What if you don't know it all?

Most start-ups have heard that they need to find "product-market fit". Most don't know where to start. How about asking your local university to help?

In my region, University of Bedford does this really well. Personally, I have used Cass Business School, Said Business School, Anglia Ruskin, Boccone Milan, and others. In every case, they added huge value. In every case, they found something we did not know.

In Silicon Valley, the VCs sit in on lectures at Stanford and pre-vet potential founders and technologies for future investment. The UK is not there yet. What can we do? Well, actually, quite a lot, and quite well.

Is having an academic partner something that can accelerate your start-up?

The local scheme for me is called Innovation Bridges and can help you with time, people, knowledge, scientific experiments, and even grant finance.

Who is Innovation Bridges for?

It can help start-up and established businesses with fewer than 250 employees
  • Businesses looking to collaborate in research and innovation to get to the front of the market

  • Businesses based along the Oxford to Cambridge Arc area (formerly the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor)

  • Businesses who prefer a simple application process

What you can expect
  • Fully funded expert consultancy to help you develop your innovation plans

  • Grant opportunities between £1000 & £15000 to implement your idea

  • 50% funding up to £10,000 toward a 1 year Masters by Research programme to bring in your innovation

Want to know more: https://www.beds.ac.uk/ies/we-mean-business/innovation-bridges/

Want other partners?

The other major partner locally is The Open University

They have a clever little scheme with Knowledge Transfer Vouchers that they can deliver very quickly.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are low risk, cost-effective way of running a strategic project to create a return on investment for your company. You gain a talented, high-calibre graduate working for you full-time, plus the equivalent of half a day per week of input from one of The Open University's (OU) world-leading academic experts.
The KTP scheme is a part UK government-funded programme to help organisations improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills available within UK universities.

Have a specialism they don’t provide?

Then we also have Cranfield University that engages really well through its schemes with Venture Capital, banks, PE and established experts

Through participation in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, you will have access to qualified experts at Cranfield who will help to move your business forward. The KTP scheme enables businesses to improve their productivity and performance through knowledge, technology and skills that reside with the University.

Based on figures from 2011-2016, a business could expect to benefit, on average, from a KTP in the following ways:
£60k increase in pre-tax profit during the lifetime of the project;
£600k per annum increase in pre-tax profit for the three years following completion of the project;
£650k per annum increase in exports for the three years following completion of the project;
£300k investment in plant and machinery;
£160k investment in further research and development;
2 new jobs created;
20 staff trained.

Conclusion

Start up and scale up companies that engage with academic partners on a smart basis can deliver substantial boosts to their growth and profitability. And the process can be fast, agile, and cheap for the company.

Just drop your assumption that you are the only experts in your business and commit to learning.