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A group of thirty Latvian entrepreneurs visited Cambridge Design Partnership recently as part of an international Venture Camp programme, which aims to mentor and advise entrepreneurs and academics, and includes visits to key innovative companies to learn from their successful processes and approaches. The majority of the visitors were founders of start-ups at different levels of incubation and maturation: some were at an early concept level while some were getting ready to launch fully viable products on the market. The entrepreneurs were taking part in the programme in the hopes of soaking up some of the magic and inspiration from the Cambridge tech environment and discovering the secret to start-up success.

CDP founder Mike Cane kicked off the session with a presentation on the company’s innovation strategy, which sparked an enthusiastic Q&A session afterwards. One obvious area of interest was the methods for identifying innovation opportunities at the front end of the development process. With several entrepreneurs currently developing their concept into a product or service, there was a clear thirst for understanding how a concept can be pre-validated prior to starting the design process. This discussion continued for the rest of the visit, as we took a tour around CDP’s R&D centre and high-tech lab facilities.

It was great to see the interest and appreciation for a stakeholder-centric approach to innovation. Several of the visitors were eager to learn more about CDP’s methods for front end innovation, with questions ranging from best practice for running consumer trials and the quickest and most effective ways to pre-validate a product or service concept.

The group were keen to present their ideas and all were really interesting. One of the most fascinating ventures was ‘Go VR!’, a start-up that has developed an easy-to-use virtual reality tool for architects and engineers that allows the user to ‘step into’ an immersive viewing experience of their CAD and navigate around the space.

Another one that stood out for me was looking to improve the mobility of blind residents in urban areas. The company has created a beacon-based system that can be installed on obstacles and other features such as stairs and elevators to transmit information to a visually impaired person. For example, a beacon at a tube stop might tell the user how many stairs there are and which way to turn for the Westbound platform.

More and more we see start-ups looking for help with the early stages of the development process. I believe this is due to an increased awareness of the importance of understanding all the stakeholders, not just the primary users, and pre-validating concepts in the front end. This of course aligns with CDP’s Potential Realised process that we created to help our clients optimise their investment in innovation. As we have found with our client projects, and as we hope our Latvian friends will also discover, this approach results in a new level of insight and innovation, with products and services that better meet the stakeholder needs.

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