Innovation 001: Business Incubators

Innovation: The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need.  

Innovation is one of the most overused buzzwords in business and marketing. Most companies that want to “innovate” aren’t willing to take the risk and want a guarantee of results. This mentality can be counter-productive and restrict the development of great ideas. In this series we will explore different ways brands are trying to innovate.

The Lean Startup

The lean startup is a book by Eric Ries which provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers' hands faster. It is a principled approach to new product development. A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the “build-measure-learn” feedback loop.

The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect question.

Innovation doesn’t neccesarily have to focus on new product development but can also be focussed on making processes more efficient, usually through technology but not always.

The most popular approach to drive innovation at the moment is based on brands setting up incubators and accelerators.

Here are some notable examples of large brands launching their own incubator programmes.

L’Oreal Founders Factory -  L’Oreal announced a strategic investment in the Founders Factory, a leading global multi sector digital accelerator and incubator. L’Oréal and Founders Factory will invest and scale five early stage startups and co-create two new companies from scratch every year. The in-house team of experts at Founders Factory, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs themselves, will provide hands-on support and advice to participating startups, as well as working with L’Oréal to jointly build and launch new products and services.  

Sephora - Sephora Accelerate is dedicated to building a community of innovative female founders in beauty. The months-long program begins with a one-week bootcamp where founders acquire the necessary skills to create a successful business.

Unilever Foundry - The Unilever Foundry is Unilever’s platform for start-ups and innovators to engage, collaborate and explore business opportunities with Unilever and their 400+ brands. Through the Unilever Foundry, start-ups can view and apply to address new briefs from our brands and functions, apply for mentorship through one of their partners, and register to attend events across the world.

P&G Connect - P&G’s Connect + Develop program helps initiate partnerships to meet today’s needs across the P&G business: for products, technology, in-store, ecommerce and the supply chain. Whether you are an individual inventor, a small business, or a Fortune 500 company, Connect + Develop is designed to help innovators and patent-holders connect with P&G.

Nike FuelLab - A partnership program designed to connect Nike with industry leading companies who share our commitment to using emerging technologies to create better solutions for athletes. In the first ever Nike+ Accelerator, 10 start-up companies moved to Portland for 3 months and collaborated with Nike and mentors on their company products and connections to NikeFuel and Nike+.

Arsenal Innovation Lab -  The Arsenal Innovation Lab is the latest step in Arsena;s desire to be at the forefront of the game on and off the pitch. They are looking for smart-thinking businesses to help identify ground-breaking ideas.

Volkswagen Transparent Factory - The Transparent Factory from Volkswagen is starting a new chapter: six innovative mobility teams will today begin the new start-up incubator programme in Dresden. They now have 200 days to take their innovative ideas and develop mobility products or services which are ready for the market. Alongside Volkswagen mobility experts they will be supported by Group It's Ideation:Hub as well as experts from the SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator-Programm of HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management – and with financial support from the state capital city of Dresden.

Mercedez Startup adVANce - Opportunity to work with Mercedes-Benz Vans and help you turn your transport idea into reality. Support as a fair partner, granting up to €500,000 to co-develop prototype with shared IP rights.