Top tips for budding innovators

Photography by Fergus Burnett

Having an idea that could make a difference is only the beginning of becoming the next big innovator.

As we gear up for the opening of our 2019/20 IGHI Student Challenges Competition on 7 January, we’ve gathered some top tips from IGHI and Imperial College London’s many experts in innovation to help you bring your ideas to life.

These innovative individuals draw upon a wealth of experience and knowledge that they’ve built up from establishing their own start-ups or working in innovation.

Read on for their words of wisdom, and if you’re inspired by these, why not submit your global health project for our Student Challenges Competition in January, for the chance to win £10,000?

A photograph of Ana holding the prototype.1. Ideas start small

“If you have an idea you wish you could pursue, and you believe it could have a positive impact on global health, don’t be afraid to take the leap. And don’t fear failure – see it as the process through which your idea becomes the best version of itself. Every idea starts small. So just embrace the process of shaping it into something meaningful and enjoy the journey of seeing it coming to life.”

Dr Ana Luisa Neves
Research Fellow in Clinical Analytics and Patient Safety
Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, IGHI

2. Be adaptable

“As an innovator, in any field, you need to be perseverant and adaptable – have conviction in your idea, but always be open to change and suggestions.”

Uddhav Vaghela and Simon Rabinowicz
Founders of VUI Diagnostics
Runners-up of IGHI’s Student Challenges Competition 2019 and winners of Imperial’s Venture Catalyst Challenge

3. Strike a balance between learning from others and originality

“Take inspiration and ideas from people and companies that have done similar things. But at the same time, keep an open mind in applying ideas from far away sources and non-related fields that can be juxta-posed to strengthen your aims.”

Hutan Ashrafian
Scientific Advisor

4. Understand your customer

“The most important lesson we have learned is actually one that everyone told us from the beginning: Know your customer! “Another equally important tip is that you should delegate your work where you can.”

Kai Riemer and Laura Braun
Founders of Capta
Winners of IGHI’s Student Challenges Competition and the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2019

5. Are you really addressing a problem?

“Be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve and who owns it. Don’t fall into the trap of having an idea and then tying yourself up in knots trying to justify it and convince people. Be problem-focused rather than solution-led; everything else flows from there. Talk to people and confirm whether what you think is the problem is actually a problem. You’d be amazed at how many early-stage ideas flounder because what we convince ourselves that people are looking for turns out to be wrong.”

Ben Mumby-Croft
Director of Entrepreneurship, Imperial Enterprise Lab

6. Make your solution usable

“Make sure you have really understood the needs and work patterns of users, so you have designed something that not only solves a problem but does so in a way that people will actively want to use.”

Dr Will Cavendish
Global Leader, Digital Services, Arup
Visiting Professor, IGHI

7. Don’t listen to the naysayers 

“Develop resilience. When you hit individuals who represent barriers, don’t waste your time trying to persuade them. Work around them. Eventually, even the laggards will join!”

Professor Julia Riley
Founder of Coordinate My Care,
Consultant in Palliative Medicine at the Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton NHS Trusts
Visiting Professor, IGHI

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