An impressive range of panelists lined up to share their perspective on what makes a good leader in innovation at the Workspace Business Insight Dinner, hosted at Kennington Park, in conjunction with Knowledge Peers.

In the hot seats were Paul Gregory (Dyson’s Global Specification Director); Brooke Roberts-Islam (knitwear designer, fashion tech blogger, co-director of Brooke Roberts Ltd); Ben Griffin (Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for Design); and Dan Bladen (Chargifi’s CEO and co-founder). They spoke passionately about the challenge of staying innovative - whatever the size of your company.

Setting the sceneKnowledge Peers founder, Chris Dines the panel of innovation experts to the audience

The evening was chaired by Benedict Sheppard, partner of McKinsey & Company, where he leads the company’s UK Product Development and Design practices. 

The evening offered guests fascinating insight into the strategies that companies use to optimise existing products and how they come up with new solutions to existing and future problems.

Benedict Sheppard, partner, McKinsey & CompanyChair of the evening's product innovation discussion

Please visit Workspace's Facebook page for your chance to watch the Facebook Live stream of the panel discussion and don't forget to 'Like' our page to keep up-to-date on future events.


Dan BladenCo-founder, Chargifi works the room

Dan Bladen discussed how he developed his initial idea for Chargifi wireless charging kits after identifying a need that he and his wife had experienced.

Chargifi is a business based at Workspace. There were many other New and Growing Companies in attendance who are in similar positions.

Sergio Martinez is Chief Technology Officer at FlickTek, the first wrist-mounted finger gesture controller for smartwatches, IoT and VR/AR. He explained that the team is “getting ready the first batch of our product to be manufactured, and it is an excitement moment for us to live in. This event was the perfect chilling moment that we needed to gather energy before the final push to market.”

Throughout the panel discussion we heard how their business leaders sought to promote innovation in all areas of their business. At Dyson HQ they've invested heavily in high-tech buildings and facilities – and even pinched a chef from l'Escargot.

Brooke Roberts-IslamThe Knitwear designer, fashion tech blogger and co-director of Brooke Roberts Ltd

At the fashion tech company, Brooke Roberts Ltd, they foster collaboration between a carefully balanced variety of professionals with expertise across a plethora of fields - be it fashion, tech or science - so that everyone is working outside of 'their comfort zone'.

That need to get everyone involved in innovation was emphasised by all the panel members. Roberts-Islam stressed that 'creating an environment that makes it okay to make suggestions is key.' Meanwhile, Gregory said that Dyson are trying to encourage more female engineers; their latest hairdryer was designed by a woman.

Paul GregoryPaul talks innovation at Dyson

Ben Griffin, from Innovate UK, also thought that limiting innovation and decision making to senior ranks within an organisation was hugely damaging to innovation.

Ben GriffinThe discussion continues with Benedict Sheppard

Education and the importance it plays was important for everyone on the panel. Gregory talked about their drive to double the number of engineers at Dyson throughout the work of the Dyson Foundation, the opening of the Dyson Institute of Tech and competitions.

Guests at the dinnerA well-attended event at Kennington Park

Roberts-Islam mentioned that the hard work to foster innovation had to start earlier, at school, and it was essential to persuade more young women into tech by not making them have to make a choice between humanities and science.

The evening couldn't end without mentioning the elephant in the room: Brexit. The mood was optimistic. Roberts-Islam said it might be positive for local manufacturing and partnerships.

Warm applauseThe Kennington Park audience show their appreciation for the unique insight from the UK's innovation experts

Gregory added that it would be good for tech as the removal of some EU legislation would level the playing field. Bladen had been pro-Europe but admitted he was now ‘bullish’ about Brexit. He explained that currency fluctuations have been advantageous for investors. However, all panel members raised concerns about talent acquisition.

When it comes to Brexit and innovation as a whole, the panel seemed to say that it was 'business as usual'. Their companies are in the business of innovation… And that means you can't be afraid of it: whether it’s robots taking over the world or cyber-hacking destroying it, you must embrace both the risks and benefits innovation presents.

These dinners really come to life with the participation of New and Growing Companies based at Workspace – the people that really know what it feels like to stay innovative and solvent.

Suzanne Holland, UK General Manager of Testbirds, one of the world’s leading crowdtesting providers, based at Metal Box Factory, was extremely enthusiastic. “This is a great opportunity to connect with other businesses, compare notes and share stories, and develop new networks. The speakers were truly inspirational!”

This is your final reminder! Make sure you visit Workspace's Facebook page for your chance to watch the Facebook Live stream of the panel discussion and don't forget to 'Like' our page to keep up-to-date on future events.

If you’re a Workspace customer and you’d like to come to our next quarterly Business Insights Dinner, keep your eyes peeled to our Events Calendar, which is packed with insightful workshops and seminars held at many of our business centres each week.