Internal entrepreneurship can boost your business

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BMW has launched an ‘intrapreneur’ initiative across its 1,300-strong UK workforce

Adding to its already embedded Innovation Lab that offers young start-ups the chance to partner with BMW Group’s UK commercial divisions on new technologies, the new intrapreneur programme is giving staff across the business the opportunity to develop ideas with the backing of the company.

“We are about developing our people and working collaboratively, and intrapreneurship has been identified as part of our ongoing HR strategy,” said BMW HR manager Julie Holland.

“For us this is about retaining the talent we have in our organisation and giving them opportunities and exposure,” she added.

The initiative, which was launched in early September, is open to all BMW staff whether they are full or part time, permanent or contractors. It asks individuals or teams to come up with ideas under two broad categories: 'serving the customer of today' and 'serving the customer of tomorrow'.

After a series of development workshops, which have been so heavily subscribed the business has had to put on more, the best 20 ideas will be selected for further development with academics, business mentors and BMW leadership team members. The top eight will then go on to a three-day ‘lab’ with Oxford University and be entered onto a 12-week programme to help develop a detailed business plan.

“This builds on the Innovation Lab we launched in 2016 and draws on the knowledge and ideas we know our employees must have. It’s about building and nurturing that culture,” Holland said.

She explained that as part of the initiative the senior leadership team were permitted to take 10% of their time away from their core role to help work on ideas.

“It is a big investment – particularly in terms of time – but what comes out of it is a benefit for both the individual and organisation,” she said. “The level of motivation is phenomenal, which is fantastic for us as a business.”

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