Economic downturns can lead to more innovation

IT&rsquo;S A well-known fact that an economic downturn corresponds with an innovation upturn. Change means winners and losers. Are you going to sit at the dinner or be the duck which is served? It comes largely down to your attitude, to whether you are going to embrace the change or resist it.<br /><br />Henry Ford said that if he had given his customers what they had wanted, he would have delivered a faster horse. Nonetheless, what typically drives innovation is observing what your customers desire, where they have difficulties, and what the competition is up to. <br /><br />Jeremy Coller, who runs Coller Capital, has written an outstanding book called, &ldquo;Splendidly Unreasonable Inventors: The Lives, Loves, and Deaths of 30 Pioneers Who Changed the World&rdquo;. <br /><br />It&rsquo;s a great read, and details some of the biggest inventors&rsquo; moments of discovery. An &ldquo;invention&rdquo; is the first occurrence of an idea, but an &ldquo;innovation&rdquo; is the first attempt to carry it out in practice.<br /><br />Frequently, I will hear British people bemoan that the Brits have invented so much but failed to commercialise more of their inventions.<br /><br />If this is the case, then it&rsquo;s probably not for lacking of trying on the side of the entrepreneur. Today more than at the time of the dotcom boom, the space between start-up and corporate is closer. Start-ups rely on corporates for distribution; venture capitalists don&rsquo;t want to fund the scaling of a business. <br /><br />It should be done on the back of partnership deals with Facebook, Apple&rsquo;s app store, ISP&rsquo;s, carriers, and portals like MSN.<br /><br />What this means is having great people inside of these established firms who know how to work with start-ups is key if we want to commercialise more of our discoveries in the UK.<br /><br />JP Rangaswami, the MD of BT Design, is exceptional in his ability to manage risks with start-ups for the corporates he works for. I first observed him in action at Dresdner Kleinwort where he was the CIO managing 7,000 people, and able to trial start-up applications effectively. At BT, he has swooped into Silicon Valley, and carried off a gem of a start-up called Ribbit, a leader in voice applications, for BT. And they say that all the value in the technology world is accruing to the US! Not so!<br /><br />You may not be an entrepreneur.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I&rsquo;m frequently asked if anyone can be one. Start-ups are a hot kitchen &ndash; with knives and hot oil flying about. The only people who should go there are those who can stand the heat.<br /><br />But you can be a champion for innovation inside an established company. You can be the bridge between the entrepreneurs and the late adopters. You can learn to interpret the excitement of the new thing into the requirements of scale.<br /><br />Today&rsquo;s world is an ecosystem, not a hierarchy. Embrace the centre of change.<br /><br />Julie Meyer is CEO of Ariadne Capital