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Real Innovation Awards categories 2017

Innovation takes many forms. Scientific and technological breakthroughs tend to get the most attention. A new vaccine that saves children’s lives. A new labour-saving device which costs very little to purchase, but once put to use will save thousands for the average household. Of course, the science and technology sector is not the only measure of successful innovation. Innovation also happens incrementally within the world of business and in service industries, often building on previous advances. We devised six award categories to reflect this diversity.


The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome. Any successful project has a failure or two along the way, and equally most failures provide insights that can lead to success.

The key criterion here is the extent to which the individual or team evidently learned from their earlier failure and used their insights to create something successful.

The Masters of Reinvention Award is for the organisation that most successfully reinvented itself when faced with a major challenge to its previously successful business model. This could even mean cannibalising existing offerings or completely rethinking their approach.

The key criterion is the level of cannibalisation that was achieved, the extent to which the original business was “destroyed”.

The Best Beats First Award is for the company that moved quickly to dominate an emerging market category, typically with a different and better business model than the first mover. First movers don’t always have the advantage. Sometimes the smart thing is to wait for the pioneers to take the initial risks, and to do the hard work in shaping a market.

The key criterion is the extent to which the company succeeded in commercialising someone else’s original idea, while still acting legally and ethically.

The George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award is for someone who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea despite the difficulties encountered along the way. George Bernard Shaw said that progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman) – the person who persists in shaping the world rather than letting it shape them.

The key criterion is the number of times the individual was turned down or encountered resistance before finally succeeding.

The Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award is for a person or organisation that built a thriving business on an idea that originated in the most unexpected or surprising way. Alexander Fleming famously discovered penicillin essentially by accident, and indeed many other famous discoveries have been entirely serendipitous.

The key criterion here is the extent to which the actual discovery was a long way from the inventor’s intended goal.

The Harnessing the Winds of Change Award is for those who spot what’s just around the corner soon enough to take advantage of it. Many successful innovations aren’t particularly novel or clever, but succeed because they are carefully timed to coincide with other complementary developments.

The key criterion for this award is the size of the external discontinuity and the timing of the innovation to coincide with that change.