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Profile On L Marks: “On Your Marks”

L Marks is a firm of global specialists in corporate innovation. Using collaboration as an accelerant for purposeful change in the world’s leading businesses, L Marks leverages a culture of innovation, pioneering technologies, and entrepreneurial ideas of early and growth-stage businesses to empower the market. L Marks today boasts the UK’s largest network of corporate innovation labs and is recognised as a leader in making change happen. CEO Daniel Saunders tells us more.

Specialists in corporate innovation, L Marks has launched almost seventy innovation programmes across the UK, Europe, Israel, Asia, and the US since its inception as one of the first corporate accelerators in the UK in 2014. Consequently, the firm has created the country’s largest global network of corporate innovation labs, working with their clients – or corporate partners, as they are better known – to establish value-driven and cultural change within organisations through embedding innovation.

L Marks was born from the belief that collaboration is the most powerful way of affecting purposeful change. As such, through its international network, the firm seeks to enable and incorporate innovation between partners to develop and reach strategic goals for businesses, such as driving new products or services, increasing efficiency, improving customer experiences, saving costs, and ultimately promoting successful growth. L Marks discovers more than 10,000 early and growth-stage companies each year, who meet the specific needs of their corporate partners and working the firm’s innovation programmes to achieve business goals. With a staggering 72% of businesses continuing to work with their corporate partners once L Marks completes the programme, the value of these partnerships is clear to see.

Moreover, the importance of innovation to businesses in all verticals and of all sizes across the world is becoming increasingly clear, and L Marks’ corporate partners are those businesses who recognise not only how innovation can drive their own businesses forward, but also how they can contribute to the wider innovation eco-system. However, many organisations are reluctant to let go of the business mentalities that have worked for them for so long, preferring to sacrifice the future for the sake of the present when faced with financial adversity. In addition, many of the other organisations in corporate innovation that have appeared since L Marks began are often guilty of promising a great deal, without delivering on commercial outcomes.

Whilst the impacts of these empty promises are detrimental to the innovation industry, L Marks’ continued commitment to delivering value and results for their partners keeps its business and the industry thriving, in financially unstable times. Moreover, L Marks recognises that innovation is not always about looking ahead five, ten or fifty years, but also deploying solutions that will have long term and sustainable effects that will also impact the bottom line to drive new business opportunities and efficiencies rapidly.

The businesses that L Marks works with are called partners instead of clients because across their many innovation programmes, the firm works alongside them to understand and map out their unique strategic goals and discover the innovative solution that will best help them to achieve these. L Marks has created nearly seventy programmes worldwide, such as the ten-week intensive collaboration programmes with pioneering start-ups in Innovation Lab, Intra-Lab, the intrapreneurship programme designed to empower and equip employees to develop new solutions for their businesses, or Fusion an intensive programme which brings together start-ups with teams from the partner to co-create and deliver new solutions and tackle six months of work in just three days. Through open innovation programmes or university-grade ‘learn-by-doing’ educational processes, L Marks is able to implement its unparalleled expertise and experience to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship for businesses across sectors and geographies, whilst delivering results.

This is combined with the Bridge, L Marks’ proprietary digital platform that plays a crucial role in augmenting the methodologies and expertise of the L Marks team so as to maximise the potential of future technologies. The portal allows entrepreneurs and internal innovators to connect with collaborators and develop their ideas, whilst offering the ability to analyse and select the best ideas to be developed further. The Bridge also enables engagement with larger groups of employees to promote a more agile culture of change, whilst its target setting tools enables these businesses to stay focused on delivering tangible results.

When the economies and businesses around the world were forced to rapidly adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, L Marks was able to rely on the Bridge infrastructure to seamlessly transform all of their programmes to digital platforms, whilst maintaining the same environments and delivering the same outcomes from programmes. There were of course some challenges, but the L Marks team were able to transition to digital platforms successfully and continue carrying out their programmes throughout 2020, often with even better results.
CEO Daniel Saunders says, “I am incredibly impressed by the L Marks team and how, in only six weeks, we were able to build a Virtual Events Platform that created the environment and experience so all our events could continue during lock-down.”

As such, L Marks has been able to continue operating with its central ethos of collaboration by bringing people together, even if only virtually currently. Whilst there are many who are now strong advocates for working from home thanks to its positive changes to work/life balance, the loss of commute, and other benefits, L Marks recognises the importance of working together in a physical environment to create a strong culture of collaboration and innovative serendipity. Therefore they look forward to the return to working side-by-side once more when it is possible. “That being said,” says Daniel, “necessity is the mother of invention and it’s been through having to adapt and react to this new environment that not only has L Marks itself been able to innovate and grow, but the world has also seen the importance and opportunities through innovation.”

Having been built around innovation since 2014, L Marks is ready to lead its existing and new corporate partners to greater success in the future. At the core of the firm is an openness to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and a constantly curious mentality that asks, ‘what if?’ Daniel says, “just as we champion the importance of open-mindedness and collaboration within our corporate partners, so, too, do we in our own internal culture.” The L Marks team is made up of a diverse range of individuals, including entrepreneurs, corporate innovators, industry trade bodies, charities, investors, government advisors, innovation and technology experts and more. As a collective, the vast experience and expertise equips L Marks with the credibility to create successful programmes that generate innovation for their partners. The team is also constantly looking at what more they can do and have a culture of continuous improvement.

Therefore, whilst the key to the success of L Marks is the diversity in its people, the firm looks for a certain mentality in potential candidates when recruiting to its team. Those individuals must share the L Marks attributes of collaboration, open-mindedness, creativity, courtesy, responsibility and dynamism. Consequently, the team is able to pull together and employ the breadth of its knowledge and insights to provide a holistic and clear approach to all of its programmes to create success for their partners, as well as their own company.
As the impacts of Covid-19 open the eyes of businesses around the world to the importance and opportunities for innovation, L Marks is working with its partners to implement new technologies and strategies to remain stable and continue growing, even in these uncertain times. In 2021, the firm will also extend its guidance to further partners, as well as supporting the third sector in its creation of social enterprises to offer them the same pathways to innovation. Having seen the successful impact of innovation for its corporate partners, L Marks is excited to see how it can enhance and support partners within this new space.

In addition, L Marks will also be further championing the importance and value of innovation by bringing together key stakeholders and encouraging them to support the firm’s existing partners and the wider business community, helping them to understand the importance of innovation and assisting them in navigating and embracing it successfully. By implementing innovation across these businesses, L Marks can help them to drive a culture of dynamism that fuels growth and ultimately makes change happen.

Originally published in CEO Monthly, March 2021