Qi3 – Quality, Insight, Integrity & Innovation - UNITING TECHNOLOGY & MARKETING

Tag: NESTA

Why we’re passionate about High Value Manufacturing

After this week’s announcement of the Qi3 Accelerator Bootcamp, friends are asking me why we’re doing it.  Are we mad? How will we make money? And, above all, why High Value Manufacturing (HVM)?

The simple answer is that we’re doing it because we see the need!  After reviewing nearly 400 prospects, we see a common set of areas in which businesses need to improve if they wish to attract investment.  Let’s be clear here, I’m not just talking about seed stage ideas.  I’m expecting that the bootcamp will be most attractive to young established businesses looking for early or expansion stage capital.  We’ll be helping on all aspects of engineering businesses, from managing technology and product development, go to market strategy, finances and Intellectual Property.

When I attended the NESTA Startup Factories conference  last summer, it became obvious to me that, whilst Accelerator Programmes were flourishing in the software and Internet space, few people had tried them in ‘harder tech’.  When we set up the partnership with Cambridge’s ideaSpace, it seemed natural to run a bootcamp as a one-off pilot to test our evaluation process and the concept of such a programme.  We aim to support 8 businesses with tough love through an intensive 3-day process, and we’ve attracted a range of top notch coaches and mentors to get the best out of this short, sharp shock.

But above all, it’s about having fun working with ambitious people in the field I love.  I grew up at Oxford Instruments, a mid-sized engineering company where the customer was king and the love of technology and manufacturing was deeply ingrained.  I’ve spent my life selling and marketing other people’s technical inventions around the world.  For me, HVM means making real engineered products, be they destined for environmental sustainability, healthcare, industry or defence.  My pleasure as an investor is seeing engineering and commercial jobs created here in the UK, and products exported across the globe.

We’ve been fortunate to attract partnership from ideaSpace, sponsorship from Harrison Clark, Williams Powell, Synergy Energy and Wren Capital, and support from NESTA and the Technology Strategy Board.  Bootcamp participants will have to contribute a token amount towards their accommodation in Cambridge’s lovely Madingley Hall, and we’ll make up the balance of the costs ourselves.  We are not seeking equity stakes in the companies that participate, although we’ll naturally be keen to see if they are attractive investments at the end of the process.

So are we just do-gooders?  Well perhaps.  I see it as a superb experiment, an opportunity to help some great businesses, committed entrepreneurs, and work with experienced mentors whilst having great fun.

To join the bootcamp apply here.  It’s a one-off; entries close on 4th May and the bootcamp will be held on 23rd – 25th July.

My next posting will be the one about the aubergine…

The Startup Factories

Is Qi3 Accelerator a Startup Factory?

I went to a super conference which was organised by NESTA to launch their draft report on Startup Factories.  The report examines the phenomenon of Accelerator Programmes which first appeared in the USA in 2005 and in Europe in 2007.  The scene is mushrooming, with accelerators springing up all over the place.  Over half of today’s European accelerator programmes have been established in 2010 or 2011.

We don’t fit exactly with the model examined in the report.  Current accelerator programmes are focused on concept-to-demonstration internet and software businesses.  But that doesn’t invalidate the idea, or its more general applicability.

A good article by Mark Littlewood (the other one) summarises the day.

Capturing the vital six per cent

A recent NESTA report focuses on the 6% of companies in the UK that exhibit high growth rates of over 20% in a year.  These 11,000 businesses are responsible for over 50% of new job creation, vital in these days of austerity and high unemployment.

Interesting findings are:

  • High growth doesn’t just result from technological invention.  High growth businesses are spread across many sectors
  • High growth mainly comes from businesses over 5 years old

Of course, the skills, ambitions and characteristics of  owners and managers is the key.  Entrepreneurial attitudes towards innovation in technological and business processes correlate with growth performance.

The report’s conclusions are sadly somewhat more public sector focused and predictable.  It argues that government should:

  • Remove regulatory obstacles to growth
  • Support ‘access to finance’ through measures such as co-investment funds
  • Develop a skilled workforce
  • Support flows of knowledge and collaboration
  • Improve demand for innovation by harnessing the government’s own £200bn annual spending on products and services

That’s all very well, and it’s hard to argue with much of this.  But (and you should have felt a ‘but’ coming) I have some concerns about this approach:

  • Government is extremely bad at removing regulation – look at the discussion over the past weeks about the impact of April 2011’s new regulations on microbusinesses.
  • I’m a huge fan of using government’s expenditure to favour innovative solutions, but with the laudable exception of small amounts of SBRI funding, the drive in government procurement is leading towards favouring large businesses through a series of insidious barriers to entry.
  • Tax isn’t mentioned.  Whilst the new government is encouraging entrepreneurship and risk investment, entrepreneurs face considerable penalties for earning above average salaries.
  • Most importantly, the NESTA report focuses its recommendations on the supply side (government intervention).  I feel that it should be rather more focused on what makes people want to put themselves out on a limb, move out of their comfort zones and grow their businesses.

Anyway, I’m off to try to find another one of those 6% of businesses to invest in.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

This web site uses cookies to improve your experience. By viewing our content, you are accepting the use of cookies. To find out more and change your cookie settings, please view our cookie policy. Please note that we don’t collect your personal information via our web site.

Close