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Enterprise Ireland scheme driving business success through innovation

Innovation 4 Growth programme has led to Irish firms generating over €150m in sales

Irish companies have generated more than €150 million in sales of new products and services as a result of participation in Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation 4 Growth programme. Delivered in conjunction with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, the programme helps companies to use innovation to create new business models, products, services or processes that will add value to their customers thereby increasing profits.

The programme is delivered in five modules beginning with creating a culture of innovation, identifying and choosing the best opportunities to pursue, testing, and creating a business from the opportunity. Up to three senior executives from each company participate in the programme.

In addition, each participant company is assigned a business coach who assists in bringing innovation back into the company. This assistance is delivered in five half-day sessions during which topics covered in the modules are dealt with in more detail.

"The emphasis is on business growth and how innovation is essential to it," says programme manager Daryl Regan. "The half-day sessions look at what the businesses have learned during the modules and how they are going to use that. We also hold webinars prior to each module to prepare the ground and ensure participants get the most out of them."

Innovation audit

The programme begins with an innovation audit. “This looks at how effective the companies are at managing innovation,” says Regan. “We get a rounded view of innovation in the organisation, any gaps that might exist, and what needs to be done to fill them. We then kick off with a launch event which sets the scene for the programme and where a keynote speaker explores the importance of innovation for business success.”

The most recent programme was the first where MIT was involved. “We made some quite exciting changes to the programme last year,” Regan explains. “We looked around internationally at the business schools which were leaders in innovation and MIT is the very best. MIT hosts the first module which centres around what it takes to create a sustainable culture of innovation at the team and organisational level.”

She says the MIT experience was very special. "It's quite hard to define but one of things that struck us was its simplicity. They have fantastic tools which are not complicated. You can go to places where you see amazing tools with all the bells and whistles but it's hard to see how they can be applied in a business. MIT understands business and understands Ireland. The brilliance of their models is that you can see straight away how they can be used in business. Companies can apply them from day one with instant impact."

The four other modules are held in different regional locations around Ireland and the programme concludes with a finale event during which each company makes a presentation to a panel of judges with two being selected to be voted on by the other participants as the overall award winner for the year.

Transformational change

Construction company Ardmac took the honours for the 2018-19 programme. "We were delighted to be named winners of the Innovation 4 Growth programme", says chief executive Ronan Quinn. "As an organisation, we now embrace innovation and are implementing a company-wide programme to capture and manage new ideas through a structured process. This programme has assisted us in driving transformational change within the organisation and I am already seeing some new service offerings come through our innovation process that will deliver incremental revenue growth for Ardmac both domestically and on the international stage."

The MIT module was particularly useful, he adds. “Spending a week in MIT was a great way to start off the programme, you could feel the energy in the room on the first morning when all of the companies were together for the first time. We found the design thinking module and the customer-centric approach taught in this module very valuable when it came to designing our innovation process. We also learnt the value of capturing and collecting customer insights which resonated with our team very strongly.

“Using the tools provided by I4G to identify our clients’ pains and gains means we can start to refresh our services and processes, ensuring we are a client-focused organisation.”

That energy carries right the way through the programme and beyond, according to Regan. "A huge and immeasurably important byproduct of the programme is the networking and peer learning aspect. This is extraordinarily valuable. During the programme which has just finished the participants were thrown together over in Boston and it worked really well. Very strong bonds have developed between them since."

To learn more about the Enterprise Ireland Innovation 4 Growth programme email daryl.regan@Enterprise-Ireland.com