Robert Speed, Group CEO, Innovera Middle East

Innovera is a multi-national EdTech company founded in April 2013. In a short span of time, the company has grown organically by creating EdTech solutions that help address clients’ specific needs in their educational journey. Be it for faculty learners or educational institutions, Innovera provides the best-consulting services and EdTech products available in the market today. Robert Speed, Group CEO, Innovera Middle East, says, “We focus on specific EdTech solutions like Promethean, Zoom, Open LMS, Discovery Education, Coursera and work with leading partners in the Middle East Region like Alef Education. The journey so far has been a confirmation that we are on the right track to improve our standards and service offering continuously.”

Innovera has sustained organic growth year on year by focusing on its core goal of bringing together a specific set of international EdTech partners to deliver value in the ecosystem of education. Robert Speed pinpoints, “Keypoint here being to address specific roadmap goals around virtual classrooms, front of class technology, learning management systems, digital content and curriculum and professional development. This approach is our core in my view to enabling digital transformation across technology and pedagogy that enables institutions small or large to really make strategic changes that deliver measurable results.” 

The international EdTech brands Innovera represents are the best in class. The company focuses on these as a small subset to ensure that they do not over-engineer their go to market offering but remain focused on the value they can bring that can be measured and monitored. “Key to us at Innovera and part of our portfolio are complementary brands such as Open LMS, Zoom, Class, Promethean, Coursera and Discover Education – all part of the education ecosystem from k-12 to higher education that bring tremendous knowledge and expertise to our clients in the region,” states Robert Speed. 

Responding to the Pandemic 

Innovera is currently positioned to advise, support and assist in the Middle East region. The company has been called upon over the last ten months by various Ministries of Education and Educational Institutions in K-12 and Higher Education to engage in digital transformation projects that address the challenges and complexities faced by current gaps in technology, software and professional development to ensure that the academic day does not stop. “It is not about a single piece of technology or software that can solve adoption or drive transformation. It is about developing a partnership with Institutions and providing a mature depth of understanding with the ability to deliver that I am finding when talking to institutions and leaders in the market,” shares Robert Speed.

While day-to-day life will perhaps return to ‘normal’ at some point, for education, there will have to be a new ‘normal.’ Robert Speed opines, “Learners will now expect to be able to seamlessly switch between in-person and virtual formats, particularly in times of crisis. They will continue to expect the quality education they have paid for — one that will best prepare them for the next stage of their lives.” Educational institutions, too, now recognise online education as pivotal to institutional resilience and academic continuity. Digital teaching and learning have become a strategic priority at almost every school and university.  

“A shift in strategic thinking is gaining ground in the Middle East. Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have increased the reach and acceptance of online education in the region, and institutions are now making plans to incorporate digital tools into their courses permanently. The region’s ministries of education, meanwhile, are encouraging schools and universities to embrace hybrid models, particularly as they consider the possibility of extending distance learning into the next academic year,” explains Robert Speed. Indeed, many institutions were already experimenting with varying degrees of digital teaching and learning before the pandemic. 

Reber speed believes that the institutions will return from COVID-19 with a widely shared understanding that digital tools can be highly complementary to face-to-face learning and that teaching and learning with asynchronous and synchronous platforms can yield significant benefits when layered in with face-to-face instruction. He says, “This hybrid model of in-person lessons and distance learning, known as blended learning, will become one of the key models for post-pandemic pedagogy. It facilitates flexibility, increases accessibility, allows faculty to track and improve student engagement, boosts student retention, enhances communication as well as peer support, enables personalisation and competency-based learning, and can be cost-effective while scaling up efficiency.”  

Exploring Post-COVID Opportunities 

In the post-pandemic world of education, institutions will integrate virtual teaching and learning formats and practices into their infrastructures and harness them to develop a more robust system. Innovera’s EdTech technology and software partnerships are built for this very purpose, and the company has quality solutions in place to accommodate the specific needs of each educational institution. Rober Speed states, “We have a seasoned and dedicated resource capacity and can efficiently tackle this surge in demand. We are also proactively collaborating and engaging with our clients in the Middle East to anticipate their current and future usage needs. As faculty and students come back to class, we need to be ready to develop more hybrid learning solutions.”

Many institutions and schools in the Middle East have really solid technology and pedagogy roadmaps in place and have managed the transition to fully online learning extremely well. Although it is an ongoing learning process, Innovera’s approach is to work in a consultative manner to identify any gaps that will be improved for these technology and software roadmaps. As Rober Speed suggests, “Complimentary services are needed to be in place for any technology or software roadmap. The basics that work are robust digital content and curriculum, a pedagogical virtual classroom with features and functions that are not just video. Besides, a scalable and secure learning management system is key for data collection and analytics, an education-specific front of class technology is a must and most importantly, teacher training to support this whole ecosystem.”

Inside Innovera

Robert Speed understands that increasing productivity and profitability are key to ensuring the business has returns on investments. He shares, “It is always important to focus on this aspect of the business. The team at Innovera is driving this across all platforms we use. As we drive the business forward, we ensure each employee has a clear understanding of the vision, our goals and the approach we are taking.” As an EdTech business, Innovera needs to align to various personas in the EdTech industry – be that Deans of e-Learning, key faculty or tech leaders in IT. Robert Speed adds, “Searching for candidates that fit ‘ideal’ scenarios are not easy to find in the traditional sense. We look to onboard and grow skills in-house and develop a new breed of talent that has a wider understanding of the EdTech ecosystem and the value needed to be brought forward.” 

Innovera’s primary strategic marketing approach is around value, and it comes with the data collected from specific projects and programs with the company’s valued partners and customer. In fact, this is the real evidence-based material that one can lean on and trust that can drive key marketing programs forward. “This is what we construct in our go-to-market approach that leads into white papers, webinars, speaking engagements, as well as various social media activities. It is really important to use real-life examples of work delivered by faculty or Institutions to ensure the voice of the customer is shared,” pinpoints Rober Speed. 

In the first half of 2021, Innovera focuses on delivering some key EdTech projects in the Middle East around digital transformation in education. The company is now supporting the UAE and Egypt with some real, impactful programs in association with Alef Education. “We are working with a wonderful team under the leadership of Geoffrey Alfonso and developing important collaborations with Dr Sonia Ben Jaafar at Al Ghurair Foundation, who are delivering on a specific charter for education programmes in the region. These projects really have an impact on the development cycle with short, medium and long-term impact activity with measurable results of student success, and that is what we strive for,” explains Rober Speed. 

Today, clients’ needs are at the heart of everything Innovera does. The company tailors its work to perfectly match the clients’ project, followed by professional training to guarantee excellent outcomes. However, Inniovera’s support does not end there. As Rober Speed says, it is just the start of a long-term relationship of constant support and guidance whenever needed. He adds, “Accountability and transparency are key. Being trusted with change management and to accommodate the various challenges around implementing technology and software that can lead to measured student success or institutional change is a large responsibility.” Rober Speed and his team Innovera knows the importance of having the right EdTech partners who can understand the challenges with experience and knowledge to deliver a customer-focused ecosystem. “At Innovera, we are fortunate to be working with some of the EdTech industries best in class, and that brings a specific set of attributes to ensure we are a trusted partner,” concludes Rober Speed.

About Robert Speed

Robert Speed has over a 15-year track record in operational and strategic leadership, engineering go-to-market expansion, and fostering tactical partnerships that deliver significant value. He has served in various senior management roles — most recently as the Vice President for the MEA region at EdTech company Blackboard. Before this, he served as the head of the ME region for Promethean, a leading K-12 EdTech company. Both positions focused heavily on steering growth, delivering productivity and profitability in emerging markets, creating and leading integrated teams, and deepening channel partnerships.

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