The forecasts are currently driving beads of sweat down the foreheads of many SMEs: falling exports, low economic growth (if any), rising energy prices, uncertain supply chains. But the glass is also half full: SMEs are more flexible than large corporations and can therefore exploit untapped opportunities more quickly. One possibility: to push ahead with research and development in order to be able to offer optimised or new products quickly.
Are you one of the SMEs that invest in research and development? If so, I would definitely encourage you to increase these budgets in the current situation and to set a focus here. Because our world is changing much faster than we thought a few years ago. Among other things, this influences the life cycle of products and services and the demand of your customers. Or would you have thought that the end of combustion engines and the associated massive upheavals in the automotive industry would come so quickly? And that is just one example of many.
Research and development means: seizing future opportunities
In my view, it is therefore all the more important to invest time, money and brainpower to make companies and their products fit for the future. Keep asking yourself questions, for example,
- how products could be simplified or made more user-friendly,
- which complicated or expensive materials could be replaced by others,
- what your customers complain about in your products and services or what really annoys them.
It is also important to keep checking ongoing research projects for their prospects of success and marketability and to get rid of anything that promises little return on investment, even if a lot of time and money has already gone into it.
And what is worth investing in? One possible indicator is to look at the industries that are on the upswing. These include, for example
- The ICT sector (keywords: Industry 4.0, virtual or augmented reality, artificial intelligence),
- Logistics and transport (keywords: supply chain management, e-commerce, e-mobility and basically all transport topics)
- Health care and life science (keywords: preventive health care, modern diagnostic procedures, medicines, new healing methods, medical technology)
- Environmental protection and sustainability.
If your new or optimised products can find a market here, you should definitely stay on the ball with your research and development.
Design Thinking: Fresh Ideas for Research and Development
Do you specialise in products whose future is uncertain or which are very likely to disappear from the market in the next few years? No need to panic. I recommend clients like you to get involved with Design Thinking. Because what doesn’t disappear is your know-how. Perhaps more promising products can be produced with the same machines. Perhaps a changed production method, different raw materials or shortened supply chains would breathe fresh air into your product.
Brainstorming together will help you to make more of your company’s potential – so please feel free to contact me or use my hybrid consulting services directly.
Outsourcing research and development: another viable option
And one last idea: Perhaps your research and development staff is not sufficient to drive promising projects forward. Or you do not have a corresponding department. One possible solution: look around for partners. These don’t necessarily have to be big or well-known players. In recent years, many start-ups have done surprising things (the best example is Biontech) – perhaps a reason to research and explore them more intensively. One website I always like to visit is innovationorigins. Here you can find interesting innovations as well as information on funding opportunities to have larger research budgets at your disposal.
I wish you an inspiring festive season and a happy and successful new (business) year.
Yours, Susanne Kremeier
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