North Iowa's innovators can find support and resources here

Innovation & Acceleration


In most people’s minds, innovation is generally aligned it to the concept of disruptive, and often technology-based, types of innovations. However, those are only a small piece of the innovation puzzle. Most innovation happening in businesses across all industries is much more subtle and incremental in nature.  Innovation can happen across all stages of a business or product lifecycle.

For existing businesses and startups alike, the key is to embrace creativity and change by utilizing an approach that minimizes risk and increases customer value. Conceptually, this is very similar to the Lean Launchpad methodology taught at our Venture School. This approach is called “lean innovation,” and is focused on increasing efficiency by capturing customer feedback early and often and prioritizes discovery and experimentation over elaborate strategic planning.  With lean innovation, you’re developing concepts and testing them in a rapid-fire fashion.

Core Principles of Lean Innovation

  • The ability to identify new opportunities through the use of design thinking and iteration
  • Consider innovation across all departments and including culture
  • The ability to quickly and with few resources, develop, prototype, learn, validate, and improve business models
  • The ability to apply lean processes, which enable teams to reduce waste, make incremental improvements, and eliminate the bureaucracy that often hinders innovation
  • Generate a multitude of valuable new business and product ideas by introducing startup and lean business approaches to product development teams

Lean innovation is not a new concept and in fact has a long, rich history. In 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line, a manufacturing process that dropped assembly time for a single vehicle from 12 hours to 90 minutes. By reducing the time, money, and human capital required to build a car, Ford was able to lower the cost of the company’s popular Model T from $850 to less than $300, making automobiles more accessible to the masses. These increased efficiencies helped eliminate “waste,” all while improving the customer experience— the core principles to lean innovation. Toyota later replicated Henry Ford’s original principles at the Rouge assembly plant, using Ford’s approach as a basis for developing the Toyota Production System.

Design thinking is a customer-centric approach to brainstorming new ideas and solving problems. Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process. Based on the results of testing the most recent iteration of a design, changes and refinements are made.

At our center, we work one-on-one with entrepreneurs, early-stage startups and mature businesses to innovate and continuously test assumptions as well as iteration on your current product and service offerings and how we can incrementally innovate to accelerate your growth and continue to expand and build sustainable business models.

We have several partners who collaborate with us and our clients in the Iowa innovation ecosphere.

NIACC Innovation Workspace

The NIACC Innovation Workspace can provide resources to North Iowa inventors and innovators who are seeking small-to-medium scale model and prototype creation.


The Center for Industrial Research and Service was created in 1963 to improve the quality of life in Iowa by helping businesses and their communities prosper and grow. They are the industrial extension arm of Iowa State University, one of the nation’s premier land-grant institutions. The CIRAS mission – to enhance the performance of Iowa industry – is an integral part of the history of Iowa State and the ISU Extension Service.

BioConnect Iowa

BioConnect Iowa is working with innovators and entrepreneurs statewide to create a homegrown bioscience industry that is second to none. Our state is home to many world-class researchers and innovators in bioscience fields such as bioproducts, crop genetics, and human and animal health, and our goal is to support these pioneers in their pursuit of excellence and national and international recognition.

BioConnect Iowa helps Iowa entrepreneurs prepare winning applications for the federal Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs, which award funds to qualifying businesses to stimulate high-tech development in the U.S. and to meet the nation’s research and development needs.


Next Steps

Sign up as a client