What are owner-managed SMEs barriers for innovation? Business intermediaries share insights 

Many SMEs do not have a systematic approach for an innovation process and are very busy with the daily routines, which does not leave much room for initiating such processes. 

The SNOwMan project has conducted a survey among 159 intermediaries from 10 European countries. The results identify shortcomings best practices and the potentials of cooperation between intermediaries and owner-managed SMEs. 

The daily routines in the SMEs do not leave much room for innovation

The answers to the questionnaire showed that intermediaries experience some barriers when implementing innovations in small companies. One of the challenges is that the owner-managers lack the required qualifications. Combined with lack of sufficient skills among the workers, the business intermediaries do not experience that the SMEs are able to realize innovations.

Furthermore, many SMEs do not have a systematic approach for an innovation process and are very busy with the daily routines, which does not leave much room for initiating such processes. 

Business intermediaries lack innovative competencies

Looking inward, the questionnaire revealed that the majority of the asked intermediaries assess themselves as only having a small degree of innovativeness and are not familiar with open innovations. Furthermore, 25% are not familiar with the different types of non-technological innovation.

In general, the intermediaries value product innovation higher than organizational innovations. With these findings, it becomes clear, that there is a need for more awareness of the strengths of non-technological innovation among business intermediaries and owner-managers. 

As of now, a quarter of the intermediaries would not be able to advise SMEs about the opportunities that lie within non-technological innovation and even more of them would not be able to advise on open innovations. This means that the intermediaries would need a thorough introduction to the subjects to advice on them. 

Both owner-managers and business intermediaries believe in a trusting relationship for a successful cooperation

As the interviews with owner-managers showed, the business intermediaries agree, that it is important to establish a trusting relationship between owner-managers and intermediaries for the cooperation to be successful. However, the intermediaries have a huge task in earning the owner-managers’ trust, as they do not usually perceive intermediaries as a partner for sparring or turn to them for counselling.  

Next step

These finding combined with the personal interviews with owner-managers will help the further work with developing a toolbox that responds to the owner-managers’ needs. With input from the surveys and the co-creative workshop, the next step in the SNOwMan project will be to test a prototype model of the toolbox.