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A pathway to growth in challenging times

Written by Leigh Jenkins on 20 October 2020

Navigating the Covid era: How EEN is putting South West innovators on a pathway to growth

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As part of the UK government’s overall Covid response strategy, EEN has been delivering critical ‘on the ground’ work this year; ensuring our brightest businesses survive and continue to grow.

 

When the pandemic struck in early 2020, EEN South West reacted by first maximising the power of the network; connecting businesses that could collaborate to build ventilators, manufacture PPE, or clean ambulances in seconds not minutes.

 

We then focused on streamlining our core advisory offer delivered on behalf of Innovate UK, into a Covid Response Service. This bespoke programme focused on stabilisation and growth, providing the immediate support companies have needed through our expert advisory team. If a business is in survival-mode we have helped it stabilise, if it’s stabilising we have helped it grow, and if it’s growing we have helped it do that sustainably.

 

By listening carefully to clients and identifying the key pain points, we agree an action plan that will set them on the right track. We then deploy our industry specialists to help meet their needs, supporting with access to funding and finance, leadership skills, R&D, sales and marketing, design thinking and more.

 

As businesses move from hibernation to growth-mode; from furloughing staff to perhaps investing in R&D that will pivot the business towards new opportunities, we maintain our support structure and evolve action plans accordingly.

 

Internationalisation through the EEN network

 

By targeting the most ambitious businesses, particularly those that have already received Innovate UK funding, we are protecting existing government investments and helping the UK towards a speedy recovery.

 

Internationalisation is key to this objective; by connecting South West innovators with suppliers, partners and customers across the world through the EEN network, we spur on clients to become world leaders in their sector, improving the UK’s standing in the global economy.

 

For these businesses trading overseas, we continue to offer guidance on navigating the new regulatory environment that begins on 1st January. As the UK prepares to exit the EU, EEN is working with other government departments, including The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is hosting sector specific UK Transition Webinars.

 

Further support is also available from the Cabinet Office and our national enquiry gateway which can point businesses in the right direction. 

 

To illustrate the effectiveness of our Covid Response Service, here are two South West innovators that have worked with us this year and are now on firm growth trajectories:

 

TouchByte

In March this year, we helped a Cornwall-based innovator in facial recognition technology secure a £50,000 Innovate UK grant to diversify its product offering.

 

TouchByte identified at an early stage that sign-in systems such as fingerprints, keycodes and smart cards would now be fraught with safety concerns over virus transmission.

 

It decided to adapt its product and pivot into the construction industry, where it had not previously done business.

 

Innovate UK Covid-19 FastTrack programme

 

Funding was critical to the project so the company asked EEN adviser Layla Burrows to help apply to Innovate UK’s Covid FastTrack programme; a competition for R&D-intensive businesses addressing the challenges arising from Covid-19.

 

With funding in place from early May, TouchByte has been able to roll out prototypes and work with partners such as Inndex, a construction technology company providing back-end workforce management.

 

Once deployed, with workers’ faces detected and checked automatically, building site managers will be able to maintain high standards of security, while monitoring who is on site and which skill sets are available.

 

Jeremy Sneller, managing director of TouchByte, said: “The funding has meant that we can recruit additional people, so that by the end of this four-month period we’ll have a product that we can take to market.

 

“This technology is transferable and could benefit not just the construction market, but multiple sectors across the UK too.”

 

4EI

This year, we’ve also been able to support 4EI, a satellite imagery company enabling businesses to make better informed decisions based on satellite data-driven intelligence.

 

4EI initially approached EEN for IP support and as the pandemic struck, moved on to our adapted advisory offer.

 

“We were able to tailor the advice to what we needed support in and decided to focus on leadership and growth which was absolutely brilliant,” said Richard Flemmings, CTO.

 

“When Covid hit, we had to design a new set of structures and ways of working and it was very useful to have an external adviser that could tease all the right things out of us and give us best practice guidance. It’s something I hope we use EEN more for as we grow in the future.”

 

Funding and collaboration opportunities

 

EEN adviser Dee Temple-Multon has also assisted 4EI on to a number of sales training workshops focused on targeting international audiences, which has helped refine strategies for lead generation.

 

“On top of that, Dee is constantly pushing new funding and collaboration opportunities our way,” continues Richard. “We’re a niche company ingrained in our own stuff so it’s just great to have someone looking out for you, using the network and finding relevant opportunities.”

 

4EI is now preparing to begin a new growth spurt, significantly boosting its employee numbers and reaching new markets. 

 

For more information on how we can help your business, speak to our advisers and check out  our Innovate 2021 autumn event series on tackling current challenges and building for growth.