Innovation is often a much misunderstood concept. It can conjure up perceptions of ‘boffins’ in white coats, working on sci-fi technology that is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

However, innovation is usually much simpler than that. Most of the time, it is just the practice of doing things smarter, quicker or differently and more effectively. In business, it can apply to products, services and processes.

It is also an important driver of long-term driver of growth and nothing new to small businesses. Our research has shown that more than three quarters of small businesses innovate to remain competitive. For the majority, when they innovate it is mostly investments in design, branding, software development and organisational improvement.

So, when policy makers, Government and support organisations talk about innovation, perhaps it would be more helpful to talk in more straightforward terms. Terms that resonate with business audiences – especially those at the smaller end of the scale. For example, a focus on ‘significant improvements made’ might be better understood than the use of the term ‘innovation’.

Other measures they could take, include: putting equal emphasis on ‘new to business’ (as opposed to ‘new to market’) improvements in innovation policy; doing more to encourage businesses to improve their leadership and management practices; and promoting greater take up of digital technologies to improve productivity.

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It can be done – because in this county the Worcestershire Innovation Network (WINN) is making great strides in promoting understanding about – and adoption of – innovation.

Furthermore, our research suggests that nationally, almost a third (30 per cent) of smaller suppliers receive help to improve from their business or public sector customers. Of these, the most commonly reported types of support include the sharing of workforce expertise and time (33 per cent), collaboration in design (23 per cent), mentoring and advice (20 per cent), and market research (15 per cent).

Of those that have received help, the vast majority (83 per cent) say it had a positive impact on their business.

So, ‘innovation’ is not rocket science at all. We just need to stop thinking it is!