Technology company Celsio has collaborated with Ulster University Business School (UUBS) in the creation of a new framework for innovation skills development. F!Sk® is a competency-based matrix for sustainable innovation and is aimed at accelerating how organisations develop innovation capability and confidence in a rapidly changing world.
Innovation skills are in high demand. The World Economic Forum lists innovation in its top ten skills for 2025, and recruitment agencies include innovation among the priority skills demanded by employers. Until recently, innovation skills development has focussed almost exclusively on idea generation. Design thinking, creativity, and brainstorming courses are easily sourced, and while they teach useful techniques, they seldom lead to organisations implementing a sustainable approach to innovation.
The innovation landscape changed in 2019 with the publication of the new international standard ISO 56002:2019 Innovation Management System Guidance. Innovation experts from 50 countries proposed that innovation must be seen as much more than ideation. The standard recommends that organisations look to make innovation sustainable by taking a holistic approach that encompasses leadership, strategy, processes, skills development, measurement, and the development of a culture supportive of change.
Celsio has embraced the future of innovation that ISO 56002:2019 champions, and has created F!Sk® (Framework for Innovation Skills). F!Sk® is a competency matrix that identifies the full spectrum of skills and competency levels required by any team wanting to put in place an enduring approach to innovation.
Recognising the importance of this new approach, Invest NI awarded an Innovation Voucher to fund a collaborative project between Celsio and UUBS. The Business School undertook an academic review of F!Sk®, including a critique of the framework against innovation standards, and an evaluation of the model against both current and emerging academic research and thinking.
The UUBS report confirmed the growing global demand for innovation skills development and found F!Sk® to be distinctive in its approach. It found F!Sk® to be the only skills framework designed to strategically link to the principles of ISO 56002:2019 and underpin a sustainable approach to innovation within established organisations.
Dr. Shirley Davey, Lecturer, Ulster University Business School commented:
In Northern Ireland there is a regional policy focus on innovation, and the impetus for innovation frameworks for organisations of all sizes has been accelerated as a result of the global pandemic. This collaboration with Celsio builds on the focus that UUBS places on supporting local business. It was exciting to work on this research which showed that the lack of innovation tools is a challenge for many organisations today. With its unique alignment to the new international innovation management standards, F!Sk® can help build innovation competency at a time when companies need it most.
The collaboration, supported by Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher scheme, provided Celsio with important confirmation that the new F!Sk® framework is addressing a real business need, providing a holistic approach to innovation skills training, and taking innovation significantly beyond the generation of new ideas.
Dr Mike Brennan, a global challenges expert at Ulster University, highlighted the significance of innovation skills development:
Our work with partners in South America, Africa and Asia has emphasised the need to engage with emerging opportunities through innovation. The basis for innovation is the development of innovation skills and competencies. The F!Sk® framework helps individuals and organisations develop these skills with the confidence that such development is based on emerging international standards.
F!Sk® is now incorporated into Celsio’s Innovation Management System (CIMS), the software platform they created to underpin innovation for business transformation, business growth, cost reduction, operational improvements, or the adoption of new technologies. The framework is an integral part of Celsio’s three step approach to innovation – developing a comprehensive innovation strategy aligned to corporate goals; building innovation competency and confidence; and delivering value through the generation and realisation of transformative ideas.
Charlie Tuxworth, Co-founder and Director of Celsio said:
The creation of this strategic relationship with UUBS has been an important milestone for Celsio. The team at UUBS provided us with a level of insight, critique, and context for F!Sk® that we would not have had the time or skills to do ourselves. We have plans to continue to collaborate with UUBS as we further refine F!Sk® and use it to set new standards for innovation skills development.
F!SK® is supported by Celsio’s portfolio of learning resources; and has already resulted in significant business success in Financial Services and the Public Sector, both inside and outside of Northern Ireland. For more information and to access the report, see: https://www.celsiogroup.com/uubs-fisk-report