Guide

Use innovation to start or grow your business

Common approaches to innovation

How you approach innovation will depend on your business strategy, capability and market understanding, as well as how much finance you have available.

Different approaches to business innovation

You could choose one of many approaches to innovation in your business, including:

  • continuous product and process improvement
  • improving your product design
  • upgrading your business model - eg by offering complementary services or products
  • using new technologies to add value to an existing product or service
  • exploiting a new technology to create a new product, service or business

Analyse the marketplace

Innovation is not something separate from everything else your business does. Instead, to move your business forward, study your marketplace and understand how innovation can add value to your customers. See more on planning for innovation in your business.

Find opportunities for innovation

You can identify opportunities for innovation by adapting your product or service to the way your marketplace is changing. For example, if you're a specialist hamburger manufacturer, you might consider:

  • modifying your existing product by lowering the fat content in your burgers to appeal to the health-conscious consumer
  • identifying a completely new product, for example, you could start producing vegetarian as well as meat burgers
  • introducing new technology, techniques or working practices - perhaps using better processes to give your product a more consistent quality

If research shows people have less time to go to the shops, you could also overhaul your distribution processes, offering customers a home delivery service, alongside online and telephone ordering.

If your main competitors' products have a reputation for being cheap and cheerful, rather than trying to undercut them on price, you could innovate by revamping your marketing to emphasise the quality of your merchandise - and consider charging a premium for them.

Support for innovation

InterTradeIreland has a number of support structures in place for business innovation and growth, including the Challenge Programme. Aimed at ambitious SMEs, the programme helps businesses to transform their prospects by learning and applying the most effective methods of generating and commercialising innovative ideas.

Invest Northern Ireland also offers a range of support options for businesses looking to innovate, including the Innovation Vouchers. The vouchers provide businesses with access to expert knowledge and skills, enabling them to innovate and improve performance. Read about Invest NI's Innovation Vouchers.

Many other support schemes and initiatives exist and may suit your circumstances - search for business support and finance in NI.