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 develop their innovation strategies. 

From incubators and accelerators, to hosting hackathons and creating new job roles, welcome to the modern world of innovation.


The Lean Startup

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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.

Sky Betting & Gaming - With over 1.6 million customers, SB&G want to tackle key business and customer challenges by building relationships with small businesses, with the potential to develop longer term commercial partnerships.

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.  

L'Oreal StationFL’Oréal is the official sponsor of the exclusive beauty accelerator within STATION F, the 366,000 square foot Parisian campus designed to host a startup ecosystem under one roof.The L’Oréal beauty accelerator will welcome up to 20 high potential early stage startups starting in January 2018 and accelerate their development by bringing them strategic mentoring and operational support. 

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+.

Under Armour Idea House - dea House was designed to give you the tools and information you need to develop that great idea and bring it to market.

Arsenal Innovation Lab -  The Arsenal Innovation Lab is the latest step in Arsenals 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.

Abbey Road Red - Building on a legacy of more than 80 years of groundbreaking technological advances at the Studios, Abbey Road Red is an open innovation department designed to support the endeavours of the brightest music tech entrepreneurs, researchers and developers. They run a unique music tech start-up incubation program – they claim it's only one of its kind in Europe – to support the most promising music tech start-ups, as well as collaborating with  the brightest minds in academic research. The white lab coats are long gone at Abbey Road but the spirit of adventure is still as present as ever.

John Lewis JLAB - Helping startups shape the future retail experience.

IKEA Bootcamp - IKEA Bootcamp is about collaborating and co-building with startups. They are looking for startups to help solve the IKEA ‘Big Problems’ around being truly affordable for the many people, reaching and interacting with the many, and enabling a positive impact on the planet, people and society.

PepsiCo Nutrition Greenhouse - PepsiCo has launched a new incubator scheme, designed to nurture emerging nutrition and wellness brands. The new programme focuses on products aimed at European consumers and seeks to identify up to eight breakthrough brands, with successful companies receiving a €25,000 grant and entry into the six-month incubator programme. They will benefit from both in-person and virtual events, including being paired with executives whose industry expertise can help them address their immediate market challenges and accelerate growth.

BritVic Wisehead - Britvic has launched WiseHead Productions, an incubator company setup to create drinks for adults who seek quality drinking experiences.

Diageo x Distil Ventures - Diageo partnered with Distill Ventures to  support entrepreneurs who want to create the global drinks brands of the future. 

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.


Get in touch if you're interested in learning more about our network of incubators and startups that could help drive your innovation strategies

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