Essex’s brightest and best share similar traits

Published: 26 May 2017 at 15:45

Uttlesford business people at the Innovation 50 event at Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin and Essex County Council present research into Innovation 50 companies

New research shows that similar characteristics – a strong customer focus, an open management style, a high level of staff engagement, and a flexible and positive outlook – are shared by Essex’s most innovative companies.

The findings were presented at Anglia Ruskin University’s Chelmsford campus last night as the 50 companies judged to be amongst the innovative businesses in the county – the Innovation 50 – were celebrated during a special awards event.

Innovation 50 is a joint initiative between Essex County Council’s Essex Innovation Programme (EIP) and Anglia Ruskin.

The 50 SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) that were selected last autumn have been able to benefit from support and advice from EIP and academic expertise from Anglia Ruskin’s Faculty of Business and Law.

As part of the project, academics interviewed the companies to discover the secrets of their success, as well as hear about the difficulties that could be affecting their future growth.

Dr Sandra Selmanovic, Deputy Head of the Department of Economics and International Business at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“Our research has shown that Essex is a county full of great ideas and people willing to put those ideas into practice.

“We found from talking to the companies that innovation really is part of their DNA. Owners of SMEs are flexible and responsive, and maintain a positive outlook in the face of challenges.

“However, many of the 50 companies we spoke to shared similar concerns. There were worries about whether Essex’s road and rail infrastructure would support future growth, and some rural-based SMEs reported broadband issues.

“The companies recognised that digital marketing was important, but felt they were perhaps too small to employ someone with the right skills. Similarly many felt they didn’t have the specific skills to export their products and services, and so were missing out on international opportunities.

“Another common theme was the fear of growth itself. They felt that if they expanded too much, their small and innovative team could lose those characteristics as a ‘hierarchy’ develops.

“There were also calls for greater networking opportunities and even partnerships with other SMEs. However, the overriding theme was confidence and the belief that despite potential issues on the horizon, such as the uncertainty around Brexit, the outlook for their business remains positive.”

Cllr Gagan Mohindra, Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Skills, Infrastructure and the Digital Economy at Essex County Council, said:

“Learning about the great work presented to us this evening has inspired me, and I’m certain I’m not the only one. My congratulations to all the Innovation 50 businesses. They are concrete proof that with a little help small business in Essex is perfectly positioned to thrive.”