A Day in the Life of an Innovation Adviser

Debbie Simpson
Debbie Simpson, SME Innovation Programme Adviser

Many people have asked – what does an innovation adviser actually do? A good question. We do drink a lot of tea, (or in my colleague Gillian Middleton’s case, strong coffee), which keeps us going. The role is wide and varied which means that no two days are ever the same.

It’s always exciting when the phone rings knowing that the ‘next best thing’ could be about to be launched to the world. It’s very apparent that inventors and designers are brimming with enthusiasm as it’s never a difficult task to prise information out of them – how refreshing. It’s a typical start to the day and it’s a great way to get our brain cells working – getting your head around a new bit of technology or a process that is completely novel. But this can be an introduction to the next stage – deciphering the new technology aspect of the proposed innovative project and deciding if it is truly unique.

What is the meaning of innovation? We get asked this all of the time. Being innovative to one person is being ‘run of the mill’ to the next. As an Innovation Adviser it’s part of our job to decide what is truly innovative and worthy of grant funding – a big decision to make. Team meetings are essential to thrash out our thoughts, opinions and facts to ensure we get to the correct result. Incidentally, if you are thinking of applying for an innovation grant, ask yourself the questions – Is the idea truly novel? Can it be bought off the shelf? Has it definitely never been done before?

Talking to our clients face to face is an essential part of our role, it’s something we do very early on in the process. It gives us the opportunity to get to know the business, the client, the project, and to be able to identify the innovative element(s) in the project. It’s only after this stage that we ask for the documentation to be started, and part of our job is to help with this. The procurement of suppliers is the next stage, and we will support the client to ensure all processes are evidenced – we’re always at hand to clarify and signpost.

Being based at North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), we’re ideally placed next door to the Innovation SuperNetwork – collaboration can only be good. Sharing ideas, sign-posting clients, introducing new concepts and highlighting appropriate events are all in a day’s work. We’re also directly over the road from Green White & Sice who are working on an innovative new product – it’s amazing and you’ll want one – which was previewed at VentureFest North East last November.

In fact, we’re surrounded by innovation – local and regional. Take our local universities. I’m lucky enough to be working with The Water Hub at Durham University. All of these young enterprises have innovative ideas associated with water. Many of them are life changing. Some of them are money saving. A high proportion are associated with environmental issues. Lots are truly surprising, but all are amazing!
So, I’m the lucky person who gets to meet these extraordinary people! If it wasn’t for the many non-disclosure agreements that we sign, I’d tell you all about them now.

All in a day’s work!

For more information about the Innovation Programme call 0191 516 6039 or click here

Sign up to our newsletter