Shedding some light on the Owen Mumford Innovation Award

Andy Varde, Director of Innovation, Owen Mumford

Monday October 13th 2014

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The Owen Mumford Innovation Award “recognises all forms of successfully applied innovation, from new products and services to a culture of improvement. The Award celebrates the ideas that have created value, whether to the organisation or society as a whole.”

There are many innovative businesses out there, but not every business knows they’re doing it! WOBA sheds some light on the subject in an interview with Andy Vardé, Director of Innovation at Owen Mumford, sponsor of the Innovation Award category.

What is innovation?

Innovation is the process of turning ideas into something of value. The value could be within a business, for customers or wider society – or a combination of them all. It could be a way of saving costs, a new product or a new way of doing something but it must provide some form of valuable outcome. Otherwise it is just an idea!

Why is innovation so important?

Our world and the challenges facing it change every day. This is true in all aspects of our lives. Innovation is both the engine that drives change and the means by which we meet those challenges. I believe it is rooted in our deep desire to shape our world in a worthwhile way.

Why is Owen Mumford sponsoring the Innovation Award?

Owen Mumford has its roots in West Oxfordshire. We pride ourselves on our innovation in healthcare and the positive impact it has in helping people with chronic conditions improve their lives. Sponsoring this award is a small way to encourage other enterprises in West Oxfordshire to innovate, to recognise the innovation already taking place in their organisations, and thereby create value for our local economy.

How can I tell if I am doing something innovative?

Have you had an idea and acted on it? Have you done something with it that has helped your organisation – by doing something more efficiently or developing a new product or service? Then the chances are you are innovating. The key thing to remember is that your idea must have changed something!

Does organisation size or age matter?

Absolutely not! All organisations can and should innovate. Apple started in a garage – innovating from day one and still innovating today. Many start-up businesses form with an innovative idea and it is important that established businesses continue to innovate to be successful. One other thing, this applies to all types of organisation including social enterprise and not-for-profit.

Is innovation just for hi-tech businesses?

There is a false perception that innovation means “hi-tech”. That is not the case. Smooga, a previous WOBA Innovation finalist, is a great example of a business that is local, small and young. Their product is innovative but not hi-tech. It stemmed from a simple idea and they have successfully generated value from it – both for the business and for the wider good by helping more kids to play sport (

Can you give some other examples of innovation?

There are a number of examples from the WOBAs themselves! Previous WOBA Innovation winners cover a wide range ideas become reality:

  • Fabulous Bakin’ Boys developed a new cake bar that contained a full portion of fruit in each slice. This was cake that was delicious and good for you! However, the reason they won was the way innovation ran through the heart of the business – not just the products but the business processes too.
  • DFx Technology developed an energy control system for commercial drinks fridges that gave energy savings of 35 – 40% for the host business.
  • CETA Insurance developed “Virtual Broker” software that allowed them to offer their insurance via many channels in hours and changed the way their existing product was delivered to the market.
  • ICEoxford won the award for an innovative marketing campaign. Their competition was very well established selling a product known as the “Orange Cryostat” because of its standard colour. ICEoxford marketed theirs as the “Lemon Cryostat”, a nod to the competition but also an opportunity to get people talking about them and highlight the advantages of their offering. This helped their product become known and established in the market much more quickly.

What are you looking for in the awards entries?

We are looking for a clear description of the idea you had, the problem or need that you were trying to find a solution for and how you turned that idea into something that has generated value. It is also important to explain the benefits resulting from the innovation and how you intend to build on what you have achieved. Good Luck!

(View the full Award criteria here.)