Running challenge led accelerator trials are highly effective in fostering a culture of innovation that can in turn generate growth.

It is effective because of how people react to a challenge. Setting a challenge directs behaviour down a path, it sets a clear goal for companies to aim for, they are not creating for the sake of creating. Its incentivising behaviour which makes this challenge method effective and by incentivising it can lead to many different solutions being generated in a short space of time.

Part of the benefit of setting a challenge is that it can steer progress into areas that may not initially seem as lucrative or interesting or even apparent to solve. So, when thinking about how to bring about innovation to areas that are usually overlooked, the challenge led approach can steer innovation into these areas.

Challenge setting therefore is very important. But as Chekhov wrote “…but you confuse two different things: solving the problem and correctly posing the question.” (-Letter to A.S Suvorin Oct. 27, 1888). Challenge setting involves the ability to create a clear understanding of the need whilst opening up the variety of potential solutions, particularly the unexpected and unknown as these will offer the greatest leap forward. One cannot be prescriptive. There is a great significance placed on the articulation of the challenges as these are the stimulus of which the response needs to be ground breaking and globally leading. A broad knowledge of technological advancement across multiple sectors is critical in order to achieve best practice challenges.

When we talk about creating a culture of innovativeness challenge-based accelerators are great as they lay the foundations of an SME network which can then be connected to corporate and academic partnerships. Where the challenge method excels is that it can very quickly build and rank SME’s and start up lists which is a critical resource in establishing a balanced eco-system. On average a digital SME Challenge programme (IC tomorrow of Innovate UK) delivered per year: 6-8 themed contests, each having 4-6 Challenges, and had on average between 150 to 300 applications per Challenge. This established and engaged with a pool of pre-vetted, relevant SME’s and start-ups in excess of 6,000.

Challenges give something for businesses to aim for and can be targeted in the right areas. A challenge can create networks and the more challenges that are set in a specific area the larger the network grows so too the number of innovative solutions.


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