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Enfield Innovation

Kate Herd

ROLE: Senior Lecturer
SCHOOL & DEPARTMENT: Faculty of Science and Technology Department of Design Engineering and Mathematics

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redLoop's inspirational workshops help local businesses get off the ground

North Londoner Emma Lundie already owned a business selling Sardinian foods when she entered the Enfield Innovation Competition in 2012. But she wanted to create something more ambitious: an online food hub where Enfield residents could shop from local, independent retailers.

Enfield Council had asked redLoop, the Middlesex University design and innovation centre, to help them reinvigorate the competition and improve the quality of entries. The centre's research and practice in innovation processes has been applied in areas as diverse as the design of learning spaces and the creation of better online services. Lundie attended an innovation workshop organised by redLoop to help entrants hone their ideas. "They got me thinking about exactly what made my idea good," says Lundie, "and helped me to sell my business idea to the award's judging panel." Impressed, the jury awarded her first prize in the residents' category. Lundie was keen to launch her new business, "but she needed a lot of creative work - a website, packaging, a branding handbook," recalls Andy Bardill, the Director of redLoop. She decided to invest some of her winnings in consulting redLoop as she developed The Food Gatherer concept. "To have such an experienced and knowledgeable team to bounce ideas around with was terrific," she says. "I would always come away from meetings full of excitement and enthusiasm." The document they created together "is really The Food Gatherer's bible - I will be able to keep going back to it after the business launches".

Dr Bardill describes how the two-day innovation workshops unfold: "We have to get them to understand what their business is. So we do a variety of different pitching exercises. We get them to make a 30-second pitch, and they're all given an imaginary £10,000 to invest. It's a very revealing process, because almost without exception there are one or two clear leaders. They're not necessarily the most innovative, they're just the best at telling people what their plans are and people 'get it'." Dr Bardill and Dr Kate Herd, Associate Director at redLoop, encourage the participants to think about what innovation is, and how they will differentiate themselves from other businesses. They have co-authored papers setting out their vision of customer co-design, which uses "design probes" to bring together empathic research methods and theories in product design – an approach which was the subject of Dr Herd's PhD dissertation.

redLoop has worked with dozens of local people and businesses since it became involved in the Enfield Innovation Competition. "We've had some pretty amazing feedback," says Dr Bardill. Dr Herd points out that networks are being built, with previous winner Tank Top TV returning to advise 2013 entrants. Lundie has commissioned a shortlisted business, Bagsy, to produce cloth bags for The Food Gatherer as she prepares to launch the business in 2014. redLoop's role in engineering innovative business in the process is clear, but it's a role underpinned by research and practice in the University over a number of years.

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