Enough waiting already

Innovation. We've heard so much over the past four years about the need for new and innovative ways of doing business, it's easy for the genuine urgency of the message to be replaced by boredom at having to hear another industry cliché so often.

How many seminars have you attended where the brightest and the best in the industry stand before us and spell out the shape of things to come only to wait in vain afterwards to see any such change?

I've heard numerous advisors whet our appetites with descriptions of Jessica, the European Investment Bank's new funding programme for city areas. The sign-off from Brussels has taken so long, however, are any developers even considering Jessica as a realistic potential source for their project?

The evolving energy sector is another rich source of innovative ideas and discussion, but lacking in tangible examples. At Grant Thornton's office in Manchester recently the gathered audience heard a compelling argument for the roll-out of anaerobic digestion plants, turning waste food from commercial and domestic sources into methane to produce electricity.

AD offers a solution to dealing with increasing food waste and is supported by the government. Community consultation experts PPS Group warned that local residents may at first object – perceptions about smell and increased traffic are the most common fears – but these concerns can normally be overcome through good planning and effective communication.

The issue holding AD back is the nervousness of banks, said Mike Read, director at GT, "project funding is in very limited supply…funders are keeping a watching brief".

There are too many questions for banks' liking: where does the feedstock for the AD plants come from, how safe and lasting is the supplier, which of the available technologies will be used, how fixed is the price of the product and who is buying?

Whichever the sector, there is no shortage of Next Big Things around the corner.

Pension funds getting into social housing or forward-funding private rented tower blocks is another favourite. "It's bound to happen, sooner or later" we nod.

The crux of the problem is the unyielding tension between risk-aversion from financers and novelty-keenness from a market that wants to adapt. For now, that root inertia is strangling innovative businesses and halting progress. Don't expect much to change while the equation looks like it does now and has for the past four years.

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