitted innovative ideas and the winning submission won seed funding to help develop their thinking and product.
Corvette Mako Shark Car

Around the same time I gave an interview to a magazine in the UK about Augmented Reality and Wearable Computing, predicting a gold rush of apps for Connected Cars and possible innovations using ‘Heads up Displays.’

Heads-up, something bad ahead

Drivers regularly encounter warning signs, but the signs do not convey (with any precision) the location of the queue, debris, stranded car or fog patch of which they warn. As a result, some do not heed them and occasionally with disastrous consequences fail to appreciate their proximity and danger. I proposed that smart displays in cars might go some way to address this issue by providing the driver with more accurate geo-positional information about the exact location of the hazard. Of course this could encourage different misbehaviour!

Leadership 2030: The Six Megatrends You Need to Understand to Lead Your Company into the Future

Naturally, I cautioned that the potential for driver distraction was significant and that safety and rigorous testing of any solution would be lengthy and stringent. It seemed more likely that manufacturers would avoid the complexity of the issue and simply not ‘waste’ time developing products that would quickly be banned.

It’s for the passenger, stupid!

The announcement from Corvette that they have developed a proof of concept HUD using Google Glass therefore comes as no ‘intellectual surprise’. They are reportedly focusing the user-experience on the passenger not the driver, but does this make sense? Does a passenger really want to experience a ‘Corvette joy-ride’ in a haze of digital distraction?

Enforcing any ban

This lead me to think about how law enforcement could ever control the use of Wearable Tech or Augmented Reality devices by drivers. Would they be any more dangerous to use than hands-free phones or sat navs?

The Connected Car of Things?

We often hear about the Internet of Things. I’ve spoken before about the Enterprise of Things and what this might mean to businesses. But should we also be thinking about what connectivity of devices means in the context of a ‘Connected Car of Things?’ Will I be able to ‘pair’ all of my tech devices to my smart car, how will those devices communicate between themselves and will the car act as some kind of hub or broker?

Designing the Internet of Things

Going back to the law enforcement problem and suspending disbelief I pondered whether the car should start logging the use of connected devices. That log could even be a forensic log. It might be hashed or encrypted, or have non-repudiation controls so I could not tamper with it. I might one day get stopped, a police officer asks me to ‘blow into the bag’, and at the same time takes a secure download of my smart car activity log. Was I really using Google Glass while driving? Could it be proven in court? The black box will determine the truth!

I need a Firewall!

Stepping further outside of the box, how will I protect my ‘digital self’ within the secure shell of my Connected Car? Do I need to run electronic countermeasures, harden my infrastructure, turn off non-essential services, install antivirus and run ‘Defence in Depth’ with different firewalls? It might sound far-fetched, but is it really an impossibility?


Imagine a successful attack, a virus crashes my Connected Car. I should have been more careful in checking the penetration testing data of this model. Nothing left to do but power down, send for a security mechanic and call the office… Looks like I can’t come to work today, my car has a virus!

Books about The Internet of Things

Innovation, Group Brainstorming and Ideation

Group Brainstorming Needs Expert Facilitation

I am a something of a cynic when it comes to group brainstorming, unless accompanied by excellent moderation and facilitation and an initial phase of ‘solo thinking’.

Group Dynamics

Group dynamics concern me, and there is significant evidence (from personal experience) and the innovation literature to substantiate the view that group dynamics skew (or at the very least have significant potential to skew) the group brainstorming process.

Group Brainstorming

I have written about the HIPPO Anti Pattern in a managerial and architectural context, and this Anti Pattern is a culprit in suppressing creativity in group brainstorming.

Dominant characters, internal politics, HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion), naysayers and myriad biases (anchoring, status quo bias etc.) act together to subvert the group’s collective potential.

Excellent facilitation and moderation is needed to tackle these problematic behaviours and the barriers they create. In a world of extroverts, how (for example) do you best engage the introvert? There is truth in the observation that great technological invention has come from many introverts.

In group brainstorming sessions the extroverts tend to drown out (potentially higher value) ideas from the introverts. Conversational detours or a tendency to fixate on single ideas, with group brainstorming sessions descending into ‘solutioning’ is common.

Effective moderation in the corporate world is not always (I would say commonly) present. Companies with significant experience in innovation will have recognised the weaknesses in group brainstorming and put in place the necessary measures for its avoidance. Group brainstorming also tends to happen in the office, over a fixed duration and surrounded by other pressures and distractions (email, phone calls etc.).

Precursors to Group Brainstorming

A multi-stage approach is more productive. I prefer ‘own voice first innovation’ as a precursor to group brainstorming. This allows participants to immerse themselves in the problem space, direct and filter their own thinking and research and to challenge themselves to generate a spread of ideas and rank them across various dimensions (such as impact, timescale, cost, risk, ability to execute etc.).

Recording the thought processes and key decisions (what was rejected and why, what was retained and why) is also highly useful when ‘presenting ideas as an ‘input set’ to group brainstorming.

I like mind maps as a ‘thinking medium’ as well as an approach for articulating decisions. I am not averse to mentoring in this phase, as long as the mentor understands that any advice should be carefully balanced to ensure they do not unduly influence the outcome.

An ‘own voice first’ innovation phase also frees up the creative thinking process. Many of my best ideas come to me on the train. Creativity cannot be forced and it is important to recognise that maximisation of creativity within a group requires accommodation of different thinking processes.

Group Brainstorming Quality Improvements

Higher quality ideas are generated when ‘own voice first’ innovation is applied before group brainstorming. Group brainstorming is a useful second step. Multiple juxtapositions and ‘builds’ on ideas can help shape them, combine their best (and unique) features, enhance strengths and remove weaknesses.

Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability

A cautionary note is ‘idea ownership’ and ‘not invented here syndrome’. Some participants in group brainstorming my resist accepting (what they perceive as) the personal ideas of others. Moving to ‘group ownership of the idea’ can be challenging. A potential disadvantage of an ‘own voice first’ approach is that ideas might be perpetually perceived to be owned by their originator.

The benefits of a hybrid (multi-phased) approach is substantiated by research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. In their paper “Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea”, researchers determined that:

groups employing the hybrid process are able to generate more ideas, to generate better ideas, and to better discern their best ideas compared to teams that rely purely on group work. Moreover, we find that the frequently recommended brainstorming technique of building on each other’s ideas is counter-productive: teams exhibiting such build-up neither create more ideas nor are the ideas that build on previous ideas better.

Further Reading

Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea: University of Pennsylvania – Operations & Information Management Department December 8, 2009 INSEAD Business School Research Paper No. 2009/65/TOM.

Innovation and Brainstorming Books

Open Innovation Signposting


Thanks to my good friend and Open Innovation cohort Francisco De-araujo-roso Pinheiro, for signposting some interesting posts on the 15inno group on LinkedIn from Stefan Lindegaard, and some of the academic work he is guiding with EOI Innovation students.

Please read, ruminate, cogitate and feedback to Stefan (a prolific Open Innovation practitioner and commentator) as to the content of the 15inno articles.


Tap the brain of Stefan Lindegaard and network with corporate innovators!

Open Innovation, Crowdsourcing in the Public Sector – 11 Great Reads

Innovation That Works!

Statoil and Shell: Fighting for Innovation Partners

Examples of Using Social Media for Innovation

5 Ways to Get Better Innovation With Less Money

Communication is Key to Successful Open Innovation

Francisco’s Work in Open Innovation

Open Innovation and/or User-Lead Innovation (work submitted by Francisco’s EOI Innovation students)

Please review, encourage and support the next wave of Open Innovation thinkers.

1. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/francescomazzeo/2012/02/06/open-innovation-society-participation/

2. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/jonathancabrero/2012/02/12/innovation-growth/

3. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/lauraambros/2012/02/09/open-innovation-and-lead-user-innovation/

4. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/albertorengel/2012/02/12/open-innovation-lead-user/

5. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/carloscerdan/2012/02/12/open-innovation-the-present-and-future-of-innovation/

6. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/dianapatriciasanchez/2012/02/13/open-and-lead-user-innovation/

7. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/pablogonzalezvina/2012/02/14/open-innovation/

8. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/alfonsomedal/2012/02/12/open-innovation-from-why-to-what/

9. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/alfredoperaita/2012/02/10/innovative-world/

10. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/antoniocalixtomoreno/2012/02/13/%E2%80%9Copen-innovation%E2%80%9D/

11. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/elisaroman/2012/02/11/move-fast-break-things-facebook/

12. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/ildikoheim/2012/02/13/innovation-class-the-innovation-for-development-initiative-alias-openlead-user-innovation-for-good/

13. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/pedropernas/2012/02/09/lead-user-innovation-of-innovation-blog/

14. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/piotradamlubiewa/2012/02/07/innovation-what-is-open-innovation/

15. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/rubenpardo/2012/02/11/innovation/

16. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/amayasayas/2012/02/12/open-innovation-and-lead-user-innovation/

17. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/federicocamino/2012/02/12/open-innovation-shifting-to-a-more-efficient-business-model/

18. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/laurenmusiello/2012/02/12/open-innovation/

19. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/marieglueck/2012/02/12/why-companies-have-to-open-their-doors-and-how-to-do-it-innovation/

20. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/cristinagarcia-ochoa/2012/02/11/open-innovation-the-apple-case/

21. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/hokumakarimova/2012/02/07/innovation-opening-doors-to-ideas/

22. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/ricardogarro/2012/02/12/open-innovation-and-user-lead-innovation-opposites/

23. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/javiersolano/2012/02/12/open-innovation-why/

24. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/mariadiez/2012/02/08/open-innovation-and-lead-user-innovation/

25. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/saraelizalde/2012/02/12/open-innovation/

26. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/alvarorodero/2012/02/13/be-opened-lead-them-lead-user-open-innovation/

27. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/elvirasaez/2012/02/11/open-innovation-open-up-your-mind/

28. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/patriciaperez/2012/02/07/innovation-blog-will-open-innovation-became-a-business-mainstream/

29. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/tabithahmkandawire/2012/02/13/innovation-more-benefits-from-open-innovation/

30. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/alexandrunicolaecosor/2012/02/11/open-innovation-lead-user/

31. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/lauranavas/2012/02/04/innovation-through-collaboration/

32. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/syafrinasharif/2012/02/12/open-innovation/

33. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/arturodelfresno/2012/02/12/innovation-trends-evolution-closed-open-and-lead-user-innovation/

34. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/lucapalma/2012/02/06/the-medical-mirror-a-mit-student-innovation/

35. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/davidgarciagonzalez/2012/02/10/open-innovation/

36. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/elenaarboleya/2012/02/12/innovating-for-companies/

37. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/tatianacasquero/2012/02/12/innovation-open-innovation-philips%C2%B4-approach-to-improve-people%E2%80%99s-lives/

38. http://www.eoi.es/blogs/fabiopinto/2012/02/15/innovation-open-innovation-lead-user-innovation/