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Why have Centres of Innovation?

Should innovation be a collaborative or solitary pursuit?
20 Aug 2015

Why have CENTRES of innovation?

This post is inspired by my recent attendance at The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) Summer Innovation Day, a feeder event for Venturefest Scotland 2015.
There were presentations from 7 of the 8 Scottish Centres of Innovations. Each centre has developed its own process for innovation to create collaborations between businesses, universities and an expanding range of other partners.

Slide from presentation by Toni Dedeu - DHI

Slide from presentation by Toni Dedeu – DHI

CENtre for Sensors and Imaging Systems
Digital Health Institute
Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre
The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre
Oil and Gas Innovation Centre
Data Lab
Construction Scotland Innovation Centre
Stratified Medicine Scotland


So why centres of innovation? I see innovation as how you apply your creativity, solution or idea to bring about a change that will lead to improvement or progress. It makes sense to be collaborative because innovation usually comes from the interplay of ideas when diverse experiences and expertise combine.

Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Professor Linda A. Hill of Harvard Business School notes that leaders of innovation tend to be people who are “creators of a context in which others are willing and able to make innovation happen”. This is in marked contrast to the idea of the individual creative genius – people seem to like the simplicity of this and it makes for a better story.

In his book Group Genius Keith Sawyer says it’s “group genius that generates breakthrough innovation. Collaboration drives creativity because innovation always emerges from a series of sparks–never a single flash of insight.” So I guess the point is that you need to have centres of innovation because it’s always a combined endeavour.

Key points on innovation
• Innovation is non-hierarchical
• Innovation doesn’t happen all it once, coming up with novel ideas is a process that takes time
• Effective collaborations and interdisciplinary teams should have interesting conversations and listen to each other
• There are a range of tools and techniques that can be learned to enhance innovative practices
• The direct route is not always the best route, ideas need to be developed and built upon before deciding on their use and meaning
• Sometimes you’ll end up with more questions than answers. That’s ok.

Attending the Innovation Day at UWS has inspired me to create a Skillfluence Innovation Centre. Skillfluence is a creative, idea-driven company that’s working with some of the brightest and sharpest minds; we need to keep at the top of our game and collaborating to innovate is how we’ll do it.