Inspiring Innovation through Challenge-led Incubation

The Serendip Smart City Incubator is a prime example of a “challenge-led incubator”, and it finds its home within Innovation Birmingham Ltd, the largest digital and technology start-up campus in the UK. The role of the incubator is to promote the digital and technology ecosystem within the region, but also nationally, by providing dedicated business support across a number of sectors including finance, healthcare and transport. All customers who apply to the Serendip programme, and are successful following interview, can benefit from a huge number of opportunities such as:

  • Free hot-desking space for 6 months
  • Dedicated events and workshops to provide insight into running a business, business leadership, funding and marketing to name but a few
  • Access to a number of corporate partners, all dedicated to supporting your company in its development
  • Being part of a network of over 100 tech start-ups, and being a member of an even larger collective of SMEs across all sectors from locations nationwide.

What sets challenge-led incubators aside from other traditional incubation programmes is the combination of the industry push and entrepreneurial drive with the pull from end users/sectors with an unmet need. At Serendip, corporate partners come together and represent a variety of industries across the private and public sector, and present unmet needs or challenges for talented and innovative tech start-ups to address. In return for working on areas of technology and data science which could address the unmet needs of our partners, the start-ups receive space, support, knowledge and access to further funding in order to accelerate their development.

The Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is a brilliant advocate for the benefits of challenge-led incubation. So often, we are faced with news reports about the downfalls of the National Health Service (NHS), and a long list of areas where the sector is failing its patients. However, what fails to be reported is the work being done by the likes of the AHSN, who are trying to improve this situation. It’s true: the NHS balances on a financial tightrope from day-to-day. But this precarious economic position has provided a form of selection pressure and the NHS has been forced to look outwardly towards industry, as resources are stretched to the point where rates of production within the service are too slow. This is where the AHSN comes in, they put out calls for unmet clinical/healthcare needs to the public and industry via online platforms and showcases. This allows companies to approach the group with possible solutions to their issues, and allows these options to be evaluated and an appropriate solution is selected. At this stage, challenge-led incubators such as the Serendip Smart City Incubator become the catalyst and provide the space and expertise for these companies to continue to develop to a point where their solution can become a viable and sustainable reality for the NHS.

Gone are the days of industry and entrepreneurship succeeding to the detriment of cross-sector co-operation. Instead, organisations wanting to truly develop local economy and industry are creating an environment where all sectors can come together to address their needs, whilst developing the local technology start-up ecosystem and supporting the business needs of others!

Logan Ryan

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