The corporate buzzword changing everything

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The corporate buzzword changing everything

Innovation is the boss for this specialist operation which has proved its mettle by signing up some of the world’s leading names and now is expanding in the US

L Marks staff in celebration mode
L Marks staff in celebration mode

When it comes to corporate buzzwords, innovation has been topping the charts for the past decade. So much so that there is now a loss of understanding as to what it actually means, says technologist-turned-investor Daniel Saunders. And Saunders would know. An experienced adviser in applied innovavtion, Saunders is the chief executive of L Marks, an innovation specialist which runs pioneering programmes for some of the world’s leading corporates including Lloyd’s of London, Arsenal FC, Metro Bank, Sodexo, British Airways, John Lewis and BMW. That’s a lot of innovation. So much so that L Marks is credited as the UK’s most successful innovation company and is now expanding rapidly in the US with offices in New York and the Midwest.

Saunders (pictured left) the former chief of staff for economic development at the Israeli Embassy, says: “The reality is that innovation is necessary, but not sufficient for success. The novelty of a product or a service doesn’t imply a market demand for it. Analogously, ‘disruptive innovation’ was subject to a similar confusing and indiscriminate use of the term.”

So, what does innovation actually mean? “Etymologically, it means “bring in something new”, so intuitively innovation is an important enabler of competitive advantage,” Saunders says. We have to make an important differentiation with ‘invention’, which instead refers to ‘discovering something new’.” Business innovation is when companies implement new processes, ideas, services, or roducts with the goal of boosting the bottom line. “It is also multifaceted,” notes Saunders, a trained software engineer with an MSc in computer science. “It can be applied to business models as well as behaviours and people; it can be used for technologies and even continuous process improvement.”

Founded by Manchester-based Stuart Marks CBE, L Marks has a vision to be the most trusted partner for corporate innovation. It partners with large organisations to create a tailored process that addresses key opportunity areas and strategic goals through innovation. “It does this in two ways: through harnessing Open Innovation (connecting corporates with entrepreneurs and start-ups/scale-ups) or building New Ventures (designing and developing nascent business ideas into market-validated and revenue-generating products).

Over the past eight years, L Marks has created 85 innovation initiatives, becoming
the largest operator of corporate innovation programmes in the UK, and has delivered these programmes globally in Europe, Japan, the Middle East and the US. “We are all experiencing innovation every day,” Saunders says. “It isn’t just about the metaverse, decentralised finance and wearables.”

Innovation deployments L Marks has been involved with include tracking down billions of litres of lost water in the north of England; creating the world’s first municipal UV LED water treatment work; creating the insurance to transport the Covid vaccine; creating the world’s first IVF insurance; automating airport security checks, and improving cargo handling.

“The worst mistake any corporate can make is ignoring the threat of disruption.,” Saunders says. For a business to continue to grow and develop in new and profitable ways, only a well-thought-out innovation strategy will do.”

Do many businesses claim to be innovating but are not? “One hundred per cent. You will find at every board meeting for every FTSE 100 company that innovation is stressed as crucial. However, without the right processes or investment in place, we would see innovation relegated to a junior role, siloed department, or simply used for PR purposes with organisations playing in innovation theatre. Innovation is not a one-time-fix, it should be an organisation-wide continuous practice.” This has become increasingly important since the pandemic, which highlighted how innovation is not the disrupter but the enabler. “When true disruption took place, innovation gave us the new technologies, processes and business models which enabled us to continue with our lives and our work during the pandemic.’

Saunders, 40, lives in north London with his wife and three children. His wife Chaya grew up on shlichus and is the daughter of Chabad shluchim in South Florida. A yeshiva alumnus, Saunders is a senior figure and on the board of Heichal Menachem – the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Golders

● Embed innovation across the company with a proven managed process
● Early exposure to cutting-edge technologies to win a competitive edge in the market
● Grow revenue with the launch of new transformational products and services
● Tackle business challenges and integrate solutions to improve customer experience and operational efficiencies
● Boost their brand as a leader in innovation
and digital transformation
● Enter into new commercial and investment relationships following unrivalled due diligence through a period of managed close collaboration
● Cultivate an entrepreneurial, solutionoriented ethos in the business and challenge their company’s talent

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