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Collaborate to Innovate

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


John Willis, SME Programmes Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) discusses three myths he’s looking forward to challenging at Venturefest North West 2019.

Myth 1: Innovation is a personal journey

Growing any business requires huge amounts of creativity, as well as a clear passion for developing new ideas, products and services. Sometimes, however, that raw creativity can go untapped and would benefit from being harnessed or channelled in the right direction.

Collaboration with like-minded organisations can be invaluable in nurturing innovation within your business. That’s why we’re looking forward to speaking to business leaders from across the region at Venturefest North West, about the challenges they face in bringing ideas to life - and how support from a leading academic institution can make the process more straightforward.

To support business in accessing academic expertise, MMU has committed to developing a University Innovation Zone.  The University Innovation Zone will co-locate the existing managed work space at our business Incubator ‘Innospace’ with the Digital Innovation Labs and specialist facilities at PrintCity.  In addition to offering managed work space and specialist equipment, the University Innovation Zone will create an environment to accelerate access to academic expertise through a combination of innovation masterclasses and incentive packages. 

The leading-edge facilities, proximity to other entrepreneurs and on-site support have already made Innospace a real hive of activity and innovation, right here in the heart of Manchester. The ongoing investment will build on our success at Innospace, which has already supported 600 early-stage businesses and 850 individuals to grow and develop.  In 2018, an analysis from Deloitte indicated that more than half of all new jobs in the North West created at University incubators came through Innospace.

As an introduction to innovation and collaboration, we’ll soon be running two free workshops, where businesses of any size can come and discuss their business goals and objectives, to better understand the kinds of expertise and support available through engaging with MMU.


Myth 2: Accessing University support is complicated and expensive

MMU has a strong track record in supporting businesses of all sizes to develop new ideas that help stimulate growth. We are committed to becoming the ‘go to’ partner for GM businesses looking to innovate, through our extensive range of business-focused solutions.

There seems to be a perception in some quarters that Universities are challenging organisations to engage with, or that our structures are complex due to the diversity of our operations. In fact, our aim is to make accessing the wealth of MMU’s academic expertise as straightforward as possible; whether that’s through research-led solutions or enabling recruitment from our talent pool.

Our business support service spans a range of programmes and specialist facilities.  The University delivers a significant package of externally-funded programmes to support business to improve performance and access specialist expertise and equipment. MMU is typically in the top five (UK) Universities for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, one of the most established and accessible routes to disseminating information and problem solving.

We have recently renewed our investment in a strategic partnership with the GC Business Growth Hub to deliver an Innovation Service.  This programme has already supported more than thirty businesses in Greater Manchester to collaborate with the University and access Innovation Vouchers to offset any costs.

In many cases, these initial discussions lead to longer-term relationships and we’re able to tailor our support to suit a company’s unique growth journey.


Myth 3: I don’t have the time or resources to commit to business innovation

This will probably sound familiar to any entrepreneurs in the process of building their business from scratch. In reality, however, the rationale for investing in innovation is utterly compelling.

With the current rate of technological advancement showing no signs of slowing, businesses of all shapes and sizes should be looking ahead and considering how they will retain their share of the market, in an increasingly competitive environment.

A recent study by Accenture reveals that while 93% of executives know their industry will be disrupted in the next five years, only 20% feel well prepared to respond. Sustainable investment into R&D can help ensure your business not only survives, but thrives, in a changing landscape.

Put simply, businesses and economies that invest in innovation are more likely to be profitable and more productive. Through becoming a fundamental part of the North West’s growth infrastructure, MMU is committed to helping address the productivity gaps already identified in Greater Manchester, to benefit the economic outlook at both a regional and national level.



MMU is hosting its very own village at Venturefest North West, with a series of table-top seminars demonstrating its wealth of solutions on offer to GM businesses, as well as some of the exciting products being developed in collaboration with the University.

These insightful sessions require no advance booking for Venturefest North West delegates and run at the following times in the ‘MMU University Campus’:

10.30: Achieving your sustainable energy goals through access to world-leading expertise and facilities 
Manchester Metropolitan Hydrogen Fuel Cell Centre
Amer Gaffer – Director, Fuel Cell Innovation Centre

12.00: Immersive technology for training in healthcare and law
Manchester Metropolitan University AR & VR Hub 
Dr Timothy Jung - Head of MMU AR & VR Research Group

1.00: Developing your innovation road map
SMART Cheshire
Claire Pattison – Enterprise Fellow

2.00: Developing your ideas, one layer at a time
Print City, MMU’s innovative hub of additive and digital manufacturing
Martin Rogers – Print City