As the UK government rubber stamps a £1.25bn innovation fund and puts its faith in startups and R&D “power growth out of the coronavirus crisis”, is innovation the answer to emerging stronger from coronavirus?

We let Adland Decide:

Michael Codd, Head of Innovation, AB InBev:
“Innovation is an umbrella term that probably gets overused and exaggerated. What innovation should be is a mindset of testing at a small scale, dropping what doesn’t work, continuing to improve what does work until you have a formula that can scale further. Therefore it’s wrong to think that innovation ‘the solution’ coming out of this crisis. It’s crucial that companies big and small continue to invest in innovation, which should be balancing their core business and fit within financial health. I hope the government will use that huge budget wisely on emerging products that have proved their worth.”

Amy Kean, Brand + Innovation Director, Partner, &us:
“Word of the year for 2020 will be… pivot. From an innovation perspective, many companies have had to rapidly shift focus from shallow projects of self-glorification to making stuff that sells. Every business must innovate, now. Even the successful ones, like supermarkets, can work on improving their infrastructure based on what they’ve learned. And some of this money will need to go on upskilling their people, too.

I’ve always said the best innovation is unsexy, and for the foreseeable future this is a business reality. Having slicker processes is ‘sexy’, having accessible tech is ‘sexy’, staying afloat is ‘sexy’, keeping staff in jobs is sooooooo ‘sexy’! I wish the last six months could be undone, but a positive impact for our country is that everyone’s realising what ‘innovation’ actually means: it’s change human beings need rather than what wins awards, and I for one am here for the… pivot.

Oliver Camp, Innovation Project Lead, Unilever:
“We should all be ‘innovating’ all the time – not just for innovation’s sake, but because innovation is about how we respond to new challenges, tap into new opportunities and evolve the products and services we offer.

“As innovation-focused people, we have a set of capabilities that can enable all this and much more.

“Is now the right moment to be using our ‘innovation capabilities’ to offer new thinking, apply tech to our challenges, or find new approaches? Of course, absolutely and categorically: yes. Now more than ever!

James Hirst, MD, RARE Design:
“In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari suggests that Homo Sapiens still exist because during the Cognitive Revolution, our ancestors developed the ability to transmit information to each other. So, whilst we weren’t the strongest or fittest, we are the only species here today.

“What this suggests to me is that you cannot innovate for the sake of innovating, you need to understand yourself (your business) and how to consistently adapt, grow and survive.

“Throwing money at ‘shiny’ innovations for the sake of it is not going to ensure survival. What will is offering something that is relevant, having a sustainable business, adapting where necessary, investing wisely (whether it’s people or technology) and ensuring what you do invest in is true to your business and you’re not “chasing the market.

This is how start-ups and multinationals alike will emerge stronger.”

Mike Charalambous, CEO, Threedium:
“The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed by two chinese characters signifying “Danger” and “Opportunity”… Every problem has a gift in its hands for us.

“We need to be proactive and forward-thinking in order to grab it. Feeling pessimistic and focusing solely on cost-cutting will not necessarily help your company thrive in the newly-shaping consumer trends. 

“We are heading into frictionless shopping trends, where users will expect your company to provide a consistent great experience online and offline. Focus on greater digital engagement, revisit your omni-channel strategy and pay attention to wellness and hygiene.”

Paul Frampton, President – EMEA, Control v Exposed:
“The post COVID-19 world will be so different on so many levels that it’s a necessity for businesses to take this time to pause and ask themselves whether they have the right marketing model, if more should be done in-house, whether they’re investing in the right places and whether their investment is going into media that works.

“Now is not a good time to innovate, innovation is the ONLY strategy in town.

“Consumer behaviour will be far more digital after this crisis, so unless traditional businesses invest in building the infrastructure, systems and model to stay relevant, they will find that DTC/e commerce businesses will have extended their advantage as they have achieved frictionless CX and  acquired a new base of customers who had never previously considered transacting this way. These customers won’t be returning to their old habits.

Tom Ollerton, Co-founder, Automated Creative + Presenter, Shiny New Object podcast:
“Too much advertising is based on bad assumptions. It’s time for brands to look for innovative alternatives. Brands assume that their research is valid, assume that the insight is correct, and then pray that the creative idea will resonate. And what makes it worse is that traditional digital advertising means that these bad assumptions can’t be corrected.

“The good news is that AI has inspired innovative new adtech alternatives to orthodoxy. In a time when ads need to be more relevant than ever, brands should experiment with new forms of advertising, ditch the bad assumptions and create ads that reflect and resonate with the only people that matter – consumers.”