Sussex Pioneers

Sussex Innovation has been supporting some of the region’s most innovative companies for more than 25 years. Now the organisation has launched a new premium TV series, speaking to business owners and experts about how innovation happens and why it’s of critical importance to any small business. By Nigel Lambe, CEO, Sussex Innovation


Sussex Pioneers is a series designed to demystify innovation for small businesses, offering a training toolkit that covers all the fundamentals, and is available to anyone, whenever they want to access it. 

These eight films are packed with inspiring stories of local innovators, insightful conversations with experts, and impactful ideas to bring into your business. The series is supported with a forum to connect and collaborate with other companies, bite-size innovation canvases to keep track of your plans and weekly live Q&A panels. 

One area that the series examines in depth is how to capture the value from innovation. Simply creating a new product, service or business model isn’t enough – for most companies. It’s what you do next that will prove its success. 

Broadly speaking, there are two types of ‘complementary assets’ that businesses can use to protect their innovation and ensure that they benefit from its creation and development. These assets can be ‘static’; legal tools that prevent competitors from copying your innovation. Or they can be ‘dynamic’; unique factors in your business that can make it difficult for competitors to offer the same value. 

Patents, copyright and design rights prevent anyone else from capturing the value from your innovation unless they pay you for the privilege. However, they involve meeting a lot of requirements, such as demonstrating novelty and clearly disclosing how the innovation works. Patents need to be enforced and kept up to date, possibly across many territories, which can be expensive. 

Given these challenges, dynamic assets are particularly important for SMEs and start-ups with limited funds or resources. They are the defendable territory of the business – secret or hard-to-copy processes, or more fluid concepts like brand, customer relationships or aftersales services. 

Look at what dynamic assets you have at your disposal that can make you more attractive than the competition. Measure KPIs – key performance indicators - like lead times, production costs and brand awareness. You might create strategies like high switching costs to lock in value, or scale the business through franchising or distribution licences.

During the panel discussion around capturing value that features in the Sussex Pioneers series, guests discussed the process of iteration, testing, change and reflection. This is very closely mirrored by the build, measure and learn cycle advocated by Eric Reis in his seminal book, The Lean Startup. Adopting this approach helps a business to innovate at pace and scale and capture value through the process of innovation.

Another core principle that came out of the conversation was that one should design solutions with the customer, not for the customer. Having the needs of your customers baked into the process of capturing value means you have a far greater chance of success when it comes to launching the product or service. Their needs will be reflected in what’s created, including addressing their core problems. 

One should have a laser focus on who you aim to serve and what values they have. One way in which the panel achieved this was through directly observing current customer behaviour. If this isn’t appropriate or possible within your business, then surveying or depth interviews with a small cohort of your target audience can reveal rich insight that can be used to develop new innovations and create greater value based on their needs. 

Rather than setting a goal for the business, the panellists advocated for setting a ‘direction of travel’. This more flexible approach allows for iteration in the design process and stops one from following a path that isn’t in the interests of the customer, but feels right because it’s the path towards the goal. 

If you’re a registered business with an address in East Sussex, you can register to watch all episodes of Sussex Pioneers completely free of charge at

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

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