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Building your capacity and capability to deliver your own virtual learning incubators


Comparing Innovation Support Programs

The following is our learning when comparing three different Innovation Support Programs (ISPs). We're not arguing you need just one approach to innovation. However, when you first start out building an innovation support program, you need to focus on creating a quick-win, to create the stories of success before you seek greater investment to systemise innovation


Innovation Lab


Virtual Incubator







Speed of set-up













Building dedicated space, hiring employees internally or externally who already have innovation capabilities.

Using existing employee capacity (20% of their time) and building their capability to innovate. Because innovation is tied to 'on-the-job' projects, they are are low-cost (employees keep their day jobs initially) and makes easier to approve budgets

Using existing employees to create rapid prototypes is low-cost option to design and execute

It takes time to staff, and get the budget approval

Can be up and running in less than a week, with results in 8 weeks

Very quick to execute 

High potential for results from the innovation lab, but also high risk when the innovations are handed over to the business for execution

Lower risk because you're supporting the business unit teams to drive their own innovation. There is no shortage of innovation ideas within BUs, there is a shortage of disclipined execution. By focusing on failing projects, you can create very fast quick-wins

Very low potential for scalable results, as the prototypes are solution focused (not on customer development) 

When virtual incubators can work very well:

- When you have a small innovation department, without execution expertise

- You've a very limited budget, less than £25K for all your innovation agenda

- You have few or no stories of innovation inside your company

- Just like a startup which is 'searching for a business-model, you're still 'searching' for your own 'system  of innovation'

- You have the credibility and relationships established with the BUs, to build their capacity and capability

- When your innovation teams are spread geographically, bringing them together on a regular basis is costly

- When you don't yet have a culture of innovation, with a low-risk profile for new innovations




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