The iNet is celebrating 10 years of supporting ambitious and innovative SMEs
With an uncertain future ahead of the UK, it’s good to know that there are some quiet success stories. The iNet, based at Loughborough University, is celebrating 10 years of supporting ambitious and innovative SMEs this year.
Previously known as Transport iNet, The iNet has supported over 500 small businesses since 2009 and engaged with many more.
We’re told we know SMEs quite well and have a pretty good understanding of what they want and need. This is a generalisation, of course, as all businesses have their own personality and drive and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to finding the right support. However, our raison d’etre is simply to help businesses to grow in a productive way. We do this by building relationships with our clients.
Innovation is a word that is perhaps overused, almost to the point where no innovation plan might be perceived as “no growth potential”. That simply isn’t true, and many of our clients just need to do what they do better. We can help this to happen for those businesses where increased productivity, increased capacity and better efficiency means growth. On the other hand, innovation is important; it is what exercises our mental capacity and has given us advances in medical practises, safer cars, mobile phones (you might argue with that one!) to name but a few.
The Google dictionary definition of to innovate is :
make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products
This definition certainly resonates with us. If a client can introduce something new to their business, whether it be new products or processes or new services, then they are indeed innovating and we will try to contribute to their aspirations if we can. We will, of course, also foster true “blue skies” innovation and have been privileged to help nurture some key innovations during our ten-year history, some of which have gone on to make significant contributions in their field. At times our role is as a catalyst to extract these ideas and provide a pathway for the business to follow to achieve their aims.
Being located within a university means we are well-placed to introduce SMEs to the world of academia. To some this is normal practice, but to others it is a very unfamiliar environment, and we aim to bridge the communication gap to help find a way of addressing their innovation needs by engaging and often working collaboratively with academics who can appreciate the potential and mutual benefits of this type of relationship.
The support provided by The iNet may include grant funding, but our support is much more than that. We also offer services that are designed to help SMEs make informed decisions and take calculated risks to activate their growth plans. Unlike match funding, these require no financial input from the SME, just some of their time. Time is a precious commodity to most small businesses, but with help from the iNet it can be time well spent.