Is innovation a skill or a culture

ACR study: The ability to innovate makes companies fit for the future

The Austrian corporate landscape is characterized by a high density of innovations. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular have been able to measurably increase their innovation activities in recent years. But innovations are not always based on research and development (R&D). Even companies, often SMEs, that do not have any R&D activities themselves can innovate successfully. “Innovation has the power to change our lives. It creates and secures jobs and helps to solve the great challenges facing humanity. Not only are large companies the engines of innovation, but also our many SMEs in particular. Above all, their ability to innovate is a key factor for a resilient business location, ”says Federal Minister Margarete Schramböck. “Especially in times of crisis, it is important for companies to invest in their own future viability and to adapt. This requires the ability to learn, knowledge and innovation ”, adds Iris Filzwieser, ACR President and entrepreneur, referring to the findings of the study commissioned by the ACR - Austrian Cooperative Research research network to provide an overview of the innovation performance and innovation behavior of SMEs to obtain.

Specific problem solutions

SMEs with technological innovation activities without systematic, internal R&D as well as SMEs with non-technological innovations represent the largest groups of innovative SMEs. Innovations are often based on informal learning and knowledge processes, on application-oriented experience, and arise from the normal production process as well as in interaction with Customers and suppliers. It usually involves step-by-step optimizations and very specific problem solutions. "It is gratifying that the proportion of small companies (10 to 49 employees) with innovation activities has risen continuously, from 49% in 2012 to 58% in 2018," says study author Thomas Oberholzner from KMU Research Austria However, their innovations do less research and development and cooperate less often with research institutions than larger companies ”.

Digitization as a driver of innovation

The vast majority of all innovations in SMEs have a digital component, 75% in product innovations and 94% in marketing & sales innovations. However, digitization or digital technology is usually not the main aspect or component of innovation, but is very often linked to or supports other technologies or methods. Digitization is therefore mostly related to other innovation content and must in any case have a specific economic benefit. 84% of small and medium-sized companies are strategic digitizers; with their digitization measures, they aim to achieve a specific strategic competitive advantage, such as: B. on increasing cost efficiency or access to new customers and markets. In connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, the relevance of digital innovations will continue to increase.

No innovation performance without a culture of innovation

"If you want innovations, you have to make them possible, with effective innovation management," emphasizes ACR President Iris Filzwieser. This includes the planning, organization and control of internal processes for the development and exploitation of innovations as well as the promotion of creativity, motivation and team cooperation in companies.

In order to accelerate the innovation performance and digitization of SMEs, the funding system must support SMEs above all in those types of innovation in which these companies do not fully exploit their potential, provide sufficient support in the areas of financing and qualification as well as cooperation between SMEs and research institutions or universities be strengthened.

To the study "Innovation and digitization for the future viability of SMEs"