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Innovation

The best way to predict the future is to create it

The best way to predict the future is to create it

What does it mean to be a thought leader? What motivates companies to innovate, where do those lighting bolts moments of inspiration come from? 

There are countless proverbs telling us to take our time and to not rush things. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, one step at a time, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we all know plenty more where they came from.

However, when it comes to development in business, we can easily lose sight of these principles. We hear inspirational stories of revolutionary ideas alongside humble beginnings but rarely take the time to find out about everything that happened in between.

Not everyone knows that Michael Dell started building his first PC computer in his university dorm room. Or that Steve Jobs’ inspiration for Apple’s font design principles came from his unofficial sit-ins on a calligraphy course. Fast forward a few years and we have the world-renowned Dell computer corporation and Apple whose customers are almost fanatical about its products.

If you build it, he will come

Thought leaders who have changed the face of the world are lauded for their inspirational creativity and raised up as pioneers who mould the future. How did Jobs know that font styling would be so important to the computer industry? To add another world-changer to the mix, how did Mark Zuckerberg know that social networks would become such an integral part of all our lives?

The short answer; they didn’t.

Any development in any industry comes first from the exploration of a seed of an idea. At its inception no one really knows how far it will grow and only through testing, tweaking, reviewing and evolving do these seeds blossom into something significant.

The majority of ideas rarely make it past the developmental stages to reach the market and of those that do, a considerable percentage fail to make any substantial impact.

The thought leaders who push the boundaries of what is expected by people show their true strength in influence when they stop asking people what they need, and start showing people why they need something.

A strong foundation

All the influence in the world is not enough to revolutionise a market with something that doesn’t actually appeal to a need.

It is vital to breakdown and structure the early stages of development in order to guide progression along the right path. It all begins with Insight.

·        How do your existing customers perceive you as a business?

·        How do non-customers perceive you?

·        What are the key emerging trends in your market?

It is these, and many other core questions that will fuel the fire of ideas that are focused and responsive to what is actually happening in the market.

Guiding support all along the way

In the same way that your ideas need nurturing, your development teams need guidance.

Apparently, humans use only 10% of our brains. If true this means we all have a mass of untapped potential. But what about the people around you? Maybe they are the true untapped potential?

The people who make up your organisation are sitting on a wealth of knowledge, experience, information and insight. Ture innovative companies will make sure they are not ignoring the amazing capacity if their teams.

At G2, we love the innovation process, problem-solving and working out how products fit into the marketplace. We have developed processes to understand your business and company culture and draw out the potential of your teams.

The ultimate goal of your design & development projects will inevitably be enhanced revenue and market share. Our journey with you begins with this as a core focus and it remains firmly within our grasp all along the way. 

Our team is on hand to support you with any issues you’re looking to resolve with current products development; around appearance, performance, the manufacturing process, or if you are looking to launch a new product, bringing ideas to life is what we do every day.

Want to talk to us about your ideas? We'd love to hear from you, why not book a call with us?

Top 10 Interesting Materials

Top 10 Interesting Materials

One of our most popular blog posts has been our Top 10 amazing materials post from 2015, so we thought it was time for a refresh.

We put our award-winning Emma Hartley on the case to find the most innovative materials out there.

Pineapple leather

Vegan leather may sound ethical, but synthetic leathers are usually plastic based, which come with their own environmental issues. Introducing pineapple leather – a totally sustainable, natural ‘leather’ made from waste plant fibres, rather than cows, or the oil industry. The fibres used to create the pineapple leather are by-products of the pineapple harvest, which means no extra land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are required, and it gives a new additional income for pineapple farmers. 

Chitosan

Another by-product, this time of the fishing industry, chitosan is a sugar that can be extracted from the shells of crabs, shrimps and other shellfish. Its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties give many uses, from medical, health, dental and pharmacology fields.

When chitosan is blended with viscose fibres, it creates an antibacterial, antimicrobial textile that prevents odour and is gentle on the skin for people with sensitive skin or issues such as eczema. Because the chitosan is structurally bound, rather than a coating, it means the fabric keeps its antibacterial properties permanently, even after washing the fabric.

Graphene

On this list just has to be graphene. There are too many reasons to list, but we’ll name a few of the amazing applications we have come across.

MIT researchers compressed and fused graphene flakes into a sponge-like configuration that has a density of 5%, and is 200 times stronger than steel. Graphene has been used to create transparent and flexible solar cells, and graphene nanotubes have been used to create a new generation of batteries. Rice University have now been able to create graphene out of wood, which is abundant and renewable, meaning it can help in the growing electronics waste problem. And this laser-induced graphene has been found to be antibacterial, and these properties can be increased by adding electricity, which has huge promise for hospital, ocean, oil-drilling and water treatment applications.

Take a look at what they are doing with Graphene at Manchester University.

Superhydrophobic coatings

Superhydrophobic coatings are a nanoscopic layer that can be applied to repel water. Just sounds like a waterproof coat? Watch this!

Braeon

Braeon is a polymer ribbon that claims that it is the lightest, strongest and most adaptable material that’s ever been invented. High-strength polymeric fibers are bonded into a thermoplastic, and it can be heated to mould into a variety of shapes. A single ribbon can withstand over 2,500 pounds of pull strength – it was even used to tow a 5000 pound truck up a 30 degree hill! Move over Gaffer Tape!

Check out their successful Kickstarter campaign.

Oil absorbing sponge

Everyone knows oil spills are problematic when it comes to cleaning up - remember the photos of all the sad seagulls from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident? The problem with oil spills is that oil not only collects on the surface, but it can also drift under the water.

Scientists have created a sponge-like material that can absorb 90 times its weight in oil – and amazingly, it can be wrung out and used again and again for over 100 times! The structure of the sponge means it can pull oil from the entire water column, not just the surface, meaning easier clean up and less environmental impact.

 

Power generating textiles

The need for sustainable energy sources is real, and researchers around the world are looking at small-scales ways they can do this – including power generating textiles. Researchers have created textiles that generate energy from solar-cells, and from triboelectric generation – this means it generate electricity when it experiences friction. These microcables were woven into textiles which could be used for clothing, curtains or even tents. Imagine being able to charge your phone whilst walking to work!

Metamaterials

Metamaterials are man-made composites, that have a structure that is not usually found in natural materials. Researchers from the University of Michigan have developed a new metamaterial that can change the stiffness of its surface again and again, without altering or damaging the material. This material could be used in the cars of the future – cars need to be stiff and support the weight of the car and passengers, but in a crash, soft materials will absorb impact and protect the passengers, potentially saving lives.

3D Bioprinting

3D printing technology has many incredible uses in the medical field. BioInks are printed layer-by-layer to create structures that wouldn’t be possible in any traditional method – specialised meshes and foams can be used to house stem cells to grow all manner of cells. Organs, bone stents, and pieces of skull can all be printed, individually shaped and crafted for each patient.

Self-healing materials

Self-healing materials are made up of microcapsules that contain a glue-like chemical that can repair any damage to itself. When the material is cut, these microcapsules burst, and the cracks seal themselves up.

Shear thickening materials

Shear thickening materials behave like a liquid, until an object impacts it and causes shear stress. The material then hardens in a few milliseconds, making it then act like a solid. Kevlar uses this technology. The Kevlar is soaked in a shear thickening fluid, so the Kevlar fabric is flexible when not under stress. Then, when something impacts it (like a bullet!) it solidifies and dramatically increases the strength of the piece of armour, protecting the wearer.

Or you can feel like you're running on water - like these guys!

We're always on the look out for new businesses that want to push the boundaries of what's possible. If you've got a product design that needs our support get in touch. Or if you've created the next generation of innovative materials we can help you finance your project with our R&D tax relief service.

Why not book a free call with one of our experts?

The top 3 Innovation Myths

The top 3 Innovation Myths

At G2 Innovation we have come across a number of myths associated with the concept of Innovation. Here are our top 3 myths.

1.       Innovation is all about invention.

‘Innovation’ is closely linked to exciting market entries, medical research and technological advances, so it’s not surprising that the majority of people associate innovation with inventions.

The problem is that focussing on the invention only is an expensive, resource heavy and potentially wasteful exercise.  

All we have to do is look at the patent database. Only 3% of patented products make any money for anyone. 

Innovation has to be innately about commercial success, otherwise it becomes redundant.

True innovators identify a market need or opportunity, analyse the financial returns and then develop a solution which meets these aims.

There are businesses everywhere investing time and money into coming up with ideas,  then even more time and money proving that these ideas work perfectly, rather than talking to the market first and identifying the opportunity forcommercial return.

Likewise, consultants in this field love to brainstorm, use ideation tools and problem solving techniques without first asking the questions: What does the market need? How much money will this actually make?

At G2 Innovation we focus first on establishing the market need, then taking the idea to commercial success. 

2.      Innovation is expensive and risky

When businesses feel under pressure to get a product to market quickly, they often spend excessive amounts of money refining the prototype to prove it works perfectly.

We encourage businesses to make a low-cost prototype and test it on the market.

If the inexpensive model fails to excite the market, then 9 times out of 10, so will the expensive model. In some cases, the difference between failure with a low-cost prototype versus a perfect prototype can be the difference between the life and death of a business.

We also find that many people are unaware of the tax breaks available to businesses that are undertaking a research and development programme. For instance, the HMRC’s R&D tax relief scheme exists to encourage investment in research, development and innovation by UK companies. 

The benefits are huge with companies claiming back between 9p and 33p per pound spent on development. R&D tax relief can be used to reduce corporation tax payments and even loss-making businesses can benefit. The sums involved can be sizeable.

3.      Innovation is only the responsibility of Senior Managers

In many organisations, Innovation is the responsibility of senior managers or at best an Innovation department.

However, in the same way that the 1980’s and 90’s saw the introduction of total quality management systems in the workplace, in this age, innovation must encompass the entire workforce.

Innovation should infiltrate company ideology and every member of the workforce should feel empowered to improve and enhance their own duties. This is called a Culture of Innovation and can be the least expensive form of innovation.

For instance, an office based employee who finds a quicker and faster way to process and communicate client information across departments has just innovated a process, whilst the monetary cost to the company is negligible, the commercial benefit is considerable.

Every strand of business from products and processes, financial and risk management, talent development, branding and promotion, should be included within Innovation.

Once your employees have bought into this strategy they will feel more valued and the result will be a more committed, engaged and productive team members. 

With Innovation de-mystified, it’s easy to understand why an increasing number of businesses are beginning to invest resources into creating a Culture of Innovation. The costs can be kept low, but the potential for success is high. 

If you're looking for a team to help you develop your product ideas we'd love to hear from you. Or if you'd be interested in talking to us about your potential R&D Tax Relief claim, please get in touch.
 

6 Innovations in Energy Technology

6 Innovations in Energy Technology

It was National Clean Air day on June 6th, so we pulled together the most inspiring and innovative products & design contributing to a healthier planet.

Energy Innovation

The Uk's first electric trunk plant, run by Charge Automotive is due to open in Oxfordshire

Charge Automative have designed a competitively priced electric truck ranging from two to 26 tonnes, which can be built by one person in just four hours. The trucks are software based, which means they are updated and improved wirelessly.

Climeworks air-capturing plant takes C02 from the atmosphere and feeds it to vegetables 

Our high levels of CO2 are contributing to global warming, so it's great to see that people are looking into ways to produce sustainable energy and reduce CO2. At the same time we are actually producing CO2 for farmers, chefs and scientists. Climeworks have designed an ingenious solution captures CO2 from the atmosphere and feed it to vegetables.

Gulf Power launches energy storage R&D project with Tesla powerpack

The McCrary Battery Energy Storage Demonstration, a 250-kilowatt/one-megawatt-hour Tesla Powerpack lithium-ion industrial energy storage system, is designed to help industrial and commercial customers store and use energy on demand while improving resiliency.

UK government has promised to double energy innovation investments to £400m per year by 2021 

"The UK Government is committed to leading the world in delivering clean energy technology and today's investment shows that we are prepared to support innovation in this critical area," said Claire Perry, minister of state for BEIS, speaking at a clean energy showcase event.

Fantastic news! UK renewable energy generates more electricity than gas & coal for first time! 

National Grid reported that, on Wednesday lunchtime (7 June), power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy.

Are you currently looking into research and development in this field? We've worked with businesses across industries supporting them to bring their ideas to life and find them through our R&D tax relief service.

 

 

 

 

 

Design, engineering & manufacturing inspiration - May 2017

Design, engineering & manufacturing inspiration - May 2017

We've pulled together the more inspiring news stories of the past month, including competitions, inspiration and some design fails.

1 - Innovation is on the map

The University of Cambridge is searching for it's first ever Professor of Innovation.  We're looking forward to seeing what the next generation of engineers will be doing. 

Read the full story here in The Cambridge News.

2 - Steam power ahead

Steam power manufacturing

Thought steam was a thing of the past? East Kilbride-based Heliex Power, in partnership with City, University of London, was the first to discover a way of harnessing so-called “wet” steam – a relatively ubiquitous, yet frequently untapped, energy source.

Reportedly, the expander can drive machinery more efficiently and cost effectively than an electrical motor. Its second new technology, the Heliex AirComp is up to 18% more efficient than using an electrical motor, delivering potential savings in excess of £80,000 a year for a standard 100kW machine.  Well worth a watch.

Find out more in The Manufacturer.

3 - Design Fails

Juicero design

The America company Juciero became a talking point on twitter this month as it became clear that it's juicer was slower than man. Pre-sold packets of fruit can be squashed faster by hand, than by the Juciero. Which led people to question if innovation is dead in America?

Read all about it in The Guardian.

And the new indestructible £1 coin proved itself otherwise.

4 - Challenges and competitions

Plastics engineering and design

We all know that plastics and oceans don't mix, so The New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize is looking for applicants to rethink the design and materials of plastic packaging to make it more recyclable. Roughly 11 winners will be chosen across the two challenges, who will each receive up to $200,000 (£154,000) in grants to make their ideas happen.

To find out more and apply click here.

A £350k innovation challenge has been launched to find innovative UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) whose technology can be adapted and commercialised to solve societal and industry challenges in sectors unfamiliar to the company. 

The Manufacturer has all the details.

5 - Are your children inventors?

Children inventing

Children are the future, which is why we sponsor a fantastic organisation; Kids Invent Stuff. They're currently looking for crime fighting gadgets from children that they will then build and post on youtube!

Find out more here.

 

We work with businesses across technology, heavy engineering, software, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, gas and nuclear to support them to bring their ideas to life and profit from product design. 

We have brought together a diverse team who can help you finance your project with our Research and Development Tax Credit team, and bring those ideas to life with our product designers and engineers.

If you have an idea or a project that you think we could support you with please get in touch.

 

G2 pick of the best innovations in April 2017

G2 pick of the best innovations in April 2017

We’ve scoured the internet for you to find the most innovation designs this month to inspire and excite you!

Here’s our top 5

5 Tesla for Homes

A technology-driven home-building company in California says it is "doing for homes what Tesla is doing for the car".  

By using digital tools to streamline the design and construction process, Cover's ultimate goal is to "make living in a thoughtfully designed and well-built home a reality for everyone".

"We're doing for homes what Tesla is doing for the car – using technology to optimise every step of the process, from design and sales, to permitting and manufacturing," 

Read the full story here at Dezeen

4 Breakthrough Brain–Computer Interface Technologies

For the last decade, APL has led the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) Program, and in the process created the most advanced neurally controlled prosthetic limb in the world.

Using this technology, patients whose bodies are paralyzed have been able to feed themselves, reached out to loved ones and even control a flight simulator.

A new project in Facebook’s Building 8, focuses on developing a silent speech interface that will allow users to type 100 words per minute — five times faster than typing on a smartphone — using only their thoughts.

Read more about this story at NewsWise

3 – Remotely monitoring patients with rare diseases

The London-based startup Aparito is developing wearable technologies and mobile apps to remove some of this discomfort experienced by patients, with a special focus on people living with a rare disease. 

Their watch collects relevant data from the wearer, and sends the information to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The information is uploaded to the cloud so clinicians can analyze and monitor the patient’s progress. 

The app can also be updated with patient-added data, such as dosage change or symptoms like seizures, reducing human error when patients are asked when or what triggered a specific symptom, or what day they forgot their medication.

Read more about this at Minds of Malady
 

2 - Design for the ear not the eye—throw away what we know about design today & start fresh

Every few years, a big shift in how we interact with computers arrives. In the 1970s we swapped out punch cards for terminals, and then moved on to using a mouse and desktop icons in the 1980s. Today, touch screens and mobile devices are the face of computing.

But in the near future, voice technology and artificial intelligence will bring about another huge change, says Paul Cutsinger, who is head of voice design education for Amazon's home assistant, Alexa.

Find out more in Fortune.

1 G2 Designer wins Innovation Award

We couldn’t end this month’s innovative design collection without mentioning our very own designer Emma Hartley, who we give our coveted first place to.

Emma won first place in the Nottingham University Ingenuity17 competition and the Engineering in Business award amongst many others earlier in April.

Emma’s redesign of the defibrillator makes the lifesaving device more portable and simple to use, so those without formal training would be able to access it in remote locations should an emergency arise. 

The next step for Emma is product development.  We’re proud at G2 Innovation to support Emma to bring this to market, both through giving her time to develop and the use of our resources.  We’re proud to be part of developing a product with Emma that will ultimately save lives.

To read the full story click here.

And finally, we’re pleased to see that innovation has finally been put on the map.  In amongst the blogs and news articles about how innovation is an overused word like passion and bespoke, we’re pleased to see that the University of Cambridge is looking for first professor of innovation.

We work with businesses across technology, heavy engineering, software, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, gas and nuclear to support them to bring their ideas to life and profit from product design. 

We have brought together a diverse team who can help you finance your project with our Research and Development Tax Credit team, and bring those ideas to life with our product designers and engineers.

If you have an idea or a project that you think we could support you with please get in touch.