Partnership to explore innovation barriers faced by SMEs

09 November 2018

A collaborative research project between the AMRC and Sheffield University Management School (SUMS) is exploring ways to overcome the barriers small and medium sized firms face when adopting new technologies to improve performance and drive innovation.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and SUMS are combining their expertise to deepen the understanding around the obstacles SMEs face adopting new technologies, and how businesses can be better supported to overcome those barriers.

The programme is being led by AMRC company engagement manager Shirley Harrison and Tim Vorley, Professor of Entrepreneurship at SUMS. They want to help businesses think about how to practically address the issue of improving productivity – a key driver behind the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Shirley said: “The AMRC does lots of great work on technology – it is a world leader in the research and development of advanced manufacturing techniques and demonstrates the benefits of these technologies to companies of all sizes – but we also recognise there are lots of obstacles to adoption for SMEs and how they make technology work day-to-day in the business.

“There are many reasons why an SME may find it difficult. It might be about integrating new technologies with existing systems and processes, it may be about skills or resistance to change.

“We’re working with the Management School to help find solutions to some of these obstacles and the series of projects will look at what the challenges are – aside from the technology itself - which stops SMEs from actually using new technology in the business. We really need to understand that if we want companies to innovate and adopt new technology to improve their competitiveness and performance.”

The collaboration between the AMRC and SUMS builds on Prof Vorley’s work with Innovate UK to think about innovation as being about more than ‘creating new products’. It will also contribute to the existing programme of SME engagement at the AMRC by providing new research insights about the challenges smaller manufacturing businesses are up against.

Prof Vorley said: “There is an opportunity for businesses to think about others ways to create value and grow. This partnership between the AMRC and SUMS is an important step in linking up technical challenges with the managerial and organisational issues many businesses face.

“The AMRC is at the frontier of innovation and wants to advance that and improve the technical elements but there are other elements as well and if you get those right, the social science side, then the more effectively you’re going to advance the innovation.”

For more information on the projects, or how your business can be involved, contact s.harrison@amrc.co.uk.

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