Innovation is key for SMEs’ survival amid pandemic

IT is becoming more crucial for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate and establish collaborations in order to sustain its businesses during the COVID-19 era.

In a recent news article, SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said that a majority of SMEs are struggling to get by and are hopeful for the government to develop a plan to help them boost sales and revenue.

“Government measures to improve spending are helpful, but what is needed it a well-planned programme to encourage consumers to buy SME products,” he said.

Additionally, Small and Medium Enterprises Association (SAMENTA) Malaysia national secretary Yeoh Seng Hooi said, “It is the demand side that will sustain SMEs. The government should earmark 30% of all procurement of goods and services to support SMEs.”

However, it’s not as simple as getting people to buy local products. The skills of the SME workforce should also be honed to enable innovation to take place.

Continuous innovation needed for SMEs

In an article by FocusM, RTI International economic director and senior economist Alan O’Connor said there is a need to develop skillsets internally to ensure innovation.

In the case of SMEs, innovation will allow them to transform their businesses and produce a more commercially viable products or services.

“It’s that process of scouting out the technology, learning the skills in open innovation and then transforming their concepts and ideas into products and services,” he said.

In RTI’s view, innovation is an ecosystem where eight core challenges have to be addressed. These challenges include creating policy infrastructure for innovation, fostering effective entrepreneurship programmes, strengthening university-industry alignment, driving technology adoption in SMEs.

Not only that, there is also a need to develop an innovation-ready workforce, accelerate technology commercialisation, assess initiatives for effectiveness and impact and identify industry sectors for growth.

Echoing that, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) CEO Naser Jaafar agrees that innovation takes time and requires the buy-in of multiple stakeholders, both public and private.

“It’s important to keep in mind that innovation is a marathon and not a 100-metre sprint. It’s not instant and there’s a need to measure it properly,” he says. – Nov 2, 2020

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