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A growth conversation with... UCLan

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In the latest in a series of interviews with our Boost Business Lancashire delivery partners, we speak to Billy Beggs, Engineering Innovation Manager at UCLan.

What is innovation all about?

If I was to explain to someone how they could be more innovative I would say: “Don’t try to make a better mouse trap, look for a better way to trap mice.”

Is an innovative mind something you are born with, or can it develop?

I would say both. When I was growing up in Northern Ireland, I was always fascinated by how you could find a variety of different solutions to resolve a problem. For example, at the age of eight, I entered a Scalextric car race competition and attached magnets to the underside of my car, ensuring it gripped the tracks to give me a crucial advantage. When the organisers discovered my innovative solution, rather than compliment me on my ingenuity, I was upset to be disqualified from the tournament for cheating. The episode did leave its mark though, serving to ignite a lifelong passion to look at life a little differently.

How has innovation helped your career?

My career in innovation began as a civilian apprentice in the RAF and has included 37 years as Concept Development Manager at BAE Systems. Recognition for my enthusiasm for engineering innovation has been in the form of 20 Chairman’s Awards for Innovation at BAE Systems and a Queen’s Award for Export. My approach is still to be as innovative and creative about the problems we face as I can, looking in areas which others might view as outside the boundaries of the university to provide real solutions.

How do companies become more innovative?

I know we all have good ideas, but I also know 99 per cent of them get lost in the ether. This is because we too often look at new ideas with a risk averse mindset before we’ve even explored their potential. Rather than starting out by looking to mitigate risk, I begin by applying my own judgement and whether I think it is right or wrong to pursue this idea. As long as I believe in the merits of an idea, I will at least give it a try. So my advice would be to enable an environment where innovation is given room breathe.

How can UCLan help Lancashire businesses be more innovative?

The UCLan Innovation Clinic, which is available to businesses as part of the Boost Business Lancashire offering, can help business owners find out whether their ideas can be turned into reality, helping them to achieve a more innovative mindset and removing perceived barriers to innovation.

Find out more

Specific product development and innovation support, including the UCLan Innovation Clinic, is available to manufacturing and engineering businesses through Boost.

Start the growth conversation by completing our online form or calling us on 0800 488 0057.


Billy Beggs, Engineering Innovation Manager, UCLan


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