In conversation part 2: innovation in Leeds City Region

In a new series of interviews, we’re looking at the innovation ecosystem around the region. Part 2: Sue Cooke, CEO at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre

10 December 2020

In a new series of interviews, we’re looking at the innovation ecosystem around the region.

Last week, we shared the first part of our interview with Sue Cooke, CEO at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield. Part two explores what businesses are doing to drive innovation and adapt in these uncertain times.

Q6. How can businesses drive an innovation culture in these uncertain times?

There have clearly been winners and losers in an economic sense as the pandemic has crushed hospitality, arts and events firms whilst opening up opportunities for IT, healthcare diagnostics, PPE and online retail. This underlines in a harsh way the need for adaptability and testing new ideas simply to survive. 

In more stable times, companies have to work harder to resist complacency and to encourage their business to radically improve its own offer before a disruptive technology or business model comes along to challenge the accepted way of doing things, as the new banks like Starling and Monzo have done in financial services, or Amazon in retailing. 

A good way to do this is to have a team away day to step back and challenge the established products and business model through the eyes of a disruptor – coming up with new ideas which can reinvent the business from the inside rather than waiting to be overtaken by competitors with no ‘baggage’ from previous eras.

Q7. What have you noticed about businesses over the recent months? How have they adapted?

During the pandemic all businesses have been forced to adapt, whether it’s changing working practices for their staff, radically altering their business model during lockdowns, or pivoting to completely new areas of business in response to the demand for PPE, health services and online retail. Even the speed of adapting to online meetings via Zoom or other platforms has demonstrated that we can change long-established patterns of behaviour when needs must, and many of these technologies have been around for decades, so it’s the collective behaviour change which is so impressive. 

Even though we have nostalgia for old ways of meeting, many people will switch to the ease of video calls to reduce travel time when the pandemic subsides. I think many firms have realised that they can switch into new product lines or new ways of selling, using online and mobile channels for example, more readily than they expected, so mindsets are now more open to changing their business model in other ways.

Q8. What successes have you seen in businesses around Huddersfield and Kirklees?

We have seen one of our 3M BIC tenants Adventoris really drive the growth of their mobile sales app Swiftcloud during the pandemic, as more of their customers have increased mobile online ordering. They have gained new clients too and expanded their team with 10 new employees, as well as taking on more office space at the 3M BIC. 

Another 3M BIC tenant company is Innovate Orthopaedics that produces surgical devices. They have been expanding into new overseas healthcare markets, in particular beyond Europe, working hard at the compliance demands which are essential in this field. We have supported Innovate Orthopaedics with access to our 3D printing facilities for developing prototype products rapidly and we’ve also been testing some of their products using our Zeiss microscope facility.


Learn more about what the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre offers here, or if you’re wanting to understand more about what innovation support is available and how it could help your business, the LEP’s innovation support service can do just that. More information can be found on our innovation page and we have a team of Innovation Growth Managers ready to help.