Mobilising a network of 500 innovators from organisations across Bristol, all willing to contribute ideas and develop solutions to the challenges that matter right now

Innovation as a future-skill
The International Standards Office, in Geneva, has recently released an innovation standard, reflecting the growing interest from organisations in developing sustainable innovation approaches. The demand for innovation skills is also on the rise – organisations want their people to develop ideas and turn them into value in the form of new products, services, processes and business models. This requires creativity and collaboration, both of which are notoriously difficult for artificial intelligence to provide. Innovation skills are likely to remain human skills. You just need to read “The Human Edge” by Greg Orme to realise that these capabilities are a good bet for our future employability.

Elvin Turner

” It was great to be so warmly welcomed by the Bristol Innovators’ Group. We talked through the ideas in my book – Be Less Zombie – and had a rich discussion on how to apply these in organisations and cities.”

– Elvin Turner

Bristol Innovators’ Group (BIG) is a cross-sectoral network, founded in 2019 with a vision to connect and educate a community of innovators and change-makers in our City. Since then we‘ve grown to almost 500 members. Our network members come from public, private and third sector organisations, start-ups, SMEs, councils and large corporates.
We run events and facilitate groups that bring these people together to work on initiatives that improve social, economic, and environmental outcomes.

The importance of BIG
BIG brings the reach to connect people beyond the boundary of their sector. From our beginning, we designed the network to bring diversity and inclusion into the process of innovation. We still have a journey to go on, but we believe Bristol and the wider region can benefit from groups like ours to help solve the challenges of now and the future, such as housing, economic regeneration, life-long learning and sustainability. These challenges extend beyond the capabilities of single organisations, and need collaboration across sectors. With our members, we’ve worked to identify shared challenges, develop our purpose, and get people involved in meaningful initiatives. These have become the three core threads to our group – Connect. Learn. Do.

We run regular meet-ups, inviting speakers from our group and beyond. It is important that group members can talk about their challenges and what innovation means to them. Right from the start, members formed links with each other based on common interests, and shared challenges. We realised that part of our work is in forming bonds, building the social capital that keeps the conversation going. We’ve run sessions with Local entrepreneurs such as Clayton Planter from Street2Boardroom; with individuals leading the way on diversity and inclusion, such as Amanda Chappell from Bristol City Council; and with leading authors, including Greg Orme, author of The Human Edge: How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers in the digital economy, and Elvin Turner.

One of our long-term aims is to develop the next generation of innovators in Bristol. We recently collaborated in running a careers expo for young undergraduates, in partnership with Bristol Hub and UoB’s Innovation Society. This brought together speakers, experienced innovation professionals along with Bristol students who wanted to know more about careers in innovation.

We run these events on digital platforms, including zoom and teams, and even dabbled in a unique conferencing tech called Remo. We have fully embraced the Miro tool for idea generation, co-creation of content, and live interaction. Whether our events are online, in-person or hybrid, these tools are vital to our ongoing strategy to get people fully involved.

Our members want to apply their talents to make lives better in Bristol. The serendipitous connections that were enabled through our meetings, have often turned into intent to start a project and make a difference. We’re exploring opportunities around the future of learning; the crossover between innovation and sustainability; and how to collaborate for digital inclusion across our city.

Looking forward
We are looking ahead to ways we can enhance the forum and keep bringing value to Bristol. This includes introducing AGMs for our members and others interested in what we’re doing, and bringing in a new platform, Solverboard, to help us manage our projects and get more value out of the work we do. In the short-term, we’ll welcome Samuel West, founder of the Museum of Failure, to talk about that all important innovation topic – failure!


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