Innovation and enterprise blog

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2 posts from March 2016

24 March 2016

Innovating for Growth - a success story for the Business & IP Centre London

Innovating for Growth logo, highlighting the following text: Innovating for Growth (Title) along with sub text: Supporting companies to scale up and create jobs The second Innovating for Growth project (match funded by the European Regional Development Fund ERDF and the British Library) will be starting in a few weeks. So this seems a good time to step back and take a look at the first one.

Initially a three year project, but extended by an additional year, Innovating for Growth was a new venture for the Business & IP Centre in several aspects. For the first time we specifically targeted growing companies, rather than our traditional market of inventors and start-ups.

This was perfect timing for us, as we had managed to help generate quite a few successful small business during our first five years. They were looking for help to get themselves to the next level, by developing new products or services, or moving into new markets.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) logoWe took a different approach by developing a three month programme of tailored support, instead of our previous generic support model of advice and workshops. This suited our customers, who were under much tighter time pressures from the day-to-day running of their businesses, compared to those in start-up phase. For the same reason we recruited two Relationship Managers in the shape of Julie Simpkin and Jeremy O’Hare. They came from the existing team working in the Business & IP Centre, so had a good understanding of how new business managers think.

Innovating for growth banner, promoting the event

Victoria Eggs used the Innovating for Growth to help grow her business

In addition we recruited a team of partner organisations to deliver the support these growth businesses required. These covered the following elements:
• Strategy – Red Ochre
• Marketing – Amanda Prout
• Intellectual Property – asb law
• Branding - ABA
• Product and service development - Makersco
• Business sustainability – Red Ochre

Innovating for growth, Economic Impact Analysis infographic
So how did we actually do? The answers to that question can be found in our Economic Impact Analysis infographic. 

In summary the project helped 241 companies create 249 jobs (25% above target), and increased their turnover by £77million (378% above the £18m target).

For every £1 of public sector money spent the project generated a payback of £7.60.

In addition we achieved above target results for the socially inclusive and environmental elements of the project. We helped; 43% female-led businesses (%53 above), 39% Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led business (34% above), 4% disabled-led businesses (25% above), and 7% environment businesses (56% above).

Overall 97% of the businesses completing the programme were very satisfied or satisfied, and 98% said they would recommend the programme to others.

Innovating for growth, Economic Impact Analysis infographic

My two favourite quotes from customers were:

“The British Library helped us transform our business. They were fantastic and have put us in a really great position.”

“The Relationship Manager is ‘the glue’ that holds the programme together.”

For me our customers results and opinions are the best indicator of success we could have, but it was also nice to be recognized by the ERDF when the project was shortlisted for the RegioStars Europe wide award. And being asked to host a visit from EU Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva last October was a great honour.

EU Vice-President Georgieva (left) with Christina Murphy - Innovating for Growth team (right)

Project Manager Christina Murphy welcoming EU Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva

I would like to thank everyone involved in making this such an amazing success for the British Library. The Business Marketing team headed by Isabel Oswell, and the Reference and Research team headed by Nigel Spencer provided important support to the Innovating for Growth team. Thanks also to our partners who played a vital role in delivering the project, and adapting to the programme as it developed over the four years.

But main credit must go to Irini Efthimiadou Growth Programme Service Liaison Manager, Francesca Cesare-Pintorno Programme Coordinator, Jeremy and Julie Relationship Managers, and finally Christina Murphy Project Manager, who nurtured the programme from its first hesitant first-steps to become such a confident British Library success story.

You can find out about the second Innovating for Growth project on our website.

Neil Infield on behalf of Innovation and Enterprise Team

07 March 2016

How to make your business an internet sensation

Credit: Luca Sage

Online businesses are bigger than ever with entrepreneurs and investors eager to spot the next big internet phenomenon. Last week we brought together a panel of internet icons including; Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet; Ning Li, Co-founder and CEO of and Renaud Visage, Co-founder of Eventbrite. They told us how they created some of the best-known global internet brands. Here are their unique stories and some tips they shared at the event.

Ning Li, Co-founder and CEO of

Ning Li
Credit: Luca Sage

Since 2010, Ning’s mission has been to make great design accessible to everybody with the brand. 

How did he do it? Ning had his first job in investment banking and decided to treat himself to a sofa. He had his heart set on a leather one. He took a snap of it on his phone and showed his friend who recently took over his parents' furniture manufacturing business – the very place the sofa was made. Ning realised his friend was selling the sofa for $300 when the one he initially wanted to buy was priced at £3,000! This made Ning think about the supply chain and the intermediaries along the route to market who take a cut of the final cost.

Ning saw this as a business opportunity. His reasons for starting his own business were, in his own words, ‘selfish’. He wanted to do something he could enjoy and that would make him excited to get out of bed every morning.  Now, he’s happy that his business can create jobs for others and solve people’s problems. had to compete with big names like Ikea and John Lewis. looked to young designers and entrepreneurs, teamed up with them, and launched smaller collections more frequently – something the bigger guys weren’t doing. His advice for would-be entrepreneurs? Think outside the box and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Being the smaller players in the game doesn’t mean you can’t compete with the best of them.

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet

Justine Roberts
Credit: Luca Sage


Justine Roberts founded an online haven for parents who need advice from others who have been there and done it. The idea for Mumsnet came from a disastrous first family holiday which made Justine think that, if there was an online network of parents she could have tapped into before the holiday, it could have saved her a lot of hassle.

Her vision was to ‘make parents lives easier’ by creating a space where they could get trusted advice at any time of the day. Back in the early days of the business she created many aliases and would go on forums to ask herself questions so that she could answer them. If her friends wanted to ask her something about parenting – she would make them post it on the forum. She didn’t have much of a budget, so relied heavily on Mumsnet members telling their friends about the site. It worked, and eventually the idea caught on.

Justine’s advice for entrepreneurs is to always go back to your mission when in difficulty and put purpose before profit if you want to succeed - hanging on to what you believe in is essential.

Renaud Visage, Co-founder of Eventbrite

Renaud Visage
Credit: Luca Sage


Renaud Visage co-founded the world's largest self-service ticketing platform that allows you to create, share and find events that interest you – anything from concerts to conferences and everything in between. When Renaud and his business partners worked together to co-found Eventbrite in 2006 they saw a gap in the market and acted on it. They wanted to bring an online ticketing service to the general public that anyone could use to host an event. Since then, they’ve helped millions of event organisers easily create, promote and sell tickets.

Renaud told our audience that you don't need to be an expert at everything, ‘create your own definition of what an entrepreneur is’ and don't be afraid to jump in - even if you know nothing about the industry. ‘The best business ideas are found at the crossroads of trends, creativity and curiosity – every one of us has the potential to be the next great entrepreneur.’


Feeling inspired? Visit the Business & IP Centre for help with starting and running your business.