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 new technology to create a new product, service or business

Innovate NI has developed an online self-assessment tool to help you determine the level of innovation in your business. The tool will allow you to find out your position on the Innovate NI's innovation framework and receive the corresponding recognition.

Importance of marketplace analysis

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

See examples of digital innovation in business.

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.

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