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HS2 innovation chief's advice to civils firms

A senior figure behind High Speed 2 has urged civils firms to break down the barriers that prevent their staff participating in innovation.

A senior High Speed 2 executive has urged civils firms to break down the barriers that prevent their staff participating in innovation.

Speaking at the NCE Future Technology Forum last week, HS2 Ltd head of innovation Iain Roche said three areas of improvement are required if companies are to innovate successfully.

These are

  • focusing and directing efforts;
  • removing participation barriers
  • managing the value from innovation.

Roche said that too many companies rely on “the same six usual suspects” to work on efforts to innovate, and urged that barriers to participation be broken down.

“Engineers are used to problem solving, so don’t underestimate their ability to come up with an excuse as to why they can’t take part. No time, more important things to do, no job code,” he said.

Often when innovation became the norm and more people got involved, they started to realise the rewards and felt more excited, Roche said.

He added that when companies innovate they often create products and support pet projects that have very little to do with business need.

Those that are best at innovation are those that were also excellent at enabling internal and external collaboration.

He added that individuals responsible for stimulating innovation needed supportive colleagues that had aligned goals.

Roche said companies needed to focus on things that would make a difference, and increase efforts to innovate.

“What is required is focus and direction,” he said. “Innovation portals, Dragons Den style events and so on have made a big difference, but the people who have done it well are the ones who do it in quantity. So whatever you’re doing, double it, triple it.”

He said it was also important to manage the value from innovation. He stated that innovation had to be integrated in the normal running of a business like any other department. When innovation is part of the norm, he said that it would follow that it was written into annual reviews and that it would then be engrained in the culture of the business.

“It’s easy to stop the innovation going ahead,” he said. “Businesses need a clear direction to say ‘this is what success looks like’.”


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