Innovation in Europe

�Innovation� is bandied about a lot in the business world, but what does it actually mean in pragmatic terms to the SME community; a community that is more often than not doing its best to address the day-today issues, which more often than not do not include an innovation strategy.

Horizon 2020 (EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation) suggests the core objective of innovation (in terms of SMEs) is “to optimise the Research, Development & Innovation environment for SMEs, with the aim of strengthening the innovation capacity of SMEs and creating value on the market and/or into society, thus underpinning the Europe2020 strategy for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth”.

All a bit of a mouthful, but unpick the statement and what is says in a nutshell is that SMEs, like larger companies, must constantly evolve if they want to survive and grow, and the best way to do this is through innovation – the adaptation and/or creation of innovative services or products that differentiate a company from all others in the marketplace. Real growth SME companies have long since lost the ‘me too’ attitude, having realised that at best they could only sustain a static sales pipeline, but more often than not experience a gradual decline without a strategic approach to innovation.

The UK Innovation Survey 2015 was published last November and fed back positive results with regard to Northern Ireland. The survey covered the 3-year period from 2012 to 2014 and stated that 45% of NI businesses were assessed as innovative, which was a 40% increase on the previous survey (covering 2010 – 2012). However, NI was assessed as the second least innovative region in the UK, but actually up from the least in the 2010-2012 survey

One of the Report’s headline conclusions was the fact that ‘improving the quality of goods or services was the main factor driving innovation in NI and the UK as a whole’. I would suggest that the statement could be flipped to say ‘strategic innovation is a main factor driving the improvement of goods and services’.

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