Speaker Snapshot: Tim Sharpe, Head Of Design & Innovation At Speedo

Creating the right environment for innovation and product development


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London this October 19&20th, we spoke to Tim Sharpe, Head of Design & Innovation at Speedo.

Tim joined Speedo in September 2013 and is responsible for leading two creative teams within Speedo - the design team and the innovation team, known as Aqualab, with the remit of creating, and delivering world-class products and brand propositions for each of Speedo's swimmer consumers – from those learning to swim through to those breaking world records.

Prior to joining Speedo, Tim has over 18 years design consultancy experience in Asia, the USA and Europe working for clients ranging from established corporations such as GSK, Dell, and Hitachi Rail, to small businesses and startups such as Fitbit and Sling Media.

How did you get started in your career?

Though I didn’t know what product design (or industrial design) was or that it was a career, I knew in high school that I wanted to do something that merged drawing, inventing and making things, as these were the things I enjoyed most… And I was never very good at spelling or maths!

What are the main components of a successful innovation strategy?

Innovation cannot be limited to a single function, it needs involvement and support from the whole company to succeed by exploring, prototyping, testing, learning and then progressing.

Is open innovation worth the risk?

I think it is far harder to innovate within a completely closed model. Great ideas can come from anywhere, so the more we are open to looking beyond internal expertise and knowledge, the more likely we are to deliver an innovative solution.

How important is it to collaborate with the startup community? What are your thoughts on internal and external incubator programs?

The advantage startups have over established companies is that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is a significant driving force behind both pace and willingness to fail fast on the route to success. I think incubator programs within established companies is an interesting way of tapping into the mindset of a startup. However, it can’t be lip-service. The company has to be prepared to follow through hand support this program from start to finish and from the top down.

What can delegates expect from your presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit?

A perspective gathered from a diverse set of experiences; from working in both the US and the UK, with stories from working with startups and some of the biggest brand names, and the noted pros & cons of working in-house or as a design consultant. I also have a reputation of bringing my points across with some obscure references, so I may include some left-field examples to illustrate my points.

You can hear more from Tim and other industry leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, taking place in London this October 19&20th.


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