Accelerate - March 2015

Benchmarking innovation

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While other business benchmarking tools have been available to companies through the private sector, nothing has existed in the innovation space – until now.

How does a company determine how well it is innovating and bringing new and improved products and services to market?

Its own executive team may or may not think that it is doing well. Equally, outside consultants might say the company really needs to pull its socks up – but such a viewpoint is often viewed with scepticism.

Such subjective indecision, as well as the constant need to innovate, is the driver behind Callaghan Innovation's recent introduction of the IMP3rove innovation benchmarking tool.

By assessing various innovation criteria against other nationally and internationally comparative companies, a company can get a handle on its own strengths and weaknesses and, just as importantly, the next steps it should take.

“What gets measured, gets done,” says Callaghan Innovation's group manager programmes, Willem van der Steen.

“This is a tool that allows companies to see what is happening, what needs to be done.”

Introduced to New Zealand by Callaghan Innovation last November, the IMProve benchmarking tool and methodology comes from a collaboration between consultancy firm AT Kearney and Germany's Frauenhofer Institute. Together they've evaluated the innovation practices of more than 5000 businesses, and in doing so have created the benchmarking criteria.

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Driving R&D investment

“Our job's not to compete with the market, but nobody else is doing this,” says van der Steen. “Our job's to drive for more R&D investment, no matter who delivers it.”

The first part of IMProve requires a management team to spend about half a day answering an open questionnaire representing the state of innovation. Questions such as resources dedicated to innovation, new products, time taken to get products to market and a host of other objective criteria are asked.

A Callaghan Innovation business adviser takes this preparatory information and makes an objective assessment against other businesses in the same line.

“This can be any international or local business, and we can slice and dice the data set,” says van der Steen.

“Companies can see where they're strong and not so strong compared with the best or peer group, and what they need to improve on to become world class in their category.”

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Providing future focus

This information provides a company’s innovation focus for the next 12 months, as well as what to concentrate on first.

“Once a company has this information, it is the start of a journey to improvement. They can reassess in another 12 months. It provides important pointers of what a company should do, and why,” he says.

Callaghan Innovation intends carrying out at least 60 IMP3rove assessments before July. Six company assessments have already been completed and 25 companies are in the pipeline.

“There's really an appetite for this,” says van der Steen. “A lot of businesses recognise they need to diversify, get better and do new things. But they don't necessarily know where to start.

“Sometimes you'll get companies asking, 'Why should the government advise us on this?' But we're now getting people coming to us asking if we can help.

“We can help. It is great to be able to say, 'have we got the solution, programme and training for you.'”

Updated: 4 September 2015