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Does collaboration matter to your business?

12 Apr 2021

If a year ago you had been asked this question, chances are your response would have been different. Previously collaboration offered businesses the opportunity to add value, and was seen as a unique way in which to upskill and enable employee development.

The arrival of a pandemic however has impacted communication and the opportunity to collaborate effectively. With employees working from home, fragmented organizational structure has meant many businesses are now more removed from their customer base. As a result, opportunities to come together to challenge and progress change have been severely impacted.

So perhaps the question is, can your business afford to miss out the important benefits collaboration provides?

Collaboration is a powerful tool for those looking to support business recovery. Effective collaboration offers the facilitation and transfer of crucial skills, knowledge expertise and supports growth capability. Right now, it can be used to help your business in re-establishing connections and act as a catalyst for change and innovation.

For this month’s blog we asked Janet Toal, Innovation Manager at InterTradeIreland, Why collaboration matters and what’s its importance now?

For over a year, businesses have been operating within the confinements of lockdown measures. Changing information has made decision-making and business planning difficult and these challenged communication methods have also meant limited opportunity for collaboration. Instead it has been a time to survive. As business moves from this phase however - there now exists a real opportunity to use the experience to challenge and consider what can be done now and in the future, as well as what skills or support are needed to support that innovation activity.

Academia and research, how can it help?

Knowledge transfer is well supported at the interface between universities and businesses. Collaboration with academia can enable businesses to access in-depth knowledge affecting their industry. Many academics employed in Technology Transfer having backgrounds working within businesses - from start-ups and SMEs to multi-nationals – and understand the real issues that firms face when seeking to innovate.

At InterTradeIreland our All-Island Innovation Programme can provide access to the latest research and learning through a series of innovation lectures, masterclasses and seminars. These offer businesses the opportunity to learn and gain insight into future changes and challenges that impact industry. Increasing awareness, knowledge and understanding is key to helping inform what future innovation activity businesses should focus on.

‘The catalyst to innovation’

InterTradeIreland’s Business Monitor Q4 2020 shows that 50% of businesses continue to struggle as the Brexit transition ends.

Yet the same businesses reported growth of 19% (Ireland) and 13%, (Northern Ireland) illustrating that in spite of challenges, businesses continue to recognise the necessity to effect and implement change. Businesses are seeking solutions to issues including; declining sales, supply chain difficulties, low productivity and inefficiency. Whatever the challenge, now is an opportune time to consider what creative solutions or technologies could support your business to grow.

How InterTradeIreland can help your business collaborate

Developing these creative solutions however often poses more of a challenge than the problem itself. Perhaps a lack of technical skill or inexperience means innovation is a cost you believe your business simply cannot afford. That is where collaboration can help. Providing support through the collaboration process, InterTradeIreland can help facilitate the development and implementation of solutions that make the difference for your business.

InterTradeIreland’s Innovation Boost (previously known as FUSION programme) is a unique cross-border support, collaborating applicant businesses with academic expertise. This collaborative approach offers real opportunity to explore a diversity of knowledge, skill and experience. This often leads to innovative solutions that are embedded in the business by the recruitment of a graduate, whose salary is 50% funded by ITI. The benefits of the programme extend further with new product development, accessing new market opportunities and increased innovation capability - being only a few which participants of the programme have reported.

Our experience delivering innovation through the development of collaborative partnerships means we understand that this process could be new to your business. Developing relationships takes time and meaningful collaboration can only happen at the speed of trust. That is why Innovation Boost supports the partnership through each stage, taking time to understand the business need and matching that need with the best expertise available. Our experience means you get the support needed to boost your business.

The success of the Innovation Boost programme can be seen in the recent 2021 recipients of the Exemplar award. Across the five recipient partnerships the SMEs anticipate sales of upwards of £1.5 million and savings of over £2 million, over the next three years. Non-monetary benefits are also important with company partners such as the opportunity to access facilities, establish a network of contacts and the support to build confidence to collaborate with academia. In addition, the opportunity for industrial experience, course material and graduate learning mean all partners benefit.

Next level innovators

Perhaps your business is an experienced innovator who appreciates the benefits of collaboration and wants to move to the next level? Business to business partnerships can be a game changer, particularly where companies operating within different sectors collaborate. Not only can this deliver industry-led solutions but can also increase sales and create wider economic benefits. If your business background can demonstrate a history and commitment to innovation in practice InterTradeIreland’s Impact initiative could offer next level entry. Creating a partnership between a minimum of two SME companies, one in Northern Ireland and one in Ireland, this programme aims to support game-changing projects.

So what is the answer?

Do you recognise the potential benefits of using collaboration to innovate for your business but have questions about where to start? Find out how we’re supporting innovation, our experience means we can help you get the answers.

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