Read John’s thoughts following the ISBE 2018 conference
Really, I hear you say! Surely technology, raw survival instinct, and R&D funding or legislative impulse mean those SME innovation cogs start whirring. One of the more interesting findings from David Picknell’s presentation at the Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship 2018 was looking at how learning and development spend directly equates to a growth and innovation intent. This relationship is established utilising Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Federation of Small Business survey data. The working paper presented at the conference suggests a correlation between SME firm level spend on L&D and positive approaches to innovation activity. Mapping this data against the LEP regions in England also illustrates various hotspots in terms of this geography with the South East (no surprise), South West and Midlands Engine areas showing the greatest strength in terms of this innovation intent.
L&D + R&D = SME Innovation and Growth
Interestingly, while this data may suggest regional policy making and interventions should focus more on L&D as a driver for innovation and growth, the reduced importance of professional development and executive education in the Higher Education sector could make this a supply-led issue, rather than demand led one. Traditional business schools have struggled to find relevance in a learning world that is dominated by informal and micro-learning options that take individuals away from the classroom and allow meaningful learning without the burden, and blessing, of an institutional environment (see this recent FT article on the slow death of the MBA). Learners needing to upskill in bite-size way hit Udemy or FutureLearn rather than the local vocational college or university, so maybe these institutions need to look at modes and models for delivery that move beyond even their private sector competitors to deliver the learning that will drive this innovation intent within the SME community in the future.
John Barker presented his paper entitled Opening Innovation Doors through Digital Platforms: Ethnographic Insights at ISBE 2018. He is a published researcher and is currently completing his PhD at Cardiff Metropolitan University.