Scaling Digitisation in SMEs: Empowering Growth and Innovation

13 March 2024

In a bid to address the evolving landscape of the market and empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with digital capabilities, Essex Business School, in collaboration with the Research and Enterprise Office of the University of Essex, convened a distinguished gathering on February 28th, 2024. The event, titled “Scaling Digitisation in SMEs,” drew around 100 participants comprising industry leaders from the UK and Europe, local SMEs, government representatives, and academic researchers.

Under the guidance of Professor Jay Mitra, Professor of Business Enterprise and Innovation at Essex Business School, the event delved into the pivotal role of digitisation in propelling SMEs towards growth and resilience in an increasingly digital-centric economy.

Despite the undeniable economic growth spurred by digital technologies, a chasm persists between large enterprises and SMEs, hindering overall digital productivity gains. The event aimed to bridge this gap by providing practical insights and fostering interactive discussions. Industry spotlights, international keynote speeches, and interactive sessions formed the core of the program.

Leaders from various SMEs shared their experiences of navigating successful digital transformations, shedding light on key pitfalls to avoid and areas demanding focused attention, particularly in managing the change process. Academic researchers emphasized the significance of industry-academia partnerships in driving innovation, while data consultants underscored the potential of data analytics in unlocking opportunities for SMEs. Innovate UK EDGE representatives also provided valuable information on funding opportunities to support SME digitisation initiatives.

International perspectives were brought to the fore by representatives from INSME member organizations such as T2I – Technology Transfer and Innovation, represented by Mr. Roberto Santolamazza, and BVMW – The German Mittelstand with Mr. Reinhold von Ungern-Sternberg. Success stories and practical approaches adopted by Italian SMEs were showcased, alongside insights into the practical applications of Artificial Intelligence in the SME sector.

The event transcended traditional presentations, allowing for valuable interaction and networking opportunities. A dedicated Q&A session enabled direct engagement with experts, while a networking session facilitated connections among attendees, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.

Attendees departed with several key insights such as:

– Digital Productivity Gap: While digital technologies have spurred economic development, a gap persists between large firms and SMEs.

– SMEs: Innovation Through Partnership: Overcoming resource limitations through strategic innovation partnerships.

– The Future is Human-Centric: Industry 5.0 and Society 5.0 demand human-centered, crisis-resilient processes, with AI enabling innovation.

– Job Impact of AI: While AI may transform certain job roles, new opportunities in AI-related fields are emerging.

The event provided a comprehensive roadmap for SMEs to embrace digital transformation. By equipping participants with the necessary knowledge and tools, the event empowered them to embark on the journey of scaling their businesses in the digital age. And last but not least, to the age-old question: Will AI take people’s job? Experts say probably not! While considering some of the most vulnerable jobs impacted by AI, such as Data Entry and Analysis, Customer Support, Content Creation, Design and Art, and Programming and Development, new roles like AI Product Manager, ML Specialist, and Explainable AI Expert are emerging.

The “Scaling Digitisation in SMEs” event provided a comprehensive overview of the digital landscape for SMEs. By equipping attendees with the knowledge and tools to become data-driven and embrace new technologies, the event empowered participants to take concrete steps towards scaling their businesses in the digital age.

Source: INSME Secretariat

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