Last month our friends at TechSPARK produced another epic event, the SPARKies tech awards, which celebrate local innovation. Innovation, we know, is not just a buzzword, that’s for sure, it’s a movement and mindset. So we caught up with two of the winners of the innovation award categories at the SPARKies, Open Bionics and Keymailer, and asked them “What is the driving force behind your innovations?

Innovative robotics

joel gibbard and sammy payneThe most innovative use of hardware winner, Open Bionics (pictured right), who create 3D-printed artificial robotic limbs, tell us:

“Meeting the user’s needs is the driving force behind our innovations. We’re a team of problem solvers and our users experience lots of problems with the prosthetic devices currently on the market.

“It’s an interesting one because the technology that can really benefit amputees has already been made; it exists. The problem is that it’s so expensive very few people can access it. We’ve been developing ways of making that technology more affordable for the user. We spend a lot of time speaking to users and we use their feedback to set ourselves challenges.

“We count failures as necessary steps to building something new and improved”


“We’re experimental and we count failures as necessary steps to building something new and improved, like Edison said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ ”

Innovative entertainment

keymailer-logoThe best innovation in digital entertainment winner, Keymailer, who connect influential game reviewers to game developers, tell us:

“Frustration, scaling workloads and missed opportunities for the gaming industry at large have been our primary motivators in designing and building Keymailer.

“We decided the best way to address the problem was to force change”


“We decided the best way to address the problem was to force change – no small challenge for an industry generating over $90billion in revenue a year and releasing hundreds of games every month. The only way to achieve this was to make the ‘new way of working’ so ridiculously easy and beneficial to everyone that it would be an act of pure lunacy not to consider the change.”

How to become innovative yourself

Inspirational to say the least! However being innovative isn’t something you click your fingers and summon, it’s a process, a mindset and something that needs developing. To give you a starting point on how to introduce innovation as an overarching core objective in what you do, we caught up with Jane Ginnever at SHIFT, to ask her where to start:

“Some bosses seem to think that if they just get some more creative people in place then their business will be more innovative, but that’s not quite true. As human beings, we’re all natural problem solvers, but we need the right conditions in which to innovate and take new solutions through to implementation. Unfortunately, those conditions aren’t provided in most organisations.

“Listen to everyone’s ideas, even if they are new to the business”


SPARKies-2016-Best-Innovation-in-digital-entertainment-award-winners-Keymailer“I spoke to James Beaven at Keymailer (pictured getting their SPARKies award, right) who told me that the biggest difference he had made to facilitate that innate innovation was to listen to everyone’s ideas, even if they were new to the business. I’ve written before about creating an environment where new employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo (see my blog ‘How to Build Innovation into your Business’). Listening to others challenge the way that you do things can be really uncomfortable, but it can help build a huge innovative capability within your business.

“What Open Bionics are doing very successfully gives us some more clues as to what an innovative environment looks like. As a team they’re all close to the user. In many businesses, there’s just one team that has regular, direct contact with users. Getting more of your people closer to the customer, or even bringing your customer into the team, will open up huge potential for new ideas to meet customer needs or do things better that can be tested.


Truly innovative hardware: The Open Bionics team receiving their SPARKies award. 

“That brings me nicely on to my final point and it’s something that Open Bionics’ success highlights. A culture where people are not permitted to make mistakes is one in which new solutions will wither away without seeing the light.

“Businesses need to create a safe environment in which people can try out ideas and learn from their mistakes”


“If getting it wrong starts a hunt for someone to blame or hold accountable in your business, then people will stick to what they’ve always done and won’t be prepared to take a risk. And innovation is risky. New ideas fail more often than they succeed. Businesses need to be prepared for that and create a safe environment in which people can try out ideas and learn from their mistakes.”

These are small changes that will make a significant difference to the culture within your business. It’s never too late to become more innovative. Perhaps next year you could be winning awards for innovation!