How did it suddenly become May?

Me in the Ideas Shed

It would appear that the only time I make time to write a blog post is when I’m feeling reflective – which I’m concerned may make me sound overly morose!

So.  What’s happened in innovation-land since the last one?  Way too much to plonk all in one post (you’ll be glad to hear) so edited highlights only….

The first quarter of 2013 saw lots of events and activities at DMC and some interesting conversations with the Cloud City folks at the Sheffield LEP. Great plans and cunning models to enable connectedness and exploit an opportunity to be curators of information, create a cluster of complimentary and supportive knowledge based businesses – do some cool stuff basically as as demonstrated by the Dotforge Accelerator that has attracted international applicants.

Conversations with the controversial, but in my humble opinion the lovely, Lee Strafford also offered some fab insights into the business case for building data centres, which let’s face it don’t employ many people, for a piece of research commissioned by ORION (Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network).  If the world is moving to the cloud – should you be a cloud owner?  All very cool and groovy (said in a very Austin Powers voice).  Surely if information is power, then those building the repositories for that information, the keys to curation are the new lords and masters…?

As far as Big Hairy Audacious Goals go ( I think our Barnsley Digital Media Centre Ideas Shed has been a huge success.  I basically plonked a very designer-led shed (thanks to the fab Lee Bestall of Inspired Gardens (  in the atrium of the building and asked business leaders, entrepreneurs, speakers, business support folks, digital folks and creatives to do some stuff in it that would either a) support business growth or b) inspire creativity.  The results have been fab.  We’ve had Lee delivering “Sowing the Seeds of Enterprise” workshops to students which considered the business of horticulture, Jonathan Straight of Straight PLC offering insight and advice, SEO specialists, PR workshops, App developers and a truly fabulous “What is Creativity?” workshop that considered what Aristotle ( would think of social media and other such issues!  BBC Radio Sheffield devoted an entire hour to the workshop and engaged listeners too.

As far as innovation is concerned I guess the outputs from the Ideas Shed is that it has opened the door for some interesting collaborations, has spawned debate and enabled connections that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred – hopefully we’ll see some great ideas executed as a result of it.

Talking of innovation – Leeds LEP have some exciting opportunities to exploit local expertise in health devices and health informatics with their plans for the Enterprise Zone and Medi Park.  The Oxford Innovation commercial model for innovation centres that ensure they don’t remain reliant on public funding forever may well pay a part.

AND, talking of innovation centre models – seriously why are we still seeing stacks of public cash poured into University lead innovation centres which have a model entirely based on facilities/service sales? Please note, innovation isn’t about selling space!  If people don’t understand your rent structure (as someone complained recently) its because they don’t understand your product. You should be relationship focused NOT transaction focused!  Sorry … rant over…kind of.

Innovation Centres need to be run by folk that enable innovation and assist  commercialisation – nurture it, connect the dots.  Operational budgets are crucial to ensure opportunities for collaborative effort are created but people and relationships are the critical success factor.  Centre staff need to be of the right personality type and have the right experience – its not about them having PhDs and Masters degrees, it about them having contacts that are useful and an understanding of ACTUAL revenue models not theoretical ones.  Its about them being “enablers” ( that is folk who understand an entrepreneurial mindset and can motivate, coach and support it.

Innovation Centres, as demonstrated by the Oxford Innovation model, do not need to be equity based or dependent upon public funding forever, they can be sustainable as long as the product offer is properly understood and articulated, the pricing policy is correct and there is a full and professional marketing strategy that has identified potential clients/market segments and that can be deployed rather than simply sitting like a nice piece of interesting literature on a dusty shelf.  This is the same list we expect our entrepreneurs to address for their own businesses/services/products so how can we expect not to do it ourselves and yet offer a viable and successful service? Its not rocket science folks so please, leave the researchers and rocket scientists to do what they do best – the academic stuff.  There’s a fabulous book by those fabulous Ideo folks ( on those personality traits required to build really good innovation teams.  I loved it and highly recommend it.

Finally then, because this post has ended up being WAY too long, I’d like to say a big “thank you” to all the people who made the DMC Ideas Shed a success.  Please contact them if you’d like any help with your own projects coz they’re all talented, professional and fabulously dedicated;

Grand Designs 2011 winner Lee Bestall of Inspired Gardens for giving us the very excellent, designer Ideas Shed

Jane, Elizabeth & Lucy at Cream Consultancy for fabulous PR and stacks of help project managing (seriously couldn’t have pulled it off without them)

Rich & Andy at Crazyhorse for stepping in and producing a fab graphic with no notice, little information and no time!

Darren and team at Team Activ and FitIn Network for organising games and beers

All the contributors, speakers, presenters (not noted above):

Innovation Futures at Sheffield Hallam University

Louise Wilkie – Think, Create, Move – (fabulous creative workshops)

Rob &  Simon – Cogwork Studios – (excellent App devs)

Richard & Malcolm – CDI Alliance (business support for creative and digital businesses)

Lindsey & Mark – Bigfoot Digital (SEO and other clever stuff)

Jonathan Straight of Straight PLC (our highly successful, homegrown entrepreneur and businessman


Michelle at for crowdfunding

The fabulous Nicky Pattinson

Sue at for donating excellent boutique beers (definitely recommend them!)

Wayne at for donating some wonderful scones

Andrew at for donating the Pimms!

Ben at for time and contacts

All the team at for playing out with us.

That’s it.  Done! Now we just need to start organising the next events – hackathons, workshops and we need sand and ice-cream….!

Have fun


PS OMG forgot to thanks Gareth and the DMC team for putting up with my hair-brained ideas and their help.  If you want a creative,  fun and supportive place for your business to thrive, come and see us at