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What Does It Take To Innovate? Ask The Creator Of VOIP

Speaking at the Pioneers of Change Summit last year, VoIP creator Marian Croak examines what entrepreneurship really entails.

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

Necessity is the mother of invention

Someone, somehow, at some time invented every piece of technology we take for granted. And what’s the biggest bit of tech that’s keeping us together in lockdown at the moment? VoIP.

Zoom calls, Skype and numerous other technologies rely on Voice over Internet Protocol or “VoIP”. Allowing us to work and stay in touch through the misery of COVID-19 restrictions, VoIP was created by Marian Croak, Vice-President of Engineering at Google.

First considered back in the 1990s, Croak herself admits that initially people were sceptical. However, nowadays we live in a more connected world where communication is instant and on the go. Indeed, in 2015 BT announced it will switch off the ISDN network in 2025, requiring every business to move to a VoIP solution.

Last year Croak headed to the Pioneers of Change Summit joining moderator Eniola Mafe, Vision 2030 Lead at the World Economic Forum. She also talked alongside Schwab Foundation awardee Lindiwe Matlali, Chief Executive Officer at Africa Teen Geeks to give detailed insights into what innovation really takes. They also gave their views on why entrepreneurship means never fitting in, and how kids are a big inspiration when it comes to new technologies. Here we look at some of the key points they made.

Innovation doesn’t always succeed - but the journey is just as important

During the course of the summit, both Marian Croak and Lindiwe Matlali spoke about hard work and determination in making an invention a reality. Matlali made it clear that too many inventors focus on the “arrival” rather than the journey. “The only way to get doors to open is to be impressive and work so hard that you can't be ignored”, she said.

Croak, at the same time, believes that success revolves around having the right mindset. She is emphatic that entrepreneurs should be confident in fixing something that’s clearly broken, and coming up with a solution. The journey in doing so involves failure, but things soon evolve and experimentation is the way to perfection.

What’s interesting here is that inventors are only human. The fact they don’t often “fit in at the table”, and see things from a different angle, is hugely advantageous. It allows them to step back and see where the gaps in knowledge are. Being part of the group drives the desire to confirm and inhibits individual creative thinking. But invention requires you to stand away from the crowd.

Croak concedes however that operating entirely on your own is not viable for long. You need to bring others on board with your invention, and allow the next generation to climb the ladder as well.

What can children teach technology innovators?

Children are naturally curious and naïve, and these are extremely powerful tools. Croak argues that children fuel invention simply because they have vivid imaginations. They aren’t constrained by adult concerns or limits as to what may or may not be possible.

Matlali has also spent many years working with disadvantaged teenagers and is fascinated by each child’s passion and hope for the future. She notes that for children anything is possible and their dreams have no boundaries. Both agree that when looking to innovate, the trick is to keep that childhood curiosity alive.

The end of the COVID-19 emergency is in sight. What's the biggest opportunity for change?

Many of us have heard of the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” - and for Marian Croak this is certainly the case. When speaking at the Summit, Croak made clear her belief that innovation thrives most in times of hardship. Humans are motivated for something new which will ease the chaos. She also strongly urged the technology community to look closely at where gaps currently exist, particularly as we leave the pandemic behind. Now is the chance to "to address that huge amount of inequity."

One such gap exists in Matlali's work in education in Africa, where inequality is of particular concern. “Knowing that no matter how small the contributions I am making - it makes a difference”, she said. “Even if it helps one child to have the opportunities that I've had - it all came through education. For me, that's what I want to try do and make sure that as many children as possible can break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.”

Talk to the R&D tax experts

Research and development is the key to bringing innovative new technologies to life. But such work can be expensive, and of course there are no guarantees - this is where R&D Tax Credits are invaluable.

R&D Tax Credits represent a tax incentive offered by the government to encourage business innovation. It works by allowing UK companies who’ve recently undertaken eligible R&D work to claim back a portion of their costs. This is represented either as a reduction in their Corporation Tax, or as cash payments for those that have made a loss.

Sounds great, and it is. In fact average SME claims in the UK sit at around £55,000 - a large amount of money by anyone’s standards. However, there’s a big “but”…

Making a claim for R&D Tax Credits is notoriously difficult. Understanding exactly which projects and costs are eligible, as well as how to apportion them correctly, is a minefield. Mistakes are easy to make, and you can pretty much guarantee HMRC will spot them. Even innocent errors can lead to HMRC raising further questions which are time consuming to answer - not to mention stressful. If HMRC still isn’t happy, with either your technical report or your calculations, then it could launch an enquiry. Your company will then need to pay back any overpayment, potentially along with interest and fines - so don’t take that risk.

Speak to the R&D tax experts at Myriad Associates today who will be pleased to guide you through the claims process. We’ll take you through every step in putting together a high quality, fully optimised application, and our 100% success rate speaks for itself.

Call us now on 0207 118 6045 or use our contact page and take the hassle out of claiming R&D Tax Credits.

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