Established in 2016, Ingenuity’s programme was designed to develop the quality and impact of entrepreneurial ideas being created at the University of Nottingham, as well as with our other external university, corporate, public and third sector partners, here in the UK, China and Malaysia. We are proud of this legacy, grateful to all of those that helped us create the programme, and more importantly, proud of the amazing entrepreneurs we’ve supported.
Over the past few years we had already started to evolve to support more socially-minded, ethical and inclusive businesses. We felt strongly that universities had a role to play in the creation of entities that, in line with their research goals, focused on creating a better world. We were also listening to what was going on in society, and in particular to the younger generation, of the need to tackle the big issues and be solution-focused. And finally, an observation that too much investment was going to too few, and a rebalancing away from ‘exit’ investments towards more patient capital was needed. So, after much research and consultation, Ingenuity has become an impact-only programme establishing four pathways for the 2020 programme: prosperity, community, health and climate.
We had set about creating greater reach through partnership by establishing regional centres of activity across the UK. And finally, we had developed a programme and resources that would bring the best of knowledge, skills and insight to the most diverse group of people we could.
Getting on with it, we had built a network of over 20 leading UK universities, all committed to impact through enterprise. We had also established an exciting group of corporate sponsors supporting the creation of new impact enterprises, helping to deliver on their own social responsibility goals, whilst changing the lives and environments of communities across the country. The team also reached out to many other innovative charities and NGOs, as well as leading corporates and academics, to create the Develop Platform, a growing online resource for the creation of impact driven initiatives.
It was all coming together very nicely… and then the lockdown.
Covid-19 has changed life for us all, and as I write this, in June 2020 everything feels very fluid and in flux. Since lockdown we have spent the last few months re-evaluating what we do, how we do it, and most importantly asking “is our mission still valid?”. Carrying on regardless simply doesn’t seem an option, at best it would be a missed opportunity, at worst disrespectful of all we will have been through.
Covid-19 has pushed into stark focus so many of the inequalities and problems we have simply ignored or turned away from as a society. The need for good overall health and greater financial resilience are so obvious now as fundamental personal goals – while on a more macro level we all feel and are enjoying cleaner air and quieter cities. So, as a society the question was – how can we hold on to some of this gain and make a positive out of a negative, and how can we use business and sustainable models of operation to drive recovery through the difficult times ahead?
We realised that what we had already created would offer the forums of exchange and exploration to understand this new landscape. That Ingenuity’s Develop Platform will be the place from where those that can, and are willing, can seek insight and gather the tools to help new enterprise to emerge. And ultimately it was the role of our partners to support those solutions, the individuals, groups and collaborations. The role of Ingenuity and our partners to create more prosperous and resilient communities, filled with healthy individuals, enjoying a recovering climate.
We had the network and the opportunity, that is our bread and butter after all, but was there more we could do?
What we then realised was to really understand this new environment we needed to reach out more fully across communities throughout the UK, understand what was going on and what were the priorities. To that end we are now in contact with Combined Authorities, Local Economic Partnerships, and Councils across the UK, wherever Ingenuity will be impacting in 2020. The aim is to ensure that we understand regional nuances, establish the most urgent priorities, and craft regional Ingenuity activity to gain maximum benefit to places and communities. While we have four pathways we will ensure – for example – that what climate means in the North West, is different to the South Coast, and reflect the different approaches needed to tackle barriers to prosperity, between the West and East Midlands.
As we started talking to local and regional governments we began to understand their role in convening the people and organisations from that area who could add value. Through our regional academic and civic partnerships, the Ingenuity Programme will bring together some of the UK’s most innovative regional commercial, civic and third sector organisations. What then emerged was that as well as creating impact driven start-ups we also had the opportunity to develop driven and innovative individuals within our regional partnerships, to create more sustainable and social responsible practice in existing organisations. So, as well as developing Future Founders (those wanting to start a business), we have also added Regional Pioneers (those that wish to innovate from within an existing organisations). This way we’ll find innovators and pioneers wherever they are, enable the sharing of ideas, offer the skills and training needed, and support ingenuity wherever it occurs.
Along with the rest of the UK, we are now starting to reach out, we are reforming the network and partnerships in order to understand where we are, and how we can build a more sustainable and inclusive future. Starting-up or innovating is always high risk, so we need to ensure that these are journeys worth taking and the path ahead is understood, and as a network we will support each other to be courageous and ambitious.
At the core of what and why Ingenuity exists is to create new ideas, new ways of living and being, but vitally travelling down new roads for the purpose of bringing value and opportunity for all. As a society, as we place the first few tentative steps towards rebuilding what’s been lost, we would like to invite you all to join us and do your bit towards creating that tomorrow.