The first Sixth Sense cohort all participated in an innovate-on-the-job scaling programme from March until May, where they were supported by coaching, funding, and best practice examples from Hexagon’s customers. 

It is the progress from this programme that the companies presented at Sixth Sense’s inaugural demo day at London’s Tobacco Dock. As host Michael Hayman pointed out, while most US Presidents are given 100 days before being judged, these innovators had just 70. 

In that short time, they examined their products, their purpose and their potential, which was put to the test by an advisory panel of expert entrepreneurs and investors. 

Articulating your business

To succeed, it must be clear what benefit any business provides to the world. Head of Manufacturing at BGF Mark Bryant called for clear articulation from each entrepreneur, which should be framed in terms of what you do, what it provides, why people would use it, and where the company is hoping to go. 

Similarly, entrepreneur and investor Elaine Warburton OBE asked to hear passion from the pitches: “I want to understand the business in the first 30 seconds. I want to know you love your baby.”

For Innovate UK’s Made Smarter Innovation Deputy Challenge Director Ben Farmer, the word for the day was ‘credibility’. “I want to see that you understand your product, your market and how they fit together. Be confident that your founding team can execute the strategy.”

Tips for investment

Looking ahead, the panel provided their advice on how to develop relationships with investors.

“Be open to taking advice and follow it,” was the key message from Drew Rogers, Senior Director for Corporate Development and M&A with Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. And the advice from Mark Bryant was to keep it real: “Entrepreneurs can be extroverts or introverts. But they are always optimists. They believe in what they’re doing – that’s great – but they have to be realists too.”

Elaine Warburton added that the secret to successful scaling and avoiding becoming a minnow in your industry is to know what the customer needs and to make it easy for them. 

The future of manufacturing

Mark explained the adoption of technology is something that has historically been fragmented and siloed, with a discrepancy in capabilities and supply chain relationships across the industry.

But Ben Farmer says manufacturing is increasingly getting its act together on sustainability, and that advancing digital and AI capabilities are at the heart of this. 

While each of the Sixth Sense cohort are different businesses, they all have a common goal and a belief in technology as the driver of a better, more efficient world. It was in the best articulation of this vision, demonstrating how it could be applied to the future of manufacturing, pushing the boundaries of engineering, design and technology, that the demo day winners were selected.