In my board capacity with NOF Energy, I recently attended the company’s Energy Showcase event in Abu Dhabi. The focus of the week was a superbly attended networking event and a series of fantastic visits to UK businesses present in the country, as well as to Masdar City – the world’s first waste-free, carbon-neutral development. It was as a result of these visits that I began to reflect upon the importance of persistence as the close colleague of innovation.
During the meetings and presentations, the message about doing business in the UAE (Abu Dhabi, in particular) was time and time again reinforced – ‘no matter how good or innovative your product or service, you need to be seen here, and be seen regularly before a PO is issued!’ This made me think of the importance of time as an innovation parameter.
We all know about the importance of time in the sense of developing a product or service – it takes longer than you think at the outset – but time also features strongly as something which the ‘concept to commercialisation’ process and its key funders must absorb for more subtle reasons, and in the case of the UAE, for cultural and trust reasons.
Delving a bit deeper into this, it also means that the innovation funding process we know and love must recognise this and accommodate it as a ‘burn’ factor when looking at funding runways, etc. This is especially the case in pre-revenue businesses. Funders (be they grant, debt or equity) of innovation need to be increasingly attuned to the impact of ‘time’ post proof-of-concept and to challenge investment proposals on the basis of ‘has enough time been factored in, given the culture of your target markets?’
Plenty of food for thought. ‘Persistence’ is the watchword but being funded to be persistent remains the reality!
Prof. A. Lowdon
Chair of the Innovation Board