Quickfire With Lisa Perkins

LISA PERKINS, Director Research & Innovation, BT Adastral Park. We spent five minutes with Lisa and asked her some questions about innovation in business. Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Autumn/Winter 2020
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Questions for Lisa around innovation in business

What feedback are you getting within the Innovation Martlesham (IM) ecosystem, around the key issues facing businesses at this time?

There are three that seem to be recurring:

Firstly, trading in the ‘new normal’. Although, we should never underestimate the importance of physical interaction, especially in a business context, businesses are now having to get used to the continuation of voice and video conferencing calls. Therefore, our challenge is to come up with a hybrid solution that is a combination of technology whilst being sympathetic to our human needs.

Secondly, accessing financial support. The level of information and provision being made available by Government is widely accessible. However, with the many challenges facing businesses, the IM team has been working closely with East Suffolk Council, the New Anglia LEP and other organisations to identify the options. We have worked proactively to ensure that IM businesses are aware of the specific opportunities available to them, and how to seek any further assistance in applying for relevant grants or loans.

Thirdly, continuity of trading. Like other businesses, IM companies have had to adapt to the new processes and ways of working and need to ensure any business continuity planning is effective. Fortunately, the Adastral Park facilities and management team have been able to give reassurance and proactive help and guidance so that those companies at IM can keep their operations going, safely.

What’s your advice to any organisation that is looking to survive at this time?

There are a couple of things worth considering here. Restructuring your geographic presence to support a new way of working and looking at the opportunities emerging to assist with entering new markets and /or developing new products or services.

‘Evaluation’ on various levels is something we’ve all done a bit of recently. For those with responsibilities in driving business growth, and for the wellbeing of their teams, decisions will be more critical than ever in helping organisations survive at this time. Technology has seen companies meeting their customers’ demands and we have all come to ‘expect to be adaptable’. Some organisations are now considering the advantages of having a presence in a regional Hub, where the benefits include employees potentially enjoying homeworking with the shared-working opportunities that these Hubs offer.

The survival of a business requires a constant ‘over the horizon’ lens to explore new products, services, and markets. There are many organisations that offer advice and guidance on how to diversify, including the Department for International Trade (DIT) which can offer support to companies who would like to trade outside the UK. Other Government organisations such as InnovateUK will offer challenges to companies to create new products that impact society in a major way, especially in times of crisis.

What new innovations are emerging to help business development activities?

Whilst so many events have successfully transitioned to on-line equivalents, I’m very excited by new innovations and technology offerings that can support the changing world. As we’ve already discussed, humanity likes the physical contact. So, for example, I’m seeing how Virtual Reality (VR) could change the way organisations approach learning and development. Holographic experiences are also being developed where 2D video can be converted into dynamic, fully animated 3D models that contain volumetric 3D mesh, movement, and real textures for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality experiences. We are also getting more and more involved in running ‘hybrid events’ which can be a mixture of physical colocation with a virtual presence.

Lisa Perkins is responsible for building a rich and diverse technology ecosystem at Adastral Park, maximising the opportunities to find the best innovative solutions to real business problems. She is accountable for showcasing the world-class innovation and research at the Park and manages key partnerships with leading universities globally. Lisa is chair of Tech East, co-chair of the University of Suffolk DigiTech Centre, a board member of the Innovation board for NALEP, a board member of Productivity East, vice chair for East Suffolk Council Community Partnership Board and a trustee for Lapwing Education.

Photo of Lisa taken by Lee Wilkinson

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