Miniature people : Businessman planning work process. Image use for finding solution/solve, innovation for business.
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Tris Dyson, MD of Problem Works, argues that Britain’s medium-sized innovation companies are being held again from reaching their full potential

The UK economic system is at a pivot level. The coverage decisions made within the subsequent few months will doubtless outline the subsequent decade for innovation companies, and whether or not Britain turns into the science superpower or an innovation also-ran.

In response to the final nice financial disaster a decade in the past, Problem Works was based to determine British experience in designing and delivering problem prizes that incentivise innovation that does social good. A decade on and a brand new financial disaster later, we carried out analysis to quantify the boundaries that small companies and start-ups face proper now in turning their vibrant concepts into actuality.

Once we got down to perceive the boundaries dealing with innovators turning their concepts into real-world successes, we hadn’t anticipated that the info would counsel so strongly a problem on the pivot level from scale-up to large enterprise. In comparison with smaller counterparts, medium-sized companies look like having a harder time.

Many would assume that the journey from start-up to scale-up is the hardest development stage for modern companies, however the knowledge reveals a uncared for center too.

Innovators don’t know the place to entry funding

Lower than half (44%) of innovators know the place to look to safe funding to show their modern concept right into a actuality. The information reveals that as a enterprise grows, from a sole dealer to a micro enterprise than to small enterprise, consciousness amongst innovators about the place to entry funding improves at every stage, however takes a U-turn for medium-sized companies.

Funders aren’t taking probabilities on untested concepts

The UK authorities needs to be a technological powerhouse within the digital and net-zero age. Which means unleashing private and non-private capital to make these applied sciences a actuality. We might want to take probabilities on improvements and applied sciences which might be untested and unproven. It additionally means taking possibilities of untested and unproven innovators. However that higher-risk, higher-reward idea, isn’t translating for medium-sized innovation companies.

Greater than a 3rd (34%) of innovators in medium-sized companies have been rejected when making an attempt to safe funding for innovation as a result of it was untested – greater than innovators in another enterprise dimension.

That is permeating into the bedrock of the innovation ecosystem. 50% of innovators in SMEs are nervous that in the event that they tried to entry funding, they’d be rejected as a result of their concept is untested. 49% of innovators in SMEs fear that in the event that they did attempt to entry funding, they or their concept can be thought-about too dangerous to spend money on and 57% of innovators in SMEs fear that they’d be rejected when accessing funding due to an absence of monitor file.

Enterprise recommendation not reaching those that want it

It’s not shocking given the boundaries to funding and an absence of risk-appetite amongst funders that 65% of innovators in medium-sized companies say they want enterprise mentoring to motion their innovation or start-up concept.

A deeper dive into the info additionally reveals some preconceptions that could possibly be stopping rising modern companies from pursuing innovation funding from authorities – and holding again the event of innovation targeted on social good.

54% of innovators in SMEs say that they need to innovate for social good, however imagine that there isn’t a funding obtainable to them, with the quantity climbing to 61% of innovators in massive companies.

Simply 31% of innovators in medium-sized companies assume that the federal government is concentrated on fixing real-world issues, whereas 66% fear that they must compromise their values with a purpose to safe authorities innovation funding.

Companies on a journey of development – like scale-ups – really feel disincentivised from looking for authorities innovation funding. When it’s these companies who’re struggling to search out funding on the whole, most certainly to face rejection as a result of their concepts are unknown portions and wish enterprise help greater than another group, options are wanted to unblock their path to success.

Business process control panel and data analysing monitor with chart and diagrams on device screen. Innovation concept.
© Wrightstudio

Diversifying and incentivising innovation funding

The normal mannequin of government-led R&D grant funding within the UK isn’t delivering what it ought to. There are promising glimmers on the horizon – just like the founding of ARIA. It has been tasked with backing innovation with a better threat of failure, within the pursuit of upper rewards with a fail-fast, move-on coverage.

We must also have a look at diversifying innovation funding to make extra of it obtainable for the start-ups, scale-ups and disruptors with transformative options to the challenges we face. The federal government has cited prizes as a finest follow method in its ARIA coverage paper.

By a decade of honing problem prizes, we’ve demonstrated their capacity to bridge the boundaries small- and medium-sized companies are dealing with and incentivise the cutting-edge improvements that funders need to unlock. By levelling the taking part in area for unknown and untested innovators via an open competitors that prioritises the standard of concepts over identify recognition, and coupling it with seed funding and non-financial enterprise help, problem prizes unearth a number of modern companies with options to the good societal challenges we face. They’re a confirmed mannequin for private and non-private buyers.

In the meantime, mechanisms just like the Enterprise Funding Scheme could possibly be reviewed and made much more interesting to drive extra VC and personal sector funding into innovation companies. At the moment, tax reduction on EIS investments implies that for each £100 an investor places in, they’ll declare £30 of tax reduction – successfully 30% off the price of their funding due to authorities help. An much more beneficiant method particularly for innovation companies could possibly be used to direct cash to the scale-ups (and the applied sciences they’re delivering) that want it most.

Knock down boundaries for our future tech giants

Once we face so many challenges that want modern options, and a cost-of-living disaster compounded by a productiveness disaster, it calls for brand spanking new approaches to the best way we goal innovation funding and enterprise help.

The sustained focus of latest years on supporting small companies must proceed, however we should be certain as a nation that we don’t take our eye off the ball as soon as these companies begin their journey of development. Tackling the boundaries medium-sized companies are dealing with will unlock an enormous a part of the economic system that’s at the moment being held again.


Between 18th and twenty fifth Might 2022, Opinium surveyed 400 staff with a present or earlier (final 10 years) duty for innovation of their job position. Information primarily based on samples of underneath 50 responses have been described as ‘indicative’ solely.

Micro companies are outlined as having 1-9 workers; small companies are outlined as having 10-49 workers; medium-sized companies are outlined as having 50-249 workers; massive companies are outlined as having greater than 250 workers.

376 respondents indicated they at the moment have a duty for innovation (of which 182 have some duty as a part of a wider group, 194 have a big duty for innovation).

The information used has been checked and verified by Opinium earlier than distribution to press.

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