Six strategies that accelerated innovation in 2020

In so many ways, 2020 has not been the easiest of years in which to do business. But nonetheless, design technology company Cambridge Design Partnership is taking on more staff, opening new offices and gaining blue chip clients. Here, founding partner Mike Cane reveals six strategies the firm is employing to accelerate their innovation programs in this most challenging of times.

1. Finding ways to work faster

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up many unforeseen challenges, it has also provided a pressing need to hone our innovation approach this year, writes Cambridge Design Partnership founding partner Mike Cane. Our specialist knowledge of medical tech and diagnostics has seen us taking on large-scale, fast track projects to help tackle the pandemic, both in diagnostics and treatment for the disease. We are also delighted to have undertaken a significant amount of pro-bono work during the crisis, working on everything from PPE to ventilators, to help support the NHS and defeat the virus. All of these projects had urgent timescales not normally associated with complex healthcare programs, which has meant we have had to organise ourselves differently.

This huge demand to accelerate development timescales, without compromising performance and safety, has led us to refine our procedures and approaches to allow us to deliver these projects on time.

2. Sector knowledge

We plan to celebrate CDP’s 25th anniversary in 2021 by hiring our 250th employee owner. This consistent organic growth has been the result of our focus on three key industry sectors where innovation is particularly important to our clients’ success. This has driven us to develop in-depth knowledge and expertise in our customers’ industries, which creates a more fertile environment in which to develop the very best possible products for them.

3. A holistic approach

Here at CDP we purposely take a holistic approach to our work, with the aim of providing an end-to-end service from a clean sheet to product launch and post-market support. While our clients often come to us when they are already at some point along the new product development journey, this perspective allows us to be aware of how the task at hand contributes to the overall success of their venture. This allows us to plan projects more effectively and to add value beyond our immediate role.

Some clients do come to us for the very first strategic discussions and market research. We can then take their ideas through design and testing right up to launch and manufacture. This seamless approach enables them to avoid the pitfalls that result from changing teams at key stages in the development process.

4. Building expertise

Over the years, we have built up a wide range of technical expertise and as a result we increasingly have teams with in-depth technical specialists, such as medical robotics engineers. As the scale of our business grows, we can offer our colleagues exciting opportunities to work at the cutting edge of technology with some of the world’s largest companies. At the core of what we do is science and engineering, so we are always keen to hear from mechanical engineers, electronic engineers and software engineers, particularly those with experience of working in the regulated medical sector. We also have opportunities for people with manufacturing expertise, as we now offer our clients short-run manufacture in our own labs, as well as the know-how to take new products right up to the point of market launch and transfer to high-volume manufacture.

5. Combining local with remote

Today, our largest geographic market is the US, with assignments carried out by both our team in Raleigh, North Carolina and also at our HQ in Cambridge. Making sure we have team members close by our clients helps make sure we work closely in partnership. Also, given the shortage of engineering talent in the UK, especially in software engineering, it’s useful to be able to recruit from two pools of talent. All this means that our American operation is more important to us than ever and, as a result, we’ve recently invested in a new and larger R&D facility in Raleigh.

6. Facilities, people and performance

As well as our new office in the US, we are also investing in a state-of-the-art new facility in the UK that will be ready next year. This will significantly expand and upgrade our laboratories and workshops, as well as providing specialist facilities such as state of the art market research infrastructure, multi-technology 3D printing, optics, power electronics and manufacturing process development labs.

Among the many reasons for CDP’s consistent innovation performance is, I believe, our strong Employee Ownership culture and our innovation focused management team. We are now coming up to three years into full employee ownership, meaning that every staff member, or Employee Owners as we call them, has a real voice and stake in CDP’s approach and success. Our senior management team is 12 partners, each working in a different sector of the business, all focused on optimising our innovation projects. Even as we have grown, we have maintained our belief in a flat hierarchy, with Employee Owners fully empowered to create great new products

In conclusion…

Here at CDP, by far the most important thing we do is to put the success of our clients’ innovation projects at the centre of our business development planning. This means as well as developing new products, we are also developing our organisation, facilities and processes to provide the best possible support to our customers throughout the whole innovation process, helping them to launch the most competitive new products. As 2020 draws to a close, we’re optimistically looking to the future.