Use innovation to start or grow your business

Planning for innovation in your business


While it is true that some innovative ideas come unexpectedly, continuous innovation usually requires thorough planning. You should ideally have:

  • innovation as part of your business strategy and business plan
  • a clear, strategic vision of how you want your business to develop

Innovation will not only improve the chances of your business surviving, but also help it to thrive and drive increased profits.

How to plan for innovation

To successfully plan for innovation, you have to first determine if your ideas have profit potential. You can:

  • Assess the competition - find out who your competitors are and where they operate. Learn about their products, prices, operating culture, their selling points, as well as any areas you might be able to exploit. For example, if the competition is focused on value for money, you might want to emphasise the quality of your product or service.
  • Study market or industry trends - awareness of the climate in which your business is operating will help you to plan. You can find a lot of information about your industry on the internet. Business and trade magazines will also feature useful articles. Find out more about market research and market reports.
  • Build a relationship with your customers - it's not enough simply to know who your customer base is. You need to communicate effectively with them as well. Listen to their needs and observe their behaviour in relation to current products and services. This may help you generate ideas on how you can make improvements.
  • Involve your suppliers and other business partners - pooling your resources may help to produce and develop creative ideas. Potential partnerships can also be developed through business networking opportunities. See how to learn and develop through networking.

Next, consider what taking a particular innovative step could mean for your business. Ask yourself:

  • what impact it will have on your business processes and practices
  • what extra training your staff may require
  • what extra resources you may need
  • how you'll finance the work
  • whether you'll be creating any intellectual property that will need protecting

Finally, you should include your vision in your business plan by:

  • putting down your goals, both long and short term and detailing how you intend to achieve them
  • linking goals to financial targets, such as achieving a specific turnover by a set date
  • reviewing your plan regularly

Download our business plan template (DOC, 811K) or find out how to create a business plan for innovation.

Businesses in Northern Ireland can also apply to the Innovation Accreditation Programme to receive help with, and recognition for, innovating. Simply complete the Innovate NI's online self-assessment questionnaire to join.