SMEs ahead of big business in innovation despite R&D funding shortfall

New research reveals that small businesses are leading the way in innovation, with 88 per cent of identified innovative products and services introduced within the past year in Australia coming from the small-business sector.

This level of innovation has been achieved despite the fact that only two per cent of SMEs were able to secure government grants within the past 12 months. Big businesses received three times as much R&D funding during the same period.

“I’m not surprised as small businesses can act fast, change direction quickly to suit the needs of their customers and cater for demand in a changing economic climate,” Sophie Westlake, creator of Virosol, the first TGA-approved household disinfectant proven to kill COVID, said.

“More needs to be done to make it easier for all businesses to get their innovative goods and services to market because confusing red tape sees many entrepreneurs give up before they really got started,” Westlake added. “There was about 15 times during the process to secure TGA approval that I could have given up, simply because it was so complex.”

Business Australia Chief Customer Experience Officer Richard Spencer highlighted the huge impact on COVID has had on Australian SMEs, with many having overcome major hurdles and thriving in their drive towards innovation.

“Many businesses were faced with the challenge of re-evaluating how they operate, they were forced to re-shape their strategy, create new products, services or delivery methods in a quickly changing environment,” Spencer said.

Spencer has five recommendations to help SMEs continue their innovation drive:

  • Digital dominance: Workers and business owners need to be both digital, able to re-skill and adapt.
  • Stay agile: The most successful Australian businesses are those that re-shaped their delivery to operate in the quick-changing environment.
  • Cost efficiencies: Reducing business costs is something many businesses should continue doing, but it should never involve cutting corners or reducing the quality of the product or service offered but through cutting unnecessary expenses.
  • Customer focus: Being responsive to customer needs will be critical to business success to improve retention and sales volume while giving the brand some growth.
  • Plan with purpose: Make the most of this time to plan how to lead your business to a successful 2021.

“Business as usual is no longer enough in the new world,” Spencer concluded.

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