Wheatley Benefit from the First IM Competition WinJanuary 5, 2016
At the beginning of this year Innovation Martlesham partnered with BT, Suffolk County Council (SCC) , and University Campus Suffolk (UCS) to hold a competition to offer local entrepreneurs, start-ups or established SMEs the chance to win access to 6 months support to incubate an idea that addressed one of two problem statements framed by Suffolk County Council.
The winners of the competition were Wheatley, a small, established utilities metering software provider based near Stowmarket. Their wining idea looked at how software could be used to enable elderly people to stay in their own homes for longer, by helping them remember important things about day to day life and ensuring they were in contact with their families and carers for support when needed. While not a unique idea it addressed a growing issue for Suffolk County Council and amongst the population as whole. The judges could see that Wheatley had a clear plan of what they wanted to achieve through innovation and new product development and how they wished to engage with the Innovation Martlesham resources available help boost the outcome of the team at Wheatley tasked with developing the idea further.
Six months on and the prize has formally concluded, however, we are delighted to report that Wheatley are keen to remain members of the Innovation Martlesham cluster and have achieved a great deal to refine their idea and progress it to the next stage – Jane Bromley, Marketing Manager from Wheatley explains:
“Wheatley face a strategic challenge over the next few years as the specialist nature of what we do and the small and complex market we operate in means that we need to look for new products in new markets if we want to continue to grow at the same pace we have achieved in recent years. This is why we have invested in an innovation function within the company and why we entered the Innovation Martlesham competition, as we hoped this would be a way to grow our idea development skills in order to increase the chance of successfully launching something new to market and minimising the risk to the business.
It is great to be able to say that this is exactly what the competition has helped us to do. From pitching a concept back in March, we now have a refined and clearly articulated product, supported by a high-level business case, user stories and an architecture map to begin development from, together with a product roadmap that documents how we can continue to add to the product to capitalise on any initial success.
The idea behind our product has moved on too – moving from simply a way to apply some of the functions of our existing to products to a new market to something we believe is truly unique and an aspirational proposition to our target market.
Support from Innovation Martlesham has been instrumental in achieving what we have so far. It is often difficult to find the time and focus to be really creative and explore all possibilities of an idea that could uncover something really valuable and is also hard to know where to go for information on whether something similar already exists and if your target market would really want it. The mentors from BT, UCS and SCC have been extremely supportive and have shared knowledge and insights that we would have never thought to explore alone. Similarly the Innovation Martlesham mentors have provided extremely valuable legal, marketing, technology and user experience advice that has helped us build a compelling product and a case for taking it further towards market launch.
There have been a number of lasting benefits from the competition win, as not only have we met a very interesting and supportive network of contacts through Innovation Martlesham relevant to both our existing business and our future aspirations, the publicity has notably increased our profile in the local area and directly aided recruitment. By far the most valuable benefit however, has been the opportunity to test our idea amongst domain experts, which has given a huge boost to our skills and innovation process that we will hopefully be able to realise through new product sales in the future.”